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What Blunder Will The Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Make This Time?

Posted on February 04, 2011 by Dean Hybl

"Prime Time" should be an easy pick for the Hall of Fame voters.

Predicting which team will win the Super Bowl on Sunday is an iffy proposition, but one sure bet this weekend is that the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will do something surprising when making their picks for the 2011 Hall of Fame Class.

There are many wonderful things about the NFL, but the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not one of them.

Over the last two years I have written several articles outlining how I think the voters have missed the boat in many of their choices, or non-choices, and now have created a back-log of qualified candidates who are not in the Hall of Fame and probably will not gain entry for years to come, if ever.

You can read my list from last summer of the 25 players I think are most deserving of Hall of Fame selection. This list does not include first-year eligible players, but seven of the 17 Hall of Fame finalists for this year are included on my top 25.

When the committee meets tomorrow, if they do nothing else I hope they select at least six members to the 2011 Hall of Fame class and I’m okay if they make it seven.

Last year marked the first time since 2001 that the Hall of Fame voters selected the maximum number of seven inductees. Part of the reason for the glut of deserving players is that the voters selected only four players in both 2004 and 2005. Considering that 13 players and coaches who have entered the Hall of Fame in subsequent years were eligible during those years, it doesn’t make any sense to me why those classes were so small.

While there is certainly some room for debate about each Hall of Fame nominee and how they compare with the other candidates, the list of Hall of fame finalists in 2011 is actually a pretty good list.

There are certainly some very deserving players who have been omitted, but I think a legitimate case can be made for every eligible candidate.

Of the 15 regular finalists, five have earned the distinction in their first year of eligibility.

Voters typically are very stingy in selecting players in their first year on the ballot. Last year both Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice were selected, but many worthy candidates typically wait multiple years before getting the Hall of Fame call.

This year, the five first-year nominees are Deion Sanders, Willie Roaf, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis. It seems likely that all five will eventually reach the Hall of fame, but history tells us that likely only two or three will get in this year.

Only once since 1993 (2006) has three first-time eligible candidates been inducted in the same year.

Unless there is a huge surprise, it would seem expected that Deion Sanders will be selected in his first year on the ballot. Sanders was one of those special players who changed the game and was among the top players of his era.

Of the three running backs eligible for the first time, Martin and Faulk would seem the likeliest for an immediate induction. Though never flashy, Martin was the fourth leading rusher of all-time when he retired with 14,101rushing yards.

Faulk rushed for 12,279 yards, but his 19,154 yards from scrimmage rank sixth all-time and could push him ahead of Martin. Because Faulk also helped lead the Rams to two Super Bowls and one championship, he could get the edge over Martin.

Bettis should eventually get in, but considering that Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe and Cortez Kennedy all have waited at least three years, I can’t see Bettis beating out those deserving players for a spot this year.

Will the fourth time be the charm for Cris Carter?

Offensive lineman Willie Roaf also has the credentials to be a Hall of Famer with 11 Pro Bowl selections, but he will likely have to wait at least one additional year for induction.

One candidate that is very intriguing is NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. Though he has been an integral part of the NFL for nearly 50 years, Sabol is a finalist for the first time.

While I’m not a fan of contributors filling slots that I believe should belong to deserving players, I also think Sabol is definitely deserving of induction. His foresight to create NFL Films is a major reason that the NFL has developed such a loyal fan base over the last 50 years.

In addition to the 15 modern era candidates, there are two veteran selections in Les Richter and Chris Hanburger. While I believe there are more deserving old-time players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, since one or both must be selected to ensure the Hall is greater than four inductees, I am okay with either or both players being selected.

If I was suddenly elected Pro Football Hall of Fame Dictator and could pick the class of 2011, my choices would be: Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Ed Sabol and Chris Hanburger.

However, because the Hall of Fame voters and I usually don’t have the same views, I suspect their choices will go something like this: Deion Sanders, Cris Carter, Marshall Faulk, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman and Chris Hanburger.

It will certainly be interesting and the announcement will be made Saturday night at 7 pm.

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