Each year on FootballRelativity.com, we compare the 17 Hall of Fame finalists in terms of whom we think should be elected. So here’s a look at this year’s contenders for enshrinement in Canton. (Click on the Pro Football Hall of Fame category to find our analysis from past years.)
You can find the list of 17 finalists, along with outstanding profiles on each one, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. We didn’t have time to do our usual detailed post this year because of work commitments, but we did want to use our relativity poll to compare the finalists and say who we believe should be in this year’s class.
10 – Bill Parcells – Now that Parcells is finally retired, he should make it in. His previous finalist berths in 2001 and 2002 were scuttled because selectors rightly suspected that Parcells was going to coach again. That reservation shouldn’t be a concern now.
9 – Cris Carter – We have believed that Carter belongs in the Hall for years, and we hope that Shannon Sharpe’s election last year clears the decks for Carter this year. He is more deserving than the other receivers in the class, Tim Brown and Andre Reed.
8 – Dermontti Dawson – The former Steelers center was the best player in the league at his position, and that merits induction. But a class that includes Willie Roaf and Will Shields could split the offensive line vote and leave all three out in the cold.
7 – Charles Haley – Haley, a long-time 49er and Cowboy, played well for great teams. And with Richard Dent’s election last year, Haley is the best defensive lineman left in the class (above Cortez Kennedy, Chris Doleman, and new finalist Kevin Greene). One of them figures to get in, and our guess is that Haley’s the one.
7 (con’t) – Jack Butler and Dick Stanfel – The two seniors nominees simply need to win a yes/no vote, and generally seniors candidates succeed. So our guess is that both make it to Canton.
6 – Curtis Martin – To us, Martin falls right on the borderline of Hall of Fame status. He deserves it more than Jerome Bettis, but Martin may not have quite enough on the resume to make it in.
6 (con’t) – Will Shields – Shields, a first-time nominee, joins former teammate Roaf in the class. Shields was a standout guard for many years, and unlike Roaf he was the best player at his position. It may come down to Shields vs. Dawson for a spot, and while we favor Dawson, both are deserving.
6 (con’t) – Eddie DeBartolo – DeBartolo, the former 49ers owner, is the contributor who could steal a spot in the class. He was a classic owner during the 49ers’ glory years, but the ignominious end to his tenure hurts. He’ll have strong support, but he’s not at the level that, say, Ed Sabol was last year.
5 – Willie Roaf – Roaf was a great left tackle for many years, but he wasn’t the best tackle in the league. That’s going to hurt him in this class, even though left tackle is a more important and more respected position than guard or center is.
5 (con’t) – Cortez Kennedy – Kennedy’s candidacy is slowing gaining, and he could jump over Haley to make the class. But a career spent in Seattle on bad teams hurts his profile.
4 – Tim Brown – Brown was a superstar, but he was never great. We have said throughout his candidacy that he falls short of Hall of Fame status.
3 – Jerome Bettis – Bettis saw a competitor make it into Canton last year with Marshall Faulk, but he still falls below Curtis Martin in the RB hierarchy. Ultimately, we don’t see Bettis as a Hall of Famer, despite his high profile and pleasant personality.
3 (con’t) – Kevin Greene – Greene moved into finalist territory for the first time after several years eligible, which is a nice step forward but also a sign that he will fall below other defenders like Haley and Kennedy in the voting.
3 – Andre Reed – Reed is hoping to make the leap out of the receiver gridlock this year, but we vastly prefer Carter and would endorse Brown before Reed. Just as Brown falls below the Canton baseline, Reed isn’t quite Canton caliber.
2 – Chris Doleman – Doleman was a terrific pass rusher, but he wasn’t a Hall of Fame player.
1 – Aeneas Williams – Williams, the former cornerback who spent most of his career in obscurity in Phoenix, was a great cornerback, but he wasn’t a Hall of Fame player. His move into the finalist group is recognition enough.
Our predictions for the class: Carter, Parcells, and Haley will make it in, along with the two senior candidates Butler and Stanfel. We believe Dawson should make it in over Shields, although that’s a toss-up, and that if a seventh player is elected, it will be Martin.