NFL Hall of Fame Finalists 2012: Who's In? Who's Out?
Today, the NFL Hall of Fame released its list of 15 modern-era finalists and two senior nominees.
The list includes some big names, including Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, receiver Cris Carter and running back Jerome Bettis.
The Hall's selection committee will meet in Indianapolis next month to pick this year's class. To be elected, a player must receiver 80 percent of the vote. Between four and seven men will be enshrined, and the announcement of who's in and who's out will come on February 5.
Here's the entire list of 17 nominees and whether or not we think they've got the goods to make it in.
Bill Parcells, Coach
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Known for his hard-nosed, old-school approach, Parcells is probably more noted for his personality than actual coaching achievements. That's not to say he hasn't accomplished a lot, because he certainly has.
In 19 seasons at the helm of the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, the "Big Tuna" compiled a record of 172-130-1 in the regular season and 11-8 in the playoffs.
He was twice named the AP's NFL Coach of the Year (1986 and 1994) and guided the Giants to two Super Bowl championships (XXI and XXV).
In those 19 seasons, his teams also won four division titles.
This is Parcells' first year of eligibility, though he was a finalist twice before (in 2001 and 2002) after his first retirement.
While many will certainly believe he deserves to be in, there are a lot of very deserving candidates on the list. Still, I think his name recognition will catch the eye of voters, and he will be one of the lucky men selected on February 4.
Cris Carter, Receiver
An eight-time Pro Bowler during his 16-year career, Cris Carter retired as one of the best receivers to ever play the game. I personally can't believe he wasn't voted in when he was a finalist last year.
Carter retired at No. 2 on the all-time receptions list (1,101) behind Jerry Rice and was also second in touchdown receptions by a receiver (130). He's now fourth in both categories and ranks eighth in receiving yardage (13,899).
He's also the first player to record 120 or more catches in a season twice (1994 and 1995), and was the only player to do so until Wes Welker joined him on the list this season.
Carter spent 12 years with the Minnesota Vikings after opening his career with three years in Philadelphia. He played in five, mostly forgettable, games in Miami before retiring in 2002.
I could list his achievements all day, and Carter should have been in last season.
Here's hoping the voters get it right this year, as they have left him out four times in the past.
Jerome Bettis, Running Back
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In 13 NFL seasons, Jerome Bettis was one of the most-feared and respected running backs in the NFL.
A six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro pick, Bettis played three seasons for the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams before becoming the rock of the Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise.
Bettis is currently sixth on the all-time rushing yardage list (13,662) and 10th on the all-time rushing touchdowns list (91). He also won Super Bowl XL as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bettis was consistently among the best running backs in the NFL for almost all of his 13 seasons.
I believe he deserves to get in this year, but even if he doesn't, he will eventually be selected.
Tim Brown, Receiver
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Known by many as Mr. Raider, Tim Brown spent 16 of his 17 years in the NFL with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders.
He finished up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 at the age of 38.
Brown was a nine-time Pro Bowler who still ranks among the best receivers to ever step on to an NFL field. He holds the NFL record for consecutive seasons with at least 75 receptions (10) and also set the league record for consecutive starts by a wide receiver (176).
He currently ranks fifth all time in receptions (1,094), fourth in receiving yards (14,934) and sixth in receiving touchdowns (100).
Brown will be a Hall of Famer someday, and if I had a say in the matter, he'd be in this year. It is his third time as a finalist, and hopefully, he'll finally get in.
Jack Butler, Cornerback
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Jack Butler spent his entire nine-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and in that short amount of time, he racked up a remarkable 52 interceptions, which ranks 26th all time.
Butler is a senior nominee for the Hall of Fame this year—a remarkable feat for a guy who was an undrafted free agent coming out of St. Bonaventure in 1950.
In 1953, Butler had nine interceptions, three of which he returned for touchdowns, and in 1957, he led the league with 10 picks. He was named to four straight Pro Bowls (1956-59) but was forced to retire from the league due to a knee injury following the 1959 season.
He's considered one of the best players in Steelers' history and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1950s.
Butler was certainly one of the best defensive backs in NFL history despite his short career. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets in this year as an 84-year-old sentimental favorite.
Dermontti Dawson, Center
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In his 13-year NFL career, Dermontti Dawson was selected to seven Pro Bowls and was a six-time first team All-Pro pick.
The rock at the middle of the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line was one of the most-feared and respected players in the league.
This is his first season of eligibility, and he was a finalist, and the member of the 1990s All-Decade team just might get a nod.
He spent his entire career in Pittsburgh and is widely regarded as one of the best centers of all time.
To me, Dawson is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. If he doesn't get in this year, it's only a matter of time before he does, though this is his fourth year as a finalist.
Edward DeBartolo Jr., Owner
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Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was one of the most successful owners in NFL history, and during his 23 years of ownership, the San Francisco 49ers won five Super Bowls (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX).
His former players have always referred to him as one of the most generous in league history, and they all display fierce loyalty to him.
DeBartolo was involved in the corruption case of former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards and pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony. His punishment was a $1 million fine and probation in return for testifying against Edwards.
That case led to him being barred from active control of the 49ers for a year, and as a result, he was forced to give up control of the franchise in 2000 as part of a settlement.
That black mark against his name may hold him back from selection into the Hall. Based solely on his time as the owner of the 49ers he gets in, but I doubt it happens, thanks to the controversy surrounding him.
Chris Doleman, Defensive End/Linebacker
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During his 15-year NFL career, Chris Doleman was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and a five-time All-Pro pick.
He spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers and finished his career with a remarkable 150.5 sacks, which ranks fourth on the all-time list.
He best season came in 1989 when he racked up a ridiculous 21 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Doleman was a remarkably consistent player during his NFL career, but this second-time finalist probably doesn't have the name recognition to get in this year.
Kevin Greene, Defensive End/Linebacker
One of the pioneers of the 3-4 edge rushing outside linebacker phenomenon that has become so popular in the NFL, Kevin Greene is a finalist for the first time this year.
During his 15-year NFL career, Greene spent time with the then-Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers.
He led the NFL in sacks twice, was a five-time Pro Bowler and a three-time first team All-Pro pick.
Greene finished his career with 160 sacks, which is third on the all-time list and is an NFL record for a linebacker.
While I remember how fearsome Greene was during his career, as a first-time finalist, it's tough to see him making the Hall this year.
Charles Haley, Defensive End/Linebacker
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Charles Haley was a championship magnet during his 13-year NFL career, winning five Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
While he never led the league in sacks, he finished his career with 100.5, which ranks 25th all-time and was always a leader and focal point of every defense he belonged to.
Haley was a five-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro selection. This is his third time as a finalist, and while he was always a feared and respected player, I don't see him ever being elected.
Cortez Kennedy, Defensive Tackle
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After 11 professional seasons, all with the Seattle Seahawks, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy retired in 2000 at the age of 32.
The 1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year surely could have held on for a few more seasons but decided to hang 'em up early.
He was selected to the Pro Bowl eight times and was an All-Pro pick four times. While he's often considered one of the best defensive tackles to ever play the game, Kennedy (who's a first-time finalist) may not have the name recognition to get in this year.
I think it would be a travesty if he doesn't make the Hall of Fame at some point in the future though, as he was as dominant a player as the NFL had for years.
Curtis Martin, Running Back
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Curtis Martin's Hall of Fame candidacy always brings about a hearty debate among fans.
While he was certainly an outstanding running back, he was always more consistent than dominant.
This is Martin's second year as a finalist and maybe this time things will be different than last year. During his 11-year career, the running back spent time with the New England Patriots and New York Jets and was selected to five Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams.
He's currently fourth all time in rushing yardage (14,101) and 12th in rushing touchdowns (90). He's also seventh all time in yards from scrimmage (17,430 yards).
I personally think Martin deserves to be in as his numbers put him among the best to ever play the running back position.
Andre Reed, Wide Receiver
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Like Martin, Andre Reed's candidacy is always up for debate.
During his 16-year career (spent mostly with the Buffalo Bills), Reed was a seven-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro pick. He was also a huge part of a group of Bills players who reached four Super Bowls.
Reed ranks 10th all time in receptions (951), 12th in receiving yards (13,198) and 12th in receiving touchdowns (87). But those numbers are certainly diminished because he spent a huge chunk of his career as part of one of the best receiving duos in NFL history along with Hall of Famer James Lofton.
The fact that Reed is a finalist for the sixth time this year speaks to the respect he garnered across the league during his playing days. Strictly by the numbers, he won't get in. But if the voters remember just how dangerous he and Lofton were as a pair, he should be allowed in.
I don't see it happening this year though, not with Carter and Brown both on the list.
Willie Roaf, Offensive Tackle
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During his 13-year career with the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs, Willie Roaf was not only one of the best offensive linemen in the league, he was among the best players as well.
Roaf was an 11-time Pro Bowler, a first team All-Pro pick six times and a second team pick three times. That's simply incredible.
In addition to that, he was selected as a member of both the All-Decade Team for the 1990s and the 2000s.
This is Roaf's second time as a finalist, and I don't know how anyone can argue that he doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame.
He should be in.
Will Shields, Guard
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Another great offensive lineman who played for the Kansas City Chiefs, guard Will Shields is a first-time finalist this year.
During his 14-year career (spent entirely in Kansas City), Shields was selected to an astonishing 12 Pro Bowls and nine All-Pro teams. He was also named to the All-Decade team for the 2000s as well.
Like Roaf, I don't know how anyone can argue against Shields as a Hall of Famer.
If the election requirements weren't so strict, he'd almost certainly be in. But I think it may take him a few years, simply because he played guard in Kansas City and doesn't have the name recognition of some other players.
Dick Stanfel, Guard
Dick Stanfel was one of the best offensive linemen in football during his seven years as a member of the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins.
He played from 1952-1958 and was selected to five Pro Bowls in that time. He's also a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1950s.
He's a senior nominee this year, and like Jack Butler, the 84-year-old could get the nod.
The voters love putting in old-school, tough guys, and Stanfel epitomized that era of football.
He was nominated as a finalist in 1993 but did not get in. Maybe this time will be different.
Aeneas Williams, Cornerback/Safety
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During his 14-year career with the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, Aeneas Williams established himself as one of the NFL's premiere defensive backs.
Williams was selected to eight Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams and was a member of the 1990s All-Decade team as well. He also finished his career with 55 interceptions, which ranks 19th on the all-time list.
Don't get me wrong, Williams was a phenomenal player during his time, and I'm happy for him that he's a finalist for the first time this year. But I don't believe he'll ever get into the Hall of Fame.