It's an honor just to play in the NFL, considering there are just 32 teams with 53-man active rosters to fill. But when a player distinguishes himself as one of the best of his generation, he often finds himself immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame once his career is over.
However, for every legend who gets in, there's another talented player who won't ever have a bust in Canton.
Take San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, for example. He's long been one of the more elite quarterbacks to play the position, but he's not likely to reach the Hall of Fame without at least one Super Bowl victory to his name.
Super Bowl rings are the quickest way for a quarterback to enter the Hall, and while there are a number of quarterbacks to end their careers with stat lines worse than Rivers', the fact they were part of championship teams while Rivers has yet to be, doesn't bode well for his chances to get the nod.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the most explosive players at his position and has even been to a Super Bowl. However, it's very difficult for a wide receiver to make it into the Hall of Fame, even ones with better overall resumes than Fitzgerald.
Though he's had just two seasons with fewer than 1,000 receiving yards, without championships to back it up, he's a long shot to make it to Canton.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick returned to the game in 2009 and had an eye-popping 2010 season that saw him throw for over 3,000 yards for 21 touchdowns to just six interceptions and run for 676 more yards and nine additional scores.
However, that production took a dip in 2011. He had more passing yards, but threw 18 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and had just a single rushing score.
If Vick would have continued to play at the level he did in 2010, his chances to reach the Hall would be much higher. He'd have to return to that level and perhaps even lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory before he will deserve serious Hall of Fame consideration.
Another Eagle, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, was considered one of the all-time greats at his position, but since leaving the Oakland Raiders for Philadelphia, he's all but disappeared.
His 2011 season was solid but not spectacular, which was caused in part by him being a member of an Eagles secondary populated by a glut of big-name talent.
His 35 solo tackles and three interceptions were good, to be sure. But if he's a Hall of Fame corner, his numbers need to return to his 2006 level, in which he had 50 tackles, one forced fumble and eight interceptions.
Running backs are darlings of Canton, and just two years ago it seemed as though the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson was destined to get there, with 2,006 rushing yards on 358 carries, resulting in 14 touchdowns, and 50 catches for 503 yards and two more scores.
His production has since dropped off, with 1,364 rushing yards and 11 scores in 2010 and 1,047 rushing yards and just four touchdowns in 2011. If Johnson is to be a Hall of Fame running back, he will need to have consecutive years with a high level of production.
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