It is one day before the Super Bowl, which means today is the day that the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class is to be announced. While I am not actually among the voting panel that gets to decide who will make up the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, I present what would be my ballot if I had a vote.
Up to five modern-era nominees, as well as the two senior nominees, can be inducted this year.
Who Should Be In
1. Cris Carter, WR; Philadelphia Eagles (1987-89), Minnesota Vikings (1990-2001), Miami Dolphins (2002)
Cris Carter is as good as any wide receiver not named Jerry Rice who has played in the Super Bowl era. As one of the best wide receivers of all time, Carter should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Instead, Carter is currently on his fifth year of eligibility. It is hard to believe that he has to wait this long, but this is the year his wait must come to an end. Without any first-ballot locks among this year’s nominees, Carter’s induction should be the selection committee's top priority.
Carter had a tremendous career with great longevity; he played all 16 games in 13 of his 16 NFL seasons for a total of 234 games played. He is the NFL's second all-time leading receiver with 1,101 receptions for 13,899 yards.
Carter may have been overshadowed by Rice among the great receivers of his generation, but that should have no bearing upon his deserved place in the Canton shrine.
2. Dermontti Dawson, C; Pittsburgh Steelers (1988-2000)
Dermontti Dawson had the tough task of replacing Hall of Famer Mike Webster as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ center in 1989.
Fortunately for them, Dawson turned out to be arguably just as great as Webster was.
For an entire decade, Dawson was the most dominant center in the entire National Football League. He was named the All-Pro center for six consecutive seasons from 1993-1998.
Like Carter, Dawson has had to wait much too long. One of the best players to ever play at his position, Dawson is now on his seventh year of eligibility and should have earned induction by now. In a weak year of candidates, Dawson's time should finally come.
3. Bill Parcells, Head Coach; New York Giants (1983-1990), New England Patriots (1993-1996), New York Jets (1997-1999), Dallas Cowboys (2003-2006)
Bill Parcells is one of the greatest head coaches in NFL history. He led the Giants to two Super Bowl titles and took the Patriots to a Super Bowl appearance. Including playoff games, Parcells won 183 of the 322 games that he coached in his NFL career.
All four teams he coached came off losing seasons when he took over the coaching duties, but he led all four teams to the playoffs within two years. Parcells is the first head coach in NFL history to coach four different teams to the postseason.
Parcells' coaching track record is tremendous and should earn him a first-ballot berth in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Andre Reed, WR; Buffalo Bills (1985-1999), Washington Redskins (2000)
Cris Carter is not the only wide receiver whose Hall of Fame wait should come to an end. Andre Reed, now in his seventh year of eligibility, is also worthy of induction.
Reed was a key player in the Bills reaching four consecutive Super Bowls. Although two of Reed's fellow skill position offensive teammates—quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas—have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, Reed may have been the best player of the trio.
Reed had 951 career receptions and 13,198 receiving yards, many of those yards coming on yards after catch. If the Hall of Fame continues with its current trend of inducting one wide receiver per year, then Reed should be left out in favor of Carter. If the committee is open to inducting both of them, though, Reed would be deserving.
5. Jack Butler, CB; Pittsburgh Steelers (1951-1959)
Typically, at least one of the two senior nominees is inducted annually into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Jack Butler would be a deserving choice.
In the nine seasons Butler played, he was one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. Butler had 52 career interceptions, which ranked second all-time at the time of Butler's retirement in 1959. From 1957-1959, Butler was a three-time consecutive All-NFL selection.
Unfortunately, Butler suffered a career-ending leg injury late in the 1959 season, but for the nine seasons he played, he was as good of a cornerback as there was in the league. He is a deserving nominee for induction in this Hall of Fame class.
6. Will Shields, G; Kansas City Chiefs (1993-2006)
My hunch is that Will Shields will be left out of the Hall of Fame for one more year since the committee typically reserves first-ballot inductions for players who are locks for induction.
That said, Shields is a deserving Hall of Famer who would be included on my ballot.
In Shields' 14-year career, he never missed a single game. He played 224 games and was dominant in just about every one. Shields was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro.
Shields was one of the greatest interior linemen of his generation and is worthy of induction into Canton.
Left Off the Ballot
Kevin Greene, one of the best pass-rushers to ever play in the National Football League, was my first player off the ballot. In my opinion, Greene is a borderline Hall of Famer, but deserves a spot in Canton for being one of the NFL's most feared pass-rushers ever. He is definitely a possible choice for induction.
Offensive tackle Willie Roaf, former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and wide receiver Tim Brown all have strong candidacy as well, but should remain on the outside looking into Canton, in my opinion.
Running back Curtis Martin, guard Dick Stanfel (a second senior committee nominee), defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, pass-rusher Charles Haley, running back Jerome Bettis, defensive back Aeneas Williams and pass-rusher Chris Doleman were all great players, but were not the caliber of elite players worthy of induction into the Hall of Fame.