On the heels of baseball announcing its newest inductees to Cooperstown, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced the 15 men who will vie for their entrance to Canton in 2014.
Announced during a live ceremony on NFL Network, the field is an eclectic group spearheaded by notable leftovers from years past and a couple of first-timers who look like locks.
Former Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks are the likeliest among first-timers to reach enshrinement. Jones may be the best bet on the entire ballot, as he's arguably the best offensive tackle of his generation and he made nine Pro Bowls during his 13-year career in Seattle. He is one of just three players in Seahawks history to have their jersey retired.
Brooks is also one of the rare modern-day nominees to spend his entire career with one team. The former Bucs star scored 11 Pro Bowl berths and nine All-Pro appearances during his career, has a Super Bowl ring and was one of the better locker-room leaders in the league. His former coach, Tony Dungy, and former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison are also among the first-time nominees.
Harrison, third all time with 1,102 catches, is one of the most decorated wide receivers in history. Even if he does not make the Hall on his first try—and the deluge of wide receivers available make it unlikely he will—Harrison is a lock somewhere down the line.
Among players left over from previous selection periods, Michael Strahan is far and away the strongest candidate. Strahan only narrowly missed out in 2013 because of an especially strong group of defensive line candidates, and even then it was a bit of a surprise he missed the cut. His 141.5 sacks are the fifth most in NFL history, and he holds the single-season sacks record, set in 2001, with 22.5.
Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis is also expected to get a strong push from the Pittsburgh contingency. Bettis, like Strahan, went out with a Super Bowl victory and sits sixth all time with 13,662 rushing yards.
Overall, nine of a possible 10 leftovers from 2013 are finalists again. Only former Ravens and Browns owner Art Modell dropped out.
The finalists were selected from a group of 25 semifinalists announced in November. Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis and former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson are chief among the names who did not move on from the semifinals.
Next, a 46-person committee will have a meeting the day before the Super Bowl to determine which of the 15 modern-day finalists will enter the Hall. The committee is required to have a maximum of five modern-day players and two "senior" players.
The Hall of Fame's senior committee selected punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey for consideration. Guy would be the first punter ever enshrined in Canton. This was a big year for special teams, as kicker Morten Andersen was named a modern-day finalist as well.
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