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Cooney: Only two slam dunk modern era HOF nominees

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The Sports Xchange

For those who think it is easy to select who belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, here is a chance to name who should – and who should not – be among the finalists “in the room” for discussion the day before Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara.

That is the day the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 will be decided by the HOF selection committee, usually 46 members. For 25 years we have been honored to take on this task.

The process already cut a preliminary nominee list of 108 to 88 and Friday the selectors picked the 25 players and coaches they believe belong in the room for discussion along with two seniors finalists – quarterback Ken Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel, and former San Francisco 49ers team owner Eddie DeBartolo as a contributor.

Standards to make the Hall of Fame must be high. We are not looking for good or very good. While fans all have their favorites and believe many of them are sure Hall of Famers, they are usually wrong.

There are not many slam dunk Hall of Famers. This year, although we expect a full class to be named – both seniors, the contributor and five modern era nominees – there are only two slam dunks on the list of 25 sent from here.

They are quarterback Brett Favre and wide receiver Terrell Owens. Let the arguments begin. There are others who are HOF-worthy, but just not slam dunks.

Sure Favre threw interceptions. Big deal. He carried teams, he enriched the game in a way that computerized strategists could not grasp. He was excitement waiting to happen. He embraced that game the way O.W. Shaddock emoted about it in North Dallas Forty. Hide the kids and look it up.

Yeah, Owens often acted the fool, caused acrimony on and off the field and, like Favre, didn’t know when to walk away. But he performed his position at a level only one or two others managed in the history of the game. And he loved the game. He played in a Super Bowl on a recently-broken leg. Earlier this month he offered to play despite the fact it would re-set his HOF clock back another five years.

In addition to Favre and Owens, the top 10 list here includes wide receiver Marvin Harrison, offensive tackles Tony Boselli and Orlando Pace, defensive edge demons Kevin Greene and Willie McGinest, running back Terrell Davis, kicker Morten Andersen and coach Don “Air” Coryell, the Godfather of the modern passing game, or at least the God-Uncle along with Sid Gillman, already in the HOF.

That’s it.

Yes, wide receiver Isaac Curtis has HOF credentials, running back Roger Craig epitomized the flexibility of Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense and several coaches, including Tony Dungy, were outstanding. There are many on the list worthy of long conversations. But slam dunks don’t require long conversations. And top 10s are just a brief talk.

So, right here, right now the modern era nominees have two slam dunks on a list of the Top 10 candidates from here. They cannot all make it, despite the cries of foul from the safety of TV broadcast studios following every selection.

Below is the list from which the 25 modern era HOF finalists were selected, the results of which will be announced in the coming weeks.

Meantime, have at it. Pick 25, then ten. See who makes it and who doesn’t.

Here is the list used to cut to 25:

QUARTERBACKS

Drew Bledsoe, Phil Simms, Brett Favre, Vinny Testaverde, Steve McNair, Kurt Warner.

RUNNING BACKS

Shaun Alexander, Edgerrin James, Ottis Anderson, Daryl Johnston (FB), Tiki Barber, Jamal Lewis, Roger Craig, Clinton Portis, Stephen Davis, Herschel Walker (also KR), Terrell Davis, Rickey Watters, Eddie George, Brian Westbrook, Priest Holmes.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Isaac Bruce, Terrell Owens, Gary Clark, Sterling Sharpe, Henry Ellard (also PR), Jimmy Smith, Marvin Harrison, Rod Smith, Torry Holt.

TIGHT ENDS

Mark Bavaro, Jay Novacek.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN

Tony Boselli (T), Jim Lachey (T),Jeff Bostic (C), Kevin Mawae (C/G) Jim Covert (T), Mark May (G/T/C), Alan Faneca (G), Tom Nalen (C), Jay Hilgenberg (C), Nate Newton (G), Chris Hinton (G/T), Orlando Pace (T), Kent Hull (C), Chris Samuels (T), Joe Jacoby (T), Mark Schlereth (G), Jon Jansen (T), Steve Wisniewski (G), Mike Kenn (T).

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

Dexter Manley (DE), Simeon Rice (DE), Charles Mann (DE), Fred Smerlas (NT), Leslie O Neal (DE), Bryant Young (DE).

LINEBACKERS

Cornelius Bennett, Willie McGinest (also DE), Tedy Bruschi, Karl Mecklenburg, Keith Bulluck, Matt Millen, Kevin Greene (also DE), Sam Mills, Ken Harvey, Zach Thomas, Levon Kirkland, Mike Vrabel, Clay Matthews.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Eric Allen (CB), John Lynch (S), Steve Atwater (S), Lawyer Milloy (SS), Joey Browner (S), Darren Sharper (FS), LeRoy Butler (S), Shawn Springs (CB), Rodney Harrison (S), Troy Vincent (CB/S), Ty Law (CB), Everson Walls (CB), Albert Lewis (CB), Darren Woodson (S).

KICKERS, PUNTERS

Morten Andersen (K), Jason Elam (K), Gary Anderson (K), Sean Landeta (P), John Carney (K), Nick Lowery (K).

SPECIAL TEAMS/POSITION PLAYERS

Ethan Albright (LS), Steve Tasker (ST/WR), Brian Mitchell (RB/PR/KR).

COACHES

Don Coryell, Richie Petitbon, Bill Cowher, Dan Reeves, Tony Dungy, Pete Rodriguez, Tom Flores, Lou Saban, Mike Holmgren, Marty Schottenheimer, Jimmy Johnson, Clark Shaughnessy, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Buddy Parker.

– Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


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