By Matthew Postins
When I was covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers I was colleagues with the Tampa Bay chapter voter. There are 46 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They’re all media members and each chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association has one representative. The other 14 are at-large members, people like Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who don’t necessarily cover one team.
Each finalist is presented to the voters by a member of the panel. There’s debate and then there are a series of votes to whittle the finalists down to five. Then there is one more vote for induction. At that point you need 80 percent of the ballots.
I heard stories about what you and I would call back-scratching. You know, you vote for my guy and I’ll vote for your guy. That kind of thing. It happened sometimes.
But some players are immune to that sort of thing. Larry Allen is one of them and that’s why he’ll be announced as a 2013 Hall of Famer on Saturday in New Orleans. He’ll also be the only former Cowboy to make the cut.
Allen is among the best offensive linemen of all time. He was a dominant force for the Cowboys for a decade. He won a Super Bowl ring. He played multiple positions. He claimed a plethora of postseason honors.
Here’s the clincher. I looked at all of the NFL players who made at least 11 Pro Bowl appearances. All of the players that made at least 11 Pro Bowl appearances and are eligible are in the Hall except for Will Shields, who is a finalist this year. Shields became eligible last year. It’s likely that Allen’s reputation and Super Bowl rings will trump Shields’ overall career excellence. But expect Shields to get into the Hall one day.
So Allen should become the 14th Cowboy to be inducted into the Hall.
Charles Haley and Bill Parcells are finalists, but I don’t believe they’ll make the cut. Haley, while a great player, isn’t perceived as dominant. Tallying 100 sacks, which Haley did, isn’t like hitting 3,000 baseballs. It’s not an automatic qualifier. If it was, linebacker Kevin Greene – the game’s second-best sack artist – would already be in the Hall instead of a finalist yet again.
Parcells is deserving, but has the misfortune of being in the same class of finalists with late Ravens owner Art Modell, who to me seems to be a cinch to earn induction. Modell helped craft the NFL we know today and most voters won’t vote for more than one coach or team executive per year.
So who gets in besides Allen?
Expect both senior committee candidates – linebacker Dave Robinson and defensive tackle Curley Culp – to get in. The voters usually rubber-stamp the senior candidates. But they’re separate from the five players, coaches and executives that voters are allowed to vote in each year.
So that leaves four spots in a class that teems with talent and deserving players. I do not have a vote, but if I did, besides Allen, here’s who I would vote for:
Art Modell: Former Browns and Ravens owner who championed the AFL-NFL merger, the NFL’s revenue-sharing model and represented team owners during the league’s television contract negotiations for 30 years, helping to craft the NFL TV model fans know and love today.
Kevin Greene: Third in NFL history in sacks with 160. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, a three-time All-Pro selection and a member of the NFL’s Team of the Decade for the 1990s.
Jonathan Ogden: An 11-time Pro Bowl and nine-time All-Pro offensive tackle, Odgen anchored the Ravens’ offensive line for more than a decade and won a Super Bowl ring.
Cris Carter: Carter is fourth all-time in receptions. Ahead of him? Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Marvin Harrison. Carter is an eight-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All Pro and a HOF finalist for the sixth straight year. He’s waited too long.
So the bigger question is who WILL get in? Personally, I think you’ll hear Allen, Modell, Ogden, Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan called on election day.
Dallas Cowboys fans should make their Canton reservations now.
2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists
Warren Sapp (DL)
Michael Strahan (DL)
Jonathan Ogden (OL)
Larry Allen (OL)
Tim Brown (WR)
Cris Carter (WR)
Andre Reed (WR)
Jerome Bettis (RB)
Will Shields (OL)
Bill Parcells (Coach)
Kevin Greene (LB)
Charles Haley (DE/LB)
Dave Robinson (LB)
Curley Culp (DT)
Aeneas Williams (CB/S)
Edward DeBartolo, Jr. (Owner)
Art Modell (Owner)