Pro Football Hall of Fame: Who Should Get Busted in 2021?

After an expanded selection process in 2020 to celebrate 100 years of NFL football, we’re back to the standard Pro Football Hall of Fame selection process.

Last year saw 20 players, coaches and contributors enshrined. Other than celebrating the NFL’s milestone anniversary, the reason so many were voted in at once was to clear up the logjam of deserving player, coach and contributors that was clogging up the selection process.

The Selection committee was partially successful in easing the pressure at some positions and among seniors and contributors but as you’ll soon see, new logjams are developing.

Who Should Get Busted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame This Year?

Here is the selection process. At least four, and no more than eight new members will be selected for the 2021 class. There are 15 Modern-Era finalists, one Coach, one Senior and one Contributor nominee up for selection. Each nominee must get 80 percent of yes votes from the Selection Committee to earn enshrinement.

The presentations for each nominee was made a month ago. The announcement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2021 with be announced at the 10th Annual NFL Honors show tonight.

Here is how the new Hall of Fame class should look when the show is over.

The Opening Cuts

John Lynch, Safety (Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1993-2003; Denver Broncos 2004-2007) First Team All-Pro – 2;  Second Team All-Pro – 2; Pro Bowls – 9

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

Positives: Lynch had the reputation as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the NFL during his career. He was also one of the leaders of the defense that propelled the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title.

Negatives: Lynch didn’t establish himself as Tampa Bay’s starting strong safety until his fourth season. He failed to beat out Marty Carter his first two seasons and shared starting duties with Barney Bussey in his third year. Also, for a safety, Lynch doesn’t have the career tackle numbers that rank him among the NFL’s greats.

Verdict: Every year for the last seven years Lynch has made his way as a finalist and each year he walks away empty handed. He will again this year. There are two other safeties on this year’s list who were better over their careers than Lynch, one of  whom will be inducted this year. Better luck next year.

Jared Allen, Defensive End (2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers) First Team All-Pro – 4; Pro Bowls – 5

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: For a five season stretch, from 2007 to 2011, Allen was one of the premier defensive ends in the league. In 2007, he led the NFL with 15.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He came close to becoming the single-season sack king in 2011 with 22. His 136 career sacks puts him 12th on the all-time list.

Negatives: Allen hit age 30 and his quality of play fell off a cliff.

Verdict: Allen’s late career nosedive is going to work against him in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot. He should eventually get voted in but won’t in his first year on the ballot.

Sam Mills, Linebacker (1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers) First Team All-Pro – 1, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 5

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: Mills was the emotional leader of every defense he played with.

Negatives: No league leading numbers that can be pointed to as exceptional.

Verdict: As a lot of long-time NFL fans, I loved Mills as a player. He’s just not going to ever be selected.

Clay Matthews, Linebacker (1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons) Second Team All-Pro – 1, Pro Bowls – 4

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: The original Clay Matthews, father of Clay Matthews the younger, played in 278 games over his 19 season career, most ever by a linebacker. He racked up over 100 tackles nine times and led the NFL in three of those seasons.

Negatives: Matthews is seventh on the all-time tackles list but that’s the only counting stat where he shows his dominance.

Verdict: Although Matthews is one of the greatest Cleveland Browns players of all time he didn’t have a dominating enough career to merit Pro Football Hall of Fame induction.

Honorable Mentions

These are Pro Football Hall of Fame caliber players who could go in this year depending on conversations among the Selection Committee.

Zach Thomas, Linebacker (1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys) First Team All-Pro – 5, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021

Positives: Was named AFC Defensive Player of the year in 1996. He led the league in tackles twice and is currently fifth on the all-time list with 1,734. Finished with 48 passes defended, a high total for a linebacker’s career.

Negatives: Only played in eight postseason games so missed out on the notoriety that playoff appearances would have attracted.

Verdict: Thomas is going to need the stars to line up exactly right to get the votes he needs for enshrinement. It should happen but he’s facing a strong 2021 classs.

Tony Boselli, Tackle (1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) First Team All-Pro – 3, Pro Bowls – 5

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

Positives: Tony Boselli’s career was cut short due to injury but he was always considered an elite left tackle. He anchored an offensive line that helped the Jacksonville Jaguars to four straight playoff appearances and two AFC Championship Games. Boselli was also selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s despite only playing in half of the decade.

Negatives: Boselli suffered a severe shoulder injury in 2001 that ultimately ended his career. Still, he was clearly head and shoulders above the competition when he was on the field.

Verdict: One of these years, Boselli is going to receive the Gale Sayers/Terrell Davis injury-shortened career exemption and get measured for a gold jacket. What could stop that this year is that Alan Faneca has been waiting one year longer than Boselli and the Selection Committee hates to put more than two offensive linemen into the hall in the same class.

Ronde Barber, Cornerback/Safety (1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers) First Team All-Pro – 3, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 5

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: Barber started 215 regular season games in his 16 season career. He led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2001 and had at least one interception in all but one of his seasons as a starter. He returned eight of his 47 career interceptions into touchdowns and added four fumble recovery and two deflected punt touchdowns to that total.

Barber is the only player in NFL history to record at least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks in a career. He’s also the NFL’s all-time leader in sacks for a cornerback.

Negatives: Was only voted Buccaneers team caption 9 times in his 16 season career.

Verdict: This is only Barber’s first season as finalist which might count against him but his career is all Hall of Fame worthy.

LeRoy Butler, Safety (1990-2001 Green Bay Packers) First Team All-Pro – 4, Pro Bowls – 4

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021

Positives: Was the leader of a Packers defense that made the playoffs in seven of nine seasons. Was Green Bay’s strong safety in three consecutive conference championship games and two Super Bowls.

Butler was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s.

Negatives: Doesn’t have the strong single-season or career counting stats that you would look for in a Hall of Fame player.

Verdict: Butler is another Hall of Fame worthy player who is likely going to have to keep waiting.

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver (2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts) First Team All-Pro – 1, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 6

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021

Positives: Wayne led the NFL with 1,510 receiving yards in 2007. He was in the league’s top 10 in receiving yards seven times and in the top 10 in receptions four times. Wayne is currently tenth on all-time lists with 1,070 receptions and 14,345 receiving yards.

Negatives: Wayne doesn’t have the touchdown numbers that his peers at the position do.

Verdict: It’s possible Wayne goes in this year to accompany Peyton Manning but he’s got two other great receivers on the list this year. Besides, the Selection Committee isn’t known for their sentimentality.

Calvin Johnson, Wide Receiver (2007-2015 Detroit Lions) First Team All-Pro – 3, Second Team All-Pro – 1, Pro Bowls – 6

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: For nine seasons, Megatron was one of the greatest receivers in the game. Nobody could pick a deep pass out of double-coverage like Johnson.

He started in 130 of his 135 career games. Johnson led the league in receiving yards twice and once in receptions and touchdowns. At the time of his retirement he held the record for receiving yards in a season with 1,964 and most consecutive games with 100 or more receiving yards, eight.

Johnson was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s.

Negatives: The NFL and Hall of Fame Selection Committee takes it personally when a player retires early (see Patrick Willis, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers).

Verdict: Johnson should go in this season but the Selection Committee is stubborn about how many wide receivers go in at one time and, see above.

The Following nominees will Get Busted In 2021

Bill Nunn – Contributor (Sportswriter, Scout)

As a sportswriter and later editor for the Pittsburgh Courier, Nunn became an expert on all-black colleges. He gave exposure to players who would have received little fanfare otherwise.

Starting in 1950, he selected The Pittsburgh Courier’s annual Black College All-American team. In 1967, Nunn joined the Pittsburgh Steelers staff as a part-time scout. two years later he took the job full time.

How important was Nunn to the Steelers? He brought players like John Stallworth, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount and many others to Pittsburgh for head coach Chuck Noll to mold into a dynasty.

Nunn died in 2014 at the age of 89.

Verdict: Just try to keep him out.

Tom Flores – Coach Finalist (Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 1979-1987; Seattle Seahawks 1992-1994)

Positives: In 1980, Tom Flores was head coach when the Oakland Raiders became the first team to win the Super Bowl as a wild card. Flores twice coached the Raiders to Super Bowl victories. He led the Raiders to 11 wins or more four times and was named AFC Coach of the Year in 1982.

Negatives: Flores’ teams finished under .500 in five of his 12 seasons as a head coach. He also finished his coaching career with a rough three-year stretch at the helm of the Seattle Seahawks.

Verdict: The “Coach” category was created to keep coaching candidates to compete with player nominees for enshrinement. Flores is the first beneficiary of the new category.

Drew Pearson – Senior Nominee – Wide Receiver (Dallas Cowboys 1973-1983) First Team All-Pro – 3. Pro Bowls – 3

Positives: Pearson is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fames All-1970s Team.

Minnesota Vikings fans have never forgotten Pearson for catching the 50-yard, game-winning touchdown pass from Roger Staubach that knocked the 12-2 Vikings out of the 1975 playoffs.

Pearson gained over 1,000 yards as a receiver in 14 game seasons in an era when that was a very difficult milestone too reach.

Verdict: No Senior Nominee has failed to be enshrined since 2009, and Claude Humphrey made it his second attempt. Pearson joins Staubach in the hall this year.

Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle (2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders) First Team All-Pro – 3, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2019, 2020, 2021

Positives: Seymour was the anchor of the New England Patriots defense at the beginning of the franchise’s dynasty years. He was a versatile defensive lineman, run stuffer, strong pass rusher and could also drop into coverage. He was credited with 10 passes defended in 2003 and eight in 2006.

Seymour played in four AFC championship games and four Super Bowls including victories in Super Bowls XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Negatives: Versatility can work against a player’s candidacy. Lack of big counting stat numbers, sacks, forced fumbles and tackles seems to have hurt Seymour’s argument since he didn’t make the cut as part of 2020’s expanded class.

Verdict: Seymour was one of the most dominant players at his position, which is one of my definitions of a Hall of Fame worthy player. He was also the defensive anchors of New England’s dynasty during his career. Seymour should stand out above the crowd for 2021 enshrinement.

Alan Faneca, Guard (1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals) First Team All-Pro – 6, Second Team All-Pro – 2, Pro Bowls – 9

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021

Positives: Faneca played in all but one game in his 13-year career and he was a dominating run blocker. Teams with Faneca at guard finished in the top 10 in rushing 11 times. He blocked for nine 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers. Faneca was also rarely flagged for penalties in his 13-year career.

Faneca started at left guard in 14 career playoff games including four AFC championship games and Super Bowl XL. He was also named the NFL Alumni offensive lineman of the year twice and to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Negatives: Faneca played at one of the toughest positions to receive recognition for and the Selection Committee can be overly stubborn (stupid) sometimes.

Verdict: It has to happen. If Faneca is passed over again it’s because Tony Boselli finally caught the selection committee’s eye. I’m saying this is Faneca’s year though.

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver (1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars) First Team All-Pro – 1, Second Team – 1, Pro Bowls 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021

Positives: @BigGame81 dominated the wide receiver position during the St. Louis Rams “Greatest Team on Turf” era. Holt led the NFL in receiving yards in his second season and repeated that feat in 2003, his All-Pro season.

In Super Bowl XXXIV Holt had 11 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown in the Rams victory over the Tennessee Titans.

He passed 1,000 receiving yards eight straight seasons and pulled in double-digit touchdowns in three. Holt finished his career with 74 touchdown catches. He’s also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Negatives: Isaac Bruce was the second best receiver on his own team but was selected for the Hall of Fame in the 2020 class. Another example of how 2020 was fu…I mean, screwed up.

Verdict: The only reason Holt doesn’t get enshrined this year is because Calvin Johnson or Reggie Wayne picked up the wide receiver vote.

Charles Woodson, Cornerback/Safety (1998-2005, 2013-15 Oakland Raiders, 2006-2012 Green Bay Packers) First Team All-Pro – 4, Second Team All-Pro – 4, Pro Bowls – 9

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: Woodson was drafter fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders in 1998 and earned the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award. He led the NFL in interceptions twice in a career where he never failed to get at least one in a season.

Woodson is tied for fifth on the all-time list with 65 interceptions in an era when rules increasingly favored wide receivers over defensive backs. He’s also 13th on the all-time list in games started.

Woodson was named a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990’s.

Negatives: Helped the Green Bay Packers win a Super Bowl.

Verdict: Woodson will be wearing a gold jacket after tonight.

Peyton Manning, Quarterback (1998-2011 Indianapolis Colts (injured reserved 2011), 2012-15 Denver Broncos) First Team All-Pro – 7, Second Team All-Pro – 3, Pro Bowls – 14

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021

Positives: Manning is third on the career list in passing yards, third in touchdown passes and has the eleventh best career passer rating. He’s the career leader with 43 fourth-quarter comebacks and 54 game-winning drives.

Manning led his team to 15 playoff appearances in his 18-season NFL career. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player five times and was named to the league’s All-Decade tea, pf the 2000s.

Negatives: Has the same number of Super Bowl wins as his brother Eli.

Verdict:  As close to a sure thing as it gets to be fitted for a gold jacket this year.

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