The Pro Football Hall of Fame: Who Gets Busted in 2022?

We’re heading for the final Sunday of the 2021 NFL Season but before we get to the battle between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI the league has awards to present.

During the 11th annual NFL Honors Show the league will announce all the major award winners for the 2021 season. Scattered between those award presentations will be the announcements of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

Who Gets 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 2022 class. There are 15 Modern-Era finalists, of which no more than five can be selected, plus one Coach, one Senior and one Contributor nominee up for selection. Each nominee must receive 80 percent yes votes from the Selection Committee to earn enshrinement.

This year, those 15 Modern-Era finalists are going to find the going rough. By my count there are 11 former players who are deserving to get fitted for gold jackets this year. The five who make the cut will have truly earned having their busts in Canton with the other 355 displayed there.

You can go crazy trying to out-think the selection committee, and since I’ve been doing this for about a decade, that could explain some things. Still, this is how I expect the 2022 selection process to play out.

The Opening Cuts

Willie Anderson, Offensive Tackle (1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals; 2008 Baltimore Ravens) First Team All-Pro – 3; Second Team All-Pro – 1; Pro Bowl – 4

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist, 2022

Positives: This is Anderson’s first time as a finalist in his ninth year of eligibility.

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan called Anderson “the greatest right tackle of his generation.” He spent all but the final season of his 13-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals and blocked for nine 1,000-yard rushers.

Anderson was selected 10th overall by Cincinnati in the 1996 NFL Draft and was named to the NFL All-Rookie team after that season. He started 184 of his 195 career games

Negatives: Over the course of his career the Bengals rarely finished in the top half of the league each season in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per attempt average.

Verdict: Willie Anderson may make it into the Hall of Fame but not this year. He’s on the ballot with one of the best left tackles of all time and has no business going in before Tony Boselli.

Bryant Young, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle (1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers) All-Pro – 1, Second Team All-Pro – 3, Pro Bowl – 4

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2022

Positives: Except for his final three seasons Young played defensive tackle. Registered multiple sacks in each year of his 14-season career. Credited with 11.5 sacks in 1996, his All-Pro year, and 11 sacks in 1999. Young totaled 20 passes defended in his career, an impressive number for a defensive tackle.

Negatives: Never became the difference maker that you expect to get in a seventh overall draft pick. His 89.5 career sacks rank only 23rd among all defensive tackles. He’s also 19th among that group for career tackles, both solo and combined.

Verdict: Hall of the very good without a doubt. As for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his career during his playing era and all-time among defensive linemen doesn’t merit induction.

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: 2020, 2021, 2022

Positives: Mills was the emotional leader of every defense he played on in New Orleans and Carolina.

Negatives: Mills has no league leading numbers for a single season or career that can be pointed out as exceptional.

Verdict: Like a lot of long-time NFL fans, I loved Mills as a player. He’s just not Hall of Fame caliber.

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

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2020, 2021, 2022

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 intercepted 38 passes in his career and returned them for 533 yards. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s.

Negatives: Never led the league in any category and didn’t finish anywhere close to the career leaders in counting stats among defensive backs.

Verdict: There’s no denying how important Butler was to Green Bay in the 1990s but that alone doesn’t mean he gets a gold jacket.

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver (2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans) First Team All-Pro – 2, Second Team All-Pro, Pro Bowl – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022

Positives: Johnson led the NFL in receptions twice, receiving yards twice and average yards per game three times. He surpassed 1,000 receiving yards nine times in his 14-season career.

Johnson is currently eleventh all-time in receptions and receiving yards. In the postseason, he played four games and totaled 25 catches for 358 yards and one touchdown.

In 2003, Johnson was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team and was named one of the NFL’s Top 100 Players list four times.

Negatives: Joined Houston in the second year of the franchise’s existence. He only played in two postseasons which has kept his profile lower than it should be considering his career production.

Verdict: Andre Johnson in a Hall of Fame caliber receiver. He’s up against a couple of others that have been on the finalist list longer which is why Johnson will miss out this year but his time will come.

Patrick Willis, Linebacker (2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers) All Pro – 4, Second Team All-Pro – 1, Pro Bowl – 7

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022

Positives: Willis was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007. He was a perennial All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker.

Willis led the NFL in tackles twice and totaled over 100 tackles in a season six times in his eight-year career. He was also one of the hardest hitters to ever play the position.

Negatives: Willis dealt with some nagging injuries in 2013 and 2014 and retired before his 30th birthday.

Verdict: Patrick Willis has been Pro Football Hall of Fame eligible for three years but this is his first appearance among the finalists. The only conclusion that can be drawn from that is Willis is paying the price with the selection committee for retiring early.

Willis should have been a first-ballot inductee. Hell, he could have gone in the day after he retired and would have earned it. I expect the selection committee will force Willis to spend one or two years on the finalist list before voting him in.

Honorable Mentions

These are Pro Football Hall of Fame caliber players who could go in this year depending on conversations among the Selection Committee but all should eventually be fitted for their gold jackets.

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, 2022

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 total puts him at 12th on the all-time list.

Negatives: Allen hit age 30 and his quality of play fell off a cliff. He only lasted three more seasons.

Verdict: If the selection committee is valuing counting stats; sacks, tackles, etc., then Allen might go in this year. However, Richard Seymour has been waiting longer and his versatility made him more dominant as a defensive lineman.

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, 2022

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: Wayne is going to be the victim of a loaded wide receiver group this year. He could be the one who makes it but I’m betting that 2022 is Torry Holt’s year.

DeMarcus Ware, Linebacker (2005-2013 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-2016 Denver Broncos) First Team All-Pro – 4, Second Team All-Pro – 3, Pro Bowl – 9

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022

Positives: Ware was a defensive powerhouse in Dallas starting with his rookie season. He led the league in sacks twice and recorded double-digit sacks in eight of his 12 seasons. He also led the league in tackles for losses three times.

Ware is currently ninth on the all-time sacks list with 138.5.

Negatives: In his first year of eligibility, Ware is a first-time finalist in a loaded class.

Verdict: Ware could go in on his first ballot. He was that good. That wouldn’t be fair to a couple of other defensive linemen/linebackers who’ve been waiting longer. Then again, the selection committee isn’t known for fairness.

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, 2022

Positives: Thomas 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 his career with 48 passes defended, a high total for a linebacker.

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

Verdict: There is no doubt about Thomas’ qualifications to get measured for a gold jacket. He should have been a no-brainer for the 2020 expanded class. If one of my final five don’t get selected Thomas is the best bet to be inducted instead.

The Following Nominees Get Busted In 2022

Contributor – Art McNally, Referee

Positives: McNally served as an NFL official for nine seasons. He was a field judge in 1959 and referee from 1960 to 1967 but it was his contributions to officiating after leaving the field that merit his induction.

McNally became the NFL’s supervisor of officials in 1968. The officiating evaluation and grading system was modernized under his watch.

He was also an innovator in introducing technology to improve the quality of officiating. His major contribution in that area came through his tireless work in introducing and improving instant replay in NFL games. As a tribute to that work, the NFL’s officiating office in New York is named Art McNally GameDay Central.

In 2002. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue created the Art McNally Award to annually honor an NFL official who exhibits “exemplary professionalism, leadership and commitment to sportsmanship” on and off the field.

Negatives: Try to find a negative comment from anyone anywhere about McNally. I dare you! I triple-dog dare you! Try and find just one! You’ll be wasting your time!

Verdict: It’s unbelievable that it has taken so long for someone who has had such an enormous impact on the game, both on and off the field, to finally be recognized for his decades of work. Art McNally will be the first on-field official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it’s about time.

Coaching Candidate – Dick Vermeil (1976-1982 Philadelphia Eagles, 1997-1999 St. Louis Rams, 2001-2005 Kansas City Chiefs)

Positives: Dick Vermeil coached three teams, turned them all into playoff contenders and too two of them to the Super Bowl.

The Philadelphia Eagles hadn’t played a postseason game since winning the NFL Championship in 1960. The Eagles went to the playoffs four times, and one Super Bowl with Vermeil at the helm.

He took over a Rams team that hadn’t been to the postseason since moving to St. Louis. Three seasons later, the Rams offense was known as “The Greatest Show on Turf” and defeated the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.

He ended his head coaching career with the Kansas City Chiefs and made the playoffs with a team that finished 13-3 in 2003.

Negatives: Only 35th in all-time coaching wins. His final record was 120-109. In 15 seasons as a coach he only made the playoffs six times.

Verdict: This category was created to give coaches a chance to be recognized for their careers without competing against players as a Final 15 candidate.

As far as longevity and victories go, there are a handful of coaches that are more qualified, Marty Schottenheimer and Dan Reeves for two, but Vermeil did turn around two struggling franchises and take them to the Super Bowl. Based on those results Vermeil will get the votes he needs to be inducted.

Senior Nominee – Cliff Branch, Wide Receiver (1972-1985 Oakland Raiders) First Team All-Pro – 3, Pro Bowl – 4

Positives: Branch played in an era when defensive backs were allowed to hammer receivers until the ball was in the air and was still one of the top deep threats in the game.

From 1974 to 1976 Branch was Kenny Stabler’s favorite downfield target. In 1974, he led the league with 1,092 receiving yards in a 14-game season. In 1974 and 1976, Branch led the NFL in receiving touchdowns and yards per game average.

He finished his career with 67 touchdown catches. When Branch retired in 1985 that put him 15th on the all-time list. He also ranked 10th in receiving yards and ninth in yards per reception at the time of his retirement.

Negatives: Only was named to four Pro Bowl teams and none after the 1977 season.

Verdict: Branch had the stats that put him among the career leaders and ahead of other Pro Football Hall of Fame receivers at the time of his retirement.

No Senior Committee candidate has failed to be voted in since Dick Stanfel in 2012, and he made it on his second try in 2016. Branch shouldn’t have a problem getting 80 percent of the final vote.

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, 2022

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 effectively. 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 candidacy since he’s been a finalist for four consecutive years.

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 anchor of New England’s dynasty defense during his career. Seymour deserves enshrinement. Let’s hope the selection committee gets it right this time.

If Seymour isn’t selected, expect Zach Thomas to get the nod here.

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

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2021, 2022

Positives: Barber played in 241 regular season games during his 16-year career which included a run of 215 consecutive starts. 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 for 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. Finally, Barber is tenth on the all-time solo tackles list among all players and is the top defensive back on that list.

Negatives: Was only voted Buccaneers team caption 9 times in his 16-season career. Their problem, not his.

Verdict: Barber was overshadowed by Charles Woodson’s first-time candidacy last year. He doesn’t have that problem in 2022. Barber has the numbers to be Hall of Fame worthy. Also, if you check his page on ProFootballReference.com, his career player comps match with defensive backs who are already enshrined. It’s time for him to be recognized.

Devin Hester, Punt Returner, Kick Returner, Wide Receiver (2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-2015 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens, 2016 Seattle Seahawks)

Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalist: 2022

Positives: @D_Hest23 was named a First Team All-Pro in his rookie season after returning 47 punts for 600 yards and three touchdowns. He added two more touchdowns as a kickoff returner and ran back a missed field goal 108-yards. He followed that up in 2007 with four more punt return touchdowns and another First Team All-Pro nod.

In Super Bowl XLI, Hester became the first player to return the opening kickoff for a touchdown with a 92-yard dash to the house.

Hester still holds all-time NFL records with 14 punt return and 20 non-offensive touchdowns (14 punt returns, five kickoff returns and one missed field goal return).

Negatives: Both his kickoff and punt return production nose-dived in 2008 and 2009 when the Chicago Bears attempted to turn him into a wide receiver. He returned to All-Pro form in 2010.

Verdict: Hester wasn’t just a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s, he’s one of only two specialists on the NFL 100 All-Time Team, with Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. That means not only was he one of the best return specialists of his era, but he’s also considered one of the best to ever do the job. Hall of Fame credentials don’t get more sterling than that.

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, 2022

Positives: @TonyBoselli 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 left shoulder injury in 2001 that ultimately ended his career. Three operations failed to repair the damage.

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. With Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca and Kevin Mawae finally inducted and out of his way there shouldn’t be any reason why Boselli doesn’t make the cut this year.

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, 2022

Positives: @BigGame81 dominated the wide receiver position during the St. Louis Rams “Greatest Show 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: Holt is the best of the three receivers that made the finalist list this year. His wait should be over.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s