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Fame Game, Part II

Upcoming classes and current players cause several HOF conundrums

Posted: Thursday August 5, 2004 2:23PM; Updated: Thursday August 5, 2004 2:23PM
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NFC EAST

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Michael Strahan's chances may be hurt by the sack that gave him the single-season record in 2002.
Al Bello/Getty Images

DALLAS -- Bill Parcells. He'll retire, get enshrined, come back and coach, embarrass us, get de-enshrined in a special session, retire again, get re-enshrined, and thus we progress across the rooftops of madness. Larry Allen, G. Yes, of course. The best offensive lineman of the era. Darren Woodson, SS. I would vote for him, unless the names he's going against are just too breathtaking. Eddie George. Seventeenth now, all-time. Gonna be 31 in September. Taken a lot of hits. Has started 112 straight. What a warrior! Finally FS Roy Williams. Selectors, along with others, will be impressed by his highlight reel of big hits. Does this mean enshrinement? Not in my book.

NY GIANTS -- Michael Strahan. Believe it or not, that phony sack Brett Favre gave him, which let him break the single-season record, is going to work against him. I'm not kidding. The purists on the Committee frown greatly on that kind of thing. Kurt Warner. Not enough good years. Will they ever return? I'm not going to say definitely not, and get accused, for the 100th time, of Warner-bashing. Jeremy Shockey, TE. Gosh, will he ever get healthy? Some people believe he'll be congenitally injured.

PHILADELPHIA -- Donovan McNabb. Right now I'd say he doesn't quite have enough credentials. But he's only 27. Terrell Owens. Not if I'm still drawing breath. Catch one, short-arm one, does not get you into my Hall of Fame. Brian Dawkins. Sure, why not? The dominant free safety of the decade.

WASHINGTON -- Clinton Portis. Yeah, he has a shot. A great young talent who's gone over 1,500 yards in each of his two seasons and will gain a ton more before he's through. LaVar Arrington. I know, he's out of control at times, but he's 26 with three Pro Bowl selections in his four years in the NFL. I want to read the first e-mail that rips me for leaving Joe Gibbs' name off. He's in already, see?

NFC NORTH

CHICAGO -- Brian Urlacher. No. Started his career off in terrific fashion. Mr. Softee now. Olin Kreutz, C. Only 27, three Pro Bowls. Has an outside shot. And here's my ultimate sleeper, LCB Charles Tillman, a rookie who made one all-pro team last year. Let's see, which one was it again? Yeah, OK, it was mine. I just happen to think this is a fearless young guy who will shut down the world this year ... just watch.

DETROIT -- Robert Porcher. His name will come up. He's been sturdy and functional, with a long career, but not at HOF level, I believe.

GREEN BAY -- Brett Favre. Sure, he'll waltz in, but are people afraid to mention that twice last season he just said screw it and put the ball up for grabs and cost his team two games, one of them in the Division Playoffs? Ahman Green. Averaged 1,421 yards for the last four seasons, needs a couple of thousand more to start worrying the top 20 of all time, 27-years-old. Could get the numbers, then it'll be a matter of how many others are up there with him. Darren Sharper, FS. A fine player, but his lack of Pro Bowls (two) out of a seven-year career will hurt him. The O-line has been terrific, but whom do you single out? My No. 1 guy is LG Mike Wahle, but he's never been picked for anything (except by me).

MINNESOTA -- OK, it'll be that crowd-pleasing duo of Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. Culpepper, no, unless he puts some really serious seasons together. Moss, yes, whether you like his personality or not. The most feared receiver in the game. Why do I feel the need to repeat that?

NFC SOUTH

ATLANTA -- Michael Vick. He must be mentioned, yes, but he must stay reasonably injury free, and his style has to be refined a bit. But do we want to take all the life and zest out of his game? We do not. So kindly strike the first sentence (actually the second, since the first one is merely Michael Vick). Can you create a Hall of Fame career out of the way Vick plays? I think so, if he leads his team to real success.

CAROLINA -- A lot of guys on the brink, i.e., Stephen Davis, Kris Jenkins, Mike Rucker, but the two names I take the most seriously are the following: Jordan Gross, T, who made All-Z as a rookie last year, and John Fox, the coach, who brought his team from zippidy-doo-dah to the Super Bowl in one season.

NEW ORLEANS -- Deuce McAllister. Great numbers in two of his three years, but it just dawned on me what a flood of running backs, each with great credentials, will be coming up for enshrinement, all at once. Joe Horn. I mention him because others will. Sorry, not enough catches, and he's 32.

TAMPA BAY -- Keenan McCardell, 16th all time in receptions, but other people, such as Henry Ellard, were better. Derrick Brooks. The best outside backer, over a nine-year stretch, which should be enough to get him in on the first ballot, wouldn't you say? Jon Gruden. About to turn 41. Only one losing season (7-9 last year) out of six in the league. One Super Bowl trophy. His personality will work against him. Did I mention that my fellow selectors are an odd bunch?

NFC WEST

ARIZONA -- Emmitt Smith. Will make the Hall of Fame rolls of two teams. Anquan Boldin, WR. Kaboom! First year dynamite. Let's see, he caught 101 balls as a 22-year old rookie last year. So give him a career of, say, 13 more seasons, and that projects to 1,414 catches. Lifetime, and, uh, he'll be gaining ground on Jerry Rice, but he won't catch him because Rice will still be playing. But it'll get Anquan into the Hall.

ST.LOUIS -- WR's Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Bruce, yes. Holt, needs more seasons like the last one. Marshall Faulk. Combined rushing and pass-catching yards (ninth all-time, and could move into sixth this year) makes him a yes in my book. Body might be breaking down, though. Marc Bulger. I'm listing him here because of that Omigosh start his career got off to a couple of years ago. I can't get it out of my mind, what a gutsy, down-the-field thrower he was. He tailed a bit at the end of last season, but if he ever gets back to his old ways ... Orlando Pace. Good, not great, I feel. Aeneas Williams. Yes. The best of the post-Deion corners, along with Darrell Green. Or to be more accurate, tied with Green for best of the second bests, behind Deion.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bryant Young, DT. He's two players, the one before the broken leg and the one after it. Before, yes, a Hall of Fame lineman. After? Courageous, but not able to do the things he once could. How does this translate? I think he'll make it on sentiment. Julian Peterson, OLB. A comer at 26. Promising. Who knows?

SEATTLE -- Walter Jones, T. A smooth, functional pass blocker. I don't see him in the class of the Forrest Greggs and Art Shells of the world. Shaun Alexander. More big yardage numbers you can't overlook, but in no season has he averaged over 4.4 a carry, and that figure speaks to me. Marcus Trufant, CB. He's 23, he's played only one season and I hear personnel people already talking about him as a "shutdown corner." I'm not really that excited yet, but I don't want to be left on the dock when the boat leaves.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Paul Zimmerman covers the NFL for the magazine and SI.com. His Power Rankings, "Inside Football" column and Mailbag appear weekly on SI.com.

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