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Five Things I Think I Think
MIAMI BEACH -- It's that time of year again. Time to bash the 40 media people who select the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
I'm one of them, and here's my main observation about the Class of 2007: I have no idea who it will be. This is the only time in the decade and a half that I've been on the selection committee that there's not a sure thing, or close to one, among the finalists. I can't pick one guy who's a no-doubter. Here's how I handicap the race, with the selection meeting to begin Saturday at 7:30 a.m.
Even money --Thurman Thomas. More than one Buffalo player from one of the greatest offenses ever deserves to be Hall-bound, and behind Jim Kelly, Thomas is the most deserving.
3:2 -- Bruce Matthews, Paul Tagliabue. No other player has made more Pro Bowls than Matthews, who had 14, and he played more games than any other position player (296) ever. His candidacy might be hurt by the previous election of Mike Munchak and Warren Moon, with voters wondering if three offensive players from a bad playoff team should be in the Hall.
Tagliabue was the gold standard for commissioners for a decade, which should make him a lock. But some voters will argue the NFL was going to be the power league it is today with anyone's guidance, and some voters don't like the perceived steps back the media took under him. That could hurt his chances.
2:1 -- Art Monk, Michael Irvin. Monk and Irvin could cancel each other out, though both deserve to make it. There's going to be some sentiment in the room along the lines of "Geez, could we please get Monk in and end this annual melodrama with him?'' Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson are really trying to help Irvin's candidacy with some gentle reminders to voters about how hugely important Irvin was to the Cowboys' success.
3:1 -- Bob Kuechenberg, Derrick Thomas, Andre Tippett. Kuechenberg may have been the best Dolphins lineman of the seventies, which should get him in one of these years ... Will the panel see Thomas as one of the best five pass-rushers of all time or as a one-dimensional player who never played the run well? ... Tippett is my boutique pick. I would love to see him make it. He's a guy who averaged 10 sacks a year as a strongside linebacker (most sackers played the weak side) with very little defensive help on a bad New England team.
4:1 -- Russ Grimm, Gary Zimmerman, Richard Dent, Fred Dean. Come on. Put a Hog in the Hall. That's my view ... And Zimmerman was on two all-decade teams: the eighties and nineties. Very deserving ... Dent and Dean could cancel each other out. Both are deserving, and one could sneak in during a year when there are no locks.