assignment," my editor told me, "is to list the guys who will be Hall
of Fame shoo-ins for this era, and which picks you agree with and which you
could I tell him that there are no such things? O.K., Jerry Rice, I'll give you
that. And Emmitt Smith. And Deion. There, those are three right there, and yes,
I'll agree with all three choices, but the rest of them...?
Is Brett Favre a
shoo-in? How about if he throws another 29 interceptions this season? And the
whispers start--maybe he never was that good to begin with. You think this is
impossible? You don't know how quickly a great old star can fall from
it's a pretty special thing to be enshrined on the first ballot. You'd think
that Bill Walsh would have been a shoo-in, right? He was passed over when he
was first eligible. So was Howie Long. Lee Roy Selmon, one of the most
inspirational defensive linemen who ever lived, failed to get out of the
preliminary round of voting and reach the final 15 for five straight years.
Jimmy Johnson, the 49ers' great cornerback--I mean, JJ and Deion Sanders were
the two best I've ever seen--died in the prelims for 12 years. Finally he let
the world know that he didn't want to be nominated anymore. Then he made
The things that
happen in that selection meeting are stunning. I've come out feeling weak in
the knees, and the first words on my lips were, "How could you ... ?" I
don't want to show the white feather, so here are my potential first-round
ballot selections of the era and how I view them, and by era I mean a period of
the last 13 years, which stretches from today's young superstars on the rise to
the recently retired.
enter on the first ballot, and I agree with that. No corner in history had his
catch-up speed. But that would use up my entire quota of DBs. In my 13-year era
only one has made it in the first season he was eligible: Ronnie Lott.
But then what
about Rod Woodson (class of 2009), who has already been selected to the NFL's
alltime team? I would vote for him, although I rank him third behind Deion and
still another corner, the Redskins' heroic little Darrell Green. He'll come up
with the class of 2008. The major competition will be Cris Carter and Tony
Boselli. Yes, I'm 100% in Darrell's corner.
There have been
20 people who got in the first time they were eligible, true first-ballot
choices, in this 13-year period, and seven were QBs. The Selection Committee is
very friendly toward QBs. I have singled out five potential first balloteers:
Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer.
I'll vote for
Favre, based on what he used to be, because I think his game has tanked
big-time in the last few years, and I don't know if it'll ever be back. Brady
is the ultimate warrior, and he's a double yes for first ballot and my vote.
Manning needs some wins when the stakes are highest, otherwise his records and
his high rankings, which he should keep putting up for a long time, will work
against him. First ballot? He's on the bubble, but I'll vote for him. There are
quite a few Hall of Fame QBs who never won a championship.