And now we come
to a pair who might sneak in on the first ballot: Warren Sapp, through a finely
developed repartee; and John Randle, possessor of that great interior pass
rush. I will be a no vote on each. When Sapp was a young tackle, I thought he
might be one of the alltime greats. But he chose to conserve his energy, turn
it on and turn it off, do just enough to get by.
First-and-10, the enemy gains 10 yards because Randle has taken himself so far
out of position that he's fouled up the guy playing next to him. Next play he
gets a sack for minus-five. People are saying what a great game he's having.
But by my calculations he's still five yards in the hole. Ah well, not many
agree with this kind of thinking. So be it.
Ray Lewis, yes.
Only two LBs have been first-ballot choices in the era, and they were both
colossuses, uh, colossi: Lawrence Taylor and Mike Singletary. Lewis, not the
chest-beater of late but the young firebrand who was like a laser to the ball,
is not quite in their class, but almost. He belongs. Derrick Brooks and Junior
Seau? Maybe someday, but not on the first ballot. Brian Urlacher, no. Not until
he learns to play short-yardage defense.
if he puts up a few more dramatic kicks, will be a great subject for debate
among the selectors, and I feel this will drag through three or four years.
nonplayers. Bill Belichick definitely belongs, but I have a feeling a lot of
selectors will play get-even by stiffing him on the first ballot, just as they
did to Bill Parcells. Dick Vermeil, though, has made nothing but friends
throughout his career, and he'll be rewarded right away. Sure, I'll vote for
Dick. He sent me a case of that great cabernet he makes in Calistoga. You bet
I'll vote for him.