Thursday, February 3, 2011

Faulk, 'Prime Time' are the only clear-cut favs for Canton

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announces its Class of 2011 on Saturday. As always, speculation abounds as to who will make the cut and who won’t. Two sure-fire picks to be inducted in their first year of eligibility are Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders.
Faulk, who played with the Colts and the Rams (1994-2005), is arguably the most versatile running back to ever play the game. A do-it-all type, not only did Faulk run with power and speed, he doubled as gifted receiver coming out the backfield. He was the centerpiece for the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” that won a Super Bowl.
Sanders, the self-proclaimed “Prime-Time”, entered the league and quickly established himself as an All-Pro cornerback. And for most of his career (1989-2005), he maintained his reputation as one of the game’s elites. “Prime Time” added to his mystique as an electrifying kick return specialist. Career-wise, his best move was getting away from Atlanta. He bolted from the ATL, hooked up for a short stint with the 49ers and won a Super Bowl in the process. Then it was on to the Cowboys, where he won two more world championship rings.
Picking the remainder of the class is iffy. Two senior nominees are on this year’s ballot (linebackers Chris Hanberger and Les Richter). It’s possible that at least one of those two will get the nod for induction. Based on the Hall’s present by-laws an induction class must have a minimum of four, but not more than seven. The max number of modern-day nominees that any HOF class can have is five.
How the voters continue to overlook Andre Reed (1985-2000) is beyond my comprehension. A consensus pick as one of the best receivers of his era, Reed was a key cog in a no-huddle offense that scored points in a hurry and propelled Buffalo to four straight appearances in the Super Bowl. Given Reed’s career productivity, you’d think he would’ve made the grade by now. It’s a mystery as to why he’s been left on the outside looking in for so long. Four of his former Bills teammates have already been enshrined. This could be the year that the waiting finally ends and Reed is in.
Two of the game’s all-time pass rushers are in contention for consideration. For me, Richard Dent is a sentimental pick. Dent (1983-1997) was an absolute terror at defensive end. His presence fortified an already ferocious Bears defense that dominated everybody in ’85 when the Monsters of the Midway shuffled their way to a Super Bowl blow-out victory. Haley, who split time at defensive end and outside linebacker, posted some outstanding numbers in his day (1986-1999). He recorded 100 career sacks and is the only player in NFL history to win five Super Bowls (two with the 49ers, three with the Cowboys).
With Faulk being on the ballot, it seemed almost automatic that running backs Jerome Bettis (Rams and Steelers) and Curtis Martin (Jets and Patriots) would get left out in the cold this time around.  Bettis closed out his 12-year career by winning a Super Bowl and he’s sixth among the NFL’s all-time rushing leaders. Martin (1995-2005) wasn’t as high profile as “The Bus”, but one could debate that he was at the same level. Martin never won a championship, but finished his career as No. 4 on the league’s career list for rushing yards. These two will have to wait it out this time.

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