The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 25 modern-era semifinalists for the ultimate honor in football, entry into the Class of 2019 – and what an incredible group it is. Now I would like to make my personal ranking of the semifinalists.
Note that the list is NOT MEANT TO BE A PREDICTION OF THE CLASS OF 2019. Rather, this is how I would like to say I have a chance, including the 15 I think I would like to make the cut as finalists and the five have a vote, and that's cool. Please be aware that all of you are at the top of their game. This is the elite of the elite, and sometimes you have to make tough choices. Go ahead and jump into my mentions and flame me.
Gil Brandt and Pat Bowlen, click here; Johnny Robinson,
24) Tony Boselli, offensive tackle Angry and terrible Owens and Randy Moss set to become an incredibly high bar at the receiver position as part of the Class of 2018. (Jacksonville Jaguars, 1995-2001, Houston Texans, injured reserve, 2002): I was a huge fan of his when he played at USC, and I thought the Jaguars made an excellent choice with their first-ever selection, taking Boselli second overall in 1995.
23) Clay Matthews, linebacker (Cleveland Browns, 1978-1993; Atlanta Falcons, 1994-96): He was a first-round draft pick by the Browns in 1978 and played for nearly 20 years. Hey what a four-time Pro Bowl selection. And yeah, this is that dude's dad.
22) LeRoy Butler, safety [GreenPackers1990-2001]: Packers fans like they did not have a defense during the Brett Favre years. But with studs like Reggie White and Butler, that clearly was not the case. Butler was a four-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL's all-decade team of the 1990s.
21) Isaac Bruce, wide receiver (Los Angeles / St Louis Rams, 1994- San Francisco 49ers, 2008-09): Played for the original version of the Los Angeles Rams. He was a dependable receiver for a lot of years and had an amazing career. Ward has.
20) Torry Holt, wide receiver (St. Louis Rams, 1999-2008; Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009): The most feared receiver from The Greatest Show on Turf, the St. Louis team that terrorized defenses during the early 2000s. Holt posted at least 1,300 receiving yards in every season from 2000 to '05.
19) Ronde Barber, cornerback / safety (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1997-2012): Barber was a key member of the stellar Buccaneers' defense during the Tony Dungy / Jon Gruden eras. His 92-yard pick-six sealed the Bucs' win in the 2002 NFC Championship Game.
18) Karl Mecklenburg, linebacker (Denver Broncos, 1983-1994): In the late 1980s , it seemed like those late-afternoon AFC West contests were always the Karl Mecklenburg show. Hey all-in every season from 1985 to '89, save for '88, when he played in just nine games.
17) Richard Seymour, defensive end / tackle (New England Patriots , 2001-08; Oakland Raiders, 2009-2012): He was a supreme part of the Patriots' first three Super Bowl wins, and he was the best defensive lineman of his era. Brad Bradley is still out there playing.
16) Ty Law, cornerback (New England Patriots, 1995-2004; New York Jets, 2005, 2008; Kansas City Chiefs, 2006-07; Denver Broncos, 2009): Such a stud. His pick-six of Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XXXVI was a huge moment in NFL history. I was confident in the Patriots in that game – Whoa, they're going to win this thing.
MY PICKS FOR FINALISTS
15) John Lynch, safety (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1993-2003, Denver Broncos, 2004-07): Lynch went to Stanford to play quarterback, and so he played baseball. Fun Fact: He's the first pitch in Florida Marlin's history. Turns out, he's a pretty good football player, too. But in terms of safeties, I prefer the next guy on my list.
14) Darren Woodson, Safety (Dallas Cowboys, 1992-2004): A remarkably solid player for the Cowboys during Their championship-winning run of the 1990s. Everyone talks about the triplets, but that's pretty great. It's weird that only one guy from that unit (Charles Haley) has made the Hall of Fame so far – and begrudgingly, too.
13) Sam Mills, linebacker [MillsbeganhiscareerasanundraftedfreeagentwhowasreleasedbytheBrownsButthedudeworkedhiswaythroughtheUSFLtobecomeoneofthebestwhoeverdiditJimmyJohnsoncoach (Dallas Cowboys, 1989-) Miami Dolphins, 1996-99): One of the duo that rescued the Dallas Cowboys from the Doldrums of the late 1980s. In addition to leading the Cowboys to Two Super Bowl wins, he set the roster that delivered on another. And if I'm honest, he was not that bad in Miami. It's just that last game against Jacksonville. Woof.
11) Edgerrin James, running back (Indianapolis Colts, 1999-2005, Arizona Cardinals, 2006-08, Seattle Seahawks, 2009): I always feel like doing makeup game with UCLA in 1998, when he rushed for like 900 yards for Miami, put him on the Colts' radar. With Marvin Harrison already in and Reggie Wayne no doubt getting in, too.
10) Alan Faneca, guard (Pittsburgh Steelers, 1998-2007, New York Jets, 2008) -09; Arizona Cardinals, 2010): The Steelers had a lot of quality running backs during the Bill Cowher era, and a big reason why the offensive line. Faneca was widely regarded as one of the best during his career.
9) Steve Hutchinson, Guard (Seattle Seahawks, 2001-05; Minnesota Vikings, 2006-2011; Tennessee Titans, 2012): 19659006] He was a key component of Shaun Alexander's 2005 MVP season. Then he was traded to Minnesota and helped launch Adrian Peterson's Hall of Famer-caliber career. But I have to admit, I almost feel like a hipster hipster when I talk about linemen.
8) Kevin Mawae, center (Seattle Seahawks, 1994-97, New York Jets, 1998-2005; Tennessee Titans, 2006-09): Mawae was a pro bowler in eight of his NFL seasons and a first team
7) Zach Thomas, linebacker (Miami Dolphins, 1996-2007, Dallas Cowboys, 2008): All-Pro in three, and he was clearly the best at his position during his career ] It stuns me that it's taken this long for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The list of superlatives for him is sizable, but you could start with the fact that he was a five-time first-team All-Pro. And a two-time second-team All-Pro. What was I missing?
6) Don Coryell, coach (St. Louis Cardinals, 1973-77, San Diego Chargers, 1978-1986): One of the most innovative minds in NFL History. He is widely credited with helping to create the lineage of many of the modern transition concepts. MY PICKS FOR THE CLASS OF 2019
Note: This is not reflective of my feelings; rather, these are my top five picks of the modern-era semifinalists, given that each can currently have no more than five modern-era members.
5) Champ Bailey, cornerback (Washington Redskins) 1999-2003; Denver Broncos, 2004-2013): The premier shutdown cornerback of his era. Bailey took the torch from his teammates. Deion Sanders and Darrell Green and carried it. So it's interesting because he's in a weird trade for Clinton Portis. I say weird because those trades have happened in the NFL back then. Now you've got Jon Gruden trading Hall of Famers – or at least one likely Hall of Famer – like it's NBD.
4) Steve Atwater, safety (Denver Broncos, 1989-1998; New York Jets, 1999): I'm not sure if one play is going to get you into the hall of fame. But dude absolutely rocked Christian Okoye on "Monday Night Football" in 1990. Atwater / Bailey / Pat Bowlen trio would be a nice feature, making Denver a great candidate to play in the HOF game.
3) Tom Flores coach (Oakland / Los Angeles Raiders, 1979-1987, Seattle Seahawks, 1992-94): The first Latino starting quarterback and first minority head coach in NFL's history to win a Super Bowl. Actually won two Super Bowls compared to John Madden's one. He, along with Mike Ditka, are the only people in NFL history to win a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
2) Ed Reed, safety (Baltimore Ravens, 2002- Houston Texans, 2013; New York Jets, 2013): Reed joined the Ravens when they were at the top of their game, but he soon became the leader of that Baltimore defense. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award and a Super Bowl,
1) Tony Gonzalez, tight end (Kansas City Chiefs, 1997-2008 ; Atlanta Falcons, 2009-2013): Did you know Gonzalez played basketball in college? Amazing, right? But he's the most automatic player on this list. Retired with well over 1,300 receptions and, even in an era when tight ends evolved more into pass-catchers, he was just the best to ever do it. Especially when you consider the number of years for which he was able to do it, too.
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