SAN FRANCISCO --- Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison were elected for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday, and before we get into the details of how that played out in the Selection Committee room, let's take a moment to thank the 46 selectors who have the thankless job of choosing five Modern-Era Hall of Famers from a group of 15 finalists.
Whoever they choose for this great honor, there will be people around the country who criticize who the committee left out. This will happen every year. It's not fair, but it comes with the territory. The MMQB's Peter King points out the Hall of Fame debates inside the room are local.
Colts fans are largely applauding the results as former wide receiver Marvin Harrison and head coach Tony Dungy are set to receive gold jackets and bronze busts. Another former Colt, running back Edgerrin James, did not make the cut. So how did it all play out in the day long deliberations? Let's take a look:
By all accounts, Packers quarterback Brett Favre was the one lock of the group of 15 finalists (literally a six-second "debate"). That left four spots for Marvin Harrison. The first step for Harrison, as with any finalist, is to make it past the Selection Committee's first cut from 15 to ten.
This, in my opinion, is where Harrison became a lock, because Harrison made it to the final ten and fellow wide receiver Terrell Owens did not. Why? Hall of Famer and former Colts General Manager may have offered the best glimpse into this of anybody when he spoke to Talk of Fame.
"The Hall of Fame ought to be for people who make their teams better," Polian said, "not for those who disrupt them and make them worse."
There are arguments on either side of this with Owens play on-the-field versus his off-the-field headaches, but it's clear where the majority of the Selection Committee stood, at least in Owens's first year of eligibility. It was a long debate though. According to Talk of Fame, the Owens debate lasted more than 43 minutes, the second longest debate of the day.
Once Harrison made it to the final ten without another receiver to go up against, it appears it was an easy decision to vote Harrison into Canton, when you combine his amazing numbers and Harrison having waited the past two years.
By many reports, Dungy received the 5th and final Modern-Era spot for enshrinement this year, after the Selection Committee was decided on Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, and Kevin Greene.
Peter King offered some insight into the arguments in the room for and against Dungy. On one hand, Dungy is only 22nd all-time in wins, with a 9-10 playoff record, and only one Super Bowl. On the other hand, the arguments for Dungy were the same we mentioned on Colts UpClose. Dungy's 10.7 wins per year is the best in NFL history, and he's the only coach to ever take teams to the playoffs in 10 straight years.
Talk of Fame called Dungy's selection the toughest call. It appears the final spot was down to Dungy, quarterback Kurt Warner, and tackle Joe Jacoby. Talk of Fame mentioned Jacoby being a first-time finalist coupled with another offensive lineman having already been voted in (Orlando Pace) was too much for Jacoby's candidacy to overcome in the end.
In reality, the last spot in Canton this year came down to Tony Dungy vs. quarterback Kurt Warner. Where do you begin on that? See what I mean by a thankless job? Similar to Jacoby though, there was a majority in the end that felt there shouldn't be two quarterbacks in the same class, with Favre voted in already. According to Talk of Fame, Warner's debate lasted more than 27 minutes with Dungy's debate lasting almost 26 minutes, two of the five longest debates of the day.
I made the case that Edgerrin James should at least make the cut past fellow running back finalist Terrell Davis, based on the longevity of his career and production, something Davis couldn't sustain. I also made the case that James already had a better resume than running back Jerome Bettis, who was enshrined last year. The Selection Committee disagreed, with James failing to advance to the final ten and Davis making the first cut.
Peter King said he didn't think Davis was a Hall of Famer before this weekend, but based on the discussions in the room, he thinks he will be, calling his incredible two seasons and another great third season (two Super Bowls and three 1st-team All-Pro selections) an "outlier" to the usual longevity vs. fewer elite seasons argument.
That makes me nervous that James will have to wait at least two more years to get into the Hall of Fame, with the Davis momentum from this year and running back LaDainian Tomlinson becoming eligible next season, one of the five most prolific skill position players of all-time in terms of total yards (5th) and touchdowns (3rd).
Talk of Fame also notes, ironically, that there may have been some Colts fatigue in the room, and an unwillingness to consider three finalists from the same team in the same year. James's debate was the third shortest, lasting less than 10 minutes, and in reality 2nd shortest if you toss out Brett Favre's six-second debate. Davis being eligible longer than James was also another factor noted in the initial cut to ten, which drives me bonkers in this process, but is a reality in the room.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2017
In my opinion, LaDainian Tomlinson has the best chance, even as a first-ballot player. Based on reports from the Selection Committee room this year, I also believe Kurt Warner will get in, after coming so close this year.
After that, I don't believe pass rusher Jason Taylor, safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Joey Porter, or tackle Matt Light will get serious consideration as first-ballot options.
That leaves three spots from the Modern-Era, and the most likely place to start is from those that made the final ten this year but didn't get into the Hall of Fame: coach Don Coryell, running back Terrell Davis, tackle Joe Jacoby, and safety John Lynch.
So my way too early prediction for 2017? Tomlinson, Warner, Jacoby, Davis, and Lynch. Edgerrin James is a Hall of Famer. He will get into Canton. My belief is that it will happen in 2018.