We just revealed the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 15 finalists for the Class of 2014 on NFL Network, and the list undoubtedly will engender impassioned debate among those of us who love discussing the very best players our game has to offer.
Right off the top, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams -- all finalists last time around -- made the cut. As far as the first-year eligibles, Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison and Walter Jones made the final round, too -- as expected. Morten Andersen and John Lynch rounded out the group.
With that, here's my instant reaction to some of the guys who are in and out, and what the final voting could reveal in February. (Feel free to send me your own thoughts on Twitter -- @Harrison_NFL is the place.)
1) I can't believe he didn't make the cut ...
Ah, but when it comes to Terrell Davis, it's no surprise. TD seems to be that guy on the cusp -- a lightning rod in Hall of Fame discussion because of his limited tenure -- and I've gone back and forth on his candidacy in the past. I've also told him that he's really "TD2." But like the original "TD" (Tony Dorsett), Davis could pound the ball in between the tackles and hit the home run -- despite not possessing blazing speed. And like Dorsett, he's deserving of a gold jacket.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not in the voting room, though I know for a fact Davis has support there. Sports Illustrated writer (and Hall voter) Jim Trotter is fond of citing Davis' playoff stats, and for good reason: Davis averaged a whopping 142.5 rushing yards per game in the postseason. That's a HUGE number. To give you an idea of how huge, take a look at how the top five shakes out in that category (among RBs with five playoff games or more). It's not even close:
Terrell Davis: 142.5
John Riggins: 110.7
Eric Dickerson: 103.4
Emmitt Smith: 93.3
Frank Gore: 91.3
2) I can't believe he did make the cut ...
Morten Andersen's potential induction took a sharp turn in the right direction Thursday evening, as the kicker made it to the Final 15. His 2,544 points are the most ever, with no active player presenting much of a threat at the moment. (Adam Vinatieri, the active leader, is already 41 -- and still more than 500 points behind.) That said, Andersen ranks 48th in field goal accuracy. You see, kicker is analogous to wide receiver in that the numbers just keep improving, thus clouding the discussion about who's truly elite. Sometimes people don't weigh these great players against the peers of their era. In this case, the Hall voters did ... but Andersen over Jimmy Johnson? Really?
Sebastian Janikowski, who is only 35, probably has the best shot at catching Andersen. The Raiders stalwart is a little more than 1,000 points away, but he still has a big leg and could kick until he's getting AARP discounts.
3) Short, brilliant, careers aren't rewarded (again)
2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalistsTake a look at the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014.
Expanding on the thought about Terrell Davis above -- and the mention of former head coach Jimmy Johnson -- it seems that voters of the 2000s are far more concerned about longevity than voters of the past. Plenty of guys were inducted despite brief stints in the NFL. It goes far beyond Gale Sayers and Doak Walker, whose names often bubble up in this conversation. Here's a sampling ...
» Earl Campbell (Class of 1991): eight years, 115 games
» Dwight Stephenson (Class of 1998): eight years, 114 games
» George McAfee (Class of 1966): eight years, 75 games
» Cliff Battles (Class of 1968): six years, 60 games
» Ernie Nevers (Class of 1963): five years, 54 games
Davis played 77 games over seven seasons. Johnson coached 144 games -- more than Hall of Famers John Madden and Vince Lombardi. (Granted, those legendary names were mostly involved in 14-game seasons, but is that Johnson's fault?)
4) The contributor/coach discussion
Once again, some notable contributors and coaches were nixed. There have been discussions about whether general managers, owners and league executives should have their own "contributor" selection process. (George Young and Paul Tagliabue missed the cut Thursday.)
Moreover, should coaches be looked at differently? Some feel innovation has not been valued equitably. Which brings us to the case of Don Coryell, whose development of a numbers-based offensive system/route tree is still being used today -- almost three decades after his last NFL game.
5) A plea to voters
Charles Haley made this cut once again, and for all of the complaining from fans regarding Andre Reed's candidacy, Haley is the guy who's really been neglected. He's a finalist for a fifth time, which is ironic, because he has five rings. Winning isn't everything, but considering Haley helped lift both the 49ers and Cowboys to the pinnacle -- while being the best player on the Dallas defense -- shouldn't he make it?
6) How the dominoes ultimately will fall in February
This is who I see getting the call on the Saturday before the Super Bowl:
» Derrick Brooks
» Charles Haley
» Marvin Harrison
» Walter Jones
» Michael Strahan
For the record, I am allowed to change my mind in the coming weeks.
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.