NFL Media historian Elliot Harrison already analyzed enshrinement probability for each of the 15 modern-era finalists. Now it's time to dig a little deeper into who they were as players.
Below you'll find one instructive video clip for each Hall hopeful -- a play (or series of plays) that truly defines the player. Given that some of the clips have similar thematic elements, the videos are broken up into seven categories, starting with ...
The Greatest Show on Turf: Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce
It's quite rare that two guys who spent their primes playing together make the Hall of Fame together. In fact, it's never happened. If Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce both receive a phone call the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we will have a first. The Rams' 1999 championship run seemingly came out of nowhere, but not without a couple of clutch plays from these men.
The first came near the end of the '99 NFC Championship Game against the Buccaneers -- a contest that was a defensive slugfest, as opposed to the typical shootout we become accustomed to in that Rams season. Trailing 6-5 -- yes, six to five -- with just under five minutes to play, Warner delivered a perfect ball to the pylon where only Ricky Proehl could get it. Warner's beauty sent the Rams to their first Super Bowl in two decades.
It was in that Super Bowl where Warner and Bruce teamed up for one of the most spectacular long balls in the big game's history. After allowing the Titans to come all the way back from a 16-zip deficit to tie the game, St. Louis needed a response. With 2:12 on the clock and the Rams in danger of entering panic mode, Warner heaved a moon shot to Bruce on the first play of the drive. The speedy wideout adjusted to the football, cut past a safety and sprinted to paydirt.
Dealer's choice: Terrell Davis
Just before Warner and Bruce were torching the NFL, the Broncos rode the legs of Terrell Davis to consecutive Lombardi Trophies. You know Davis' story well by now: MVP, Super Bowl MVP and 2,000-yard rusher ... then a series of injuries cut his career short. Before all that, though, TD introduced himself to the league in a preseason game over in Tokyo. No, he didn't do so as a dominant runner, but rather while performing the most mundane of football duties: kick coverage. Having worked with Davis at NFL Network and knowing his humility, this is so very fitting -- TD flying down the field on special teams like his career depended on it. You want to see how a sixth-round pick gets noticed, before all the MVPs and assorted hardware? Take a look, broham. #respect
History: LaDainian Tomlinson, Morten Andersen
Davis' last season (2001) was LaDainian Tomlinson's first. LT was the dominant player in the league in 2006, one reason why he is probably the only lock in this year's class of finalists. That season, Tomlinson led the NFL in rushing with 1,815 yards, caught 56 passes and scored a league-record 31 touchdowns. Through all that, the most impressive facet of Tomlinson's signature season was the way he did it: with explosiveness and class, both of which were evident on his record-breaking 29th touchdown (which surpassed the mark Shaun Alexander had set one season before). All LT wanted to do was share the glory with his teammates.
Eight years before Tomlinson set that scoring record, the 1998 Vikings made history by piling up a then-record 556 points. All the joy of their prolific 15-1 campaign came crashing down on the foot of Morten Andersen, who hit from 38 yards out to send the Falcons to the Super Bowl -- and tens of thousands of Minnesota fans to the parking lot in utter dejection. The ironic twist to Andersen's clutch kick was that Vikings kicker Gary Anderson -- who hadn't missed a field goal all year -- shanked an attempt late in the fourth quarter that would have put Minnesota up by 10. Notice Andersen's reaction as soon as he connected in the overtime period.
Legacy: Don Coryell, Tony Boselli
If you were to write the history of offensive football -- and particularly, the passing game -- you wouldn't be able to do so without covering Don Coryell. The former Cardinals and Chargers head coach took Sid Gillman's offenses from the 1960s, simplified them and pushed them forward into a new era. His development of a numbering system for route trees -- and his knack for attacking defenses out of the one-back offense -- influenced both Joe Gibbs' Super Bowl teams with the Redskins and those '90s Cowboys outfits that won three out of four Super Bowls. But he was most known for his arcade game scoring attacks in the early '80s. Like, you know, when a team scores 50 and racks up 661 yards of offense, as the Bolts did in a Monday night beatdown of the Bengals back in 1982. Good grief.
You can't score points if you don't have the blocking up front. Unfortunately, one of the top left tackles to ever do it only played seven seasons. That's OK, because Tony Boselli cemented his legacy by handling the league's all-time sack king in front of a national audience. It was Wild Card Weekend back in 1996, and the upstart Jags had to get Bruce Smith blocked in order to win. Uhh, they did. Boselli's performance became known among some league observers as "the Bruce Smith game." Heck, even Walter Jones told me he watched Boselli's "Bruce Smith game" when we spoke in Canton two years ago. A dominant left tackle saying he watched and admired you -- that's legacy.
Height of dominance ... and swag: Ty Law, Terrell Owens, Jason Taylor
Ty Law was first-team All-Pro in 2003, and perhaps the top cover corner in all of football. Law also didn't mind saying what was on his mind, which didn't always fit in with "the Patriot way." That's alright, because Law delivered an all-time performance in what might've been his best season, picking off Peyton Manning not once, not twice, but three times in the AFC title game. Check it out.
All Terrell Owens wanted you to do was check him out. It was in 2002 that Owens really became "T.O." -- for the rest of his football lifetime. Sure, Owens caught the football that beat the Packers in the 1998 wild-card game. In 2000, he stood on the Cowboys' star to show up America's Team before getting knocked on his rear end. But on a Monday night in 2002, the league's second all-time leader in receiving yards cemented his reputation as both an incredible player and prima donna, essentially calling his shot against the Seahawks on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia.
A much simpler move than keeping a marker in your sock to eventually sign a scored football is dumping off the ball to your running back. Yet, Jason Taylor made even these plays quite dangerous in 2006, the season he was named Defensive Player of the Year. Taylor might have been known as the NFL's most GQ defensive lineman, but he appeared to be a defensive back the way he was able to time -- and grab -- what should have been safe passes from opposing quarterbacks. As you can see just below, Taylor victimized the Vikings, snatching the football out of the air on the way to one of two pick-sixes he would score that season. This brand of athleticism defined his career.
Sudden impact: Brian Dawkins, John Lynch, Alan Faneca
While Taylor wasn't known as a big hitter, Brian Dawkins was. The Hall of Fame finalist once told "Football Digest" that he wanted to be like Darren Woodson, a safety who came into the league four years before him who could cover, tackle and occasionally deliver a momentum-altering lick. For all the plays Dawkins made over an insanely good 16-year career, his hit on Alge Crumpler in the 2004 NFC Championship Game was legendary. And it delivered a message that this Eagles team -- which had lost three straight NFC title games -- was going to the Super Bowl.
Like Dawkins, John Lynch finished his career with the Broncos. But it was Lynch's time with the Bucs that launched him into Hall consideration, mostly because Lynch had a penchant for launching himself into offensive players -- routinely. Those Tampa teams in the late '90s and early 2000s were carried by the defense. The Bucs were polar opposites of those "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams, an offensive juggernaut if there ever was one. When Lynch gave Marshall Faulk his best lick on "Monday Night Football," fans everywhere saw that the Bucs safety was just as big a beast as oft-celebrated teammates Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
We generally think of defensive players like Dawkins and Lynch as the enforcers on the football field. The 2017 Hall of Fame class might include a player who played that role routinely -- as a guard. Alan Faneca had become an All-Pro level O-lineman by 2003, with much of the acclaim coming from his ability to pull and block effectively out in space. I'd say Faneca pulled that off -- and then some -- in an early-season game versus the Bengals. Yep, this sucker was talked about plenty in the highlight shows.
Career catalogue: Joe Jacoby, Kevin Mawae
Joe Jacoby's ascendancy to finalist took much longer than Faneca's. Consider it a nod to the scope of his career. Sure, the former Redskins left tackle garnered four Pro Bowl nods and was a fantastic player in his own right. Yet the reason he is being strongly considered is due to Washington's team success, and the notoriety of a rather curious position group. Jacoby was the largest member of "The Hogs," who drove the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles with three different quarterbacks. They also could boast their own cheering section ("The Hogettes"), while having a moniker as well-known as "Sweetness" and "LT." They were an offensive line, for crying out loud.
Kevin Mawae's candidacy is also fueled by a packed résumé, highlighted by starting 238 games over 16 years (primarily at center). He also participated in eight Pro Bowls. Mawae was once voted one of the dirtiest players in the NFL, which belied his cerebral approach to the game. For example ->