Fifteen Modern-Era Player Finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 include four first-year eligible players.
Quarterback Peyton Manning, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, defensive back Charles Woodson and defensive end Jared Allen are in their first years of eligibility.
The Modern-Era Player Finalists are determined by a vote of the Hall's Selection Committee from a list of 130 nominees named in September that was reduced to 25 semifinalists in November.
The 2021 Modern-Era Player Finalists with their positions, years and teams, as announced on NFL Network on Tuesday:
These 15 finalists will be presented to the full 48-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual meeting on "Selection Saturday," the day before Super Bowl LV. The finalists will be 18 in total, which includes senior finalist, Drew Pearson; contributor finalist, Bill Nunn; and coach finalist, Tom Flores.
Though there is no set number for any enshrinee class, the selection process by-laws provide that between four and eight new members will be selected. The Class of 2021 will be revealed during NFL Honors on Saturday, Feb. 6.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 will be enshrined Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021 in Canton, Ohio. Other events during the week of festivities will include the rescheduled Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 5, the Gold Jacket Dinner on Aug. 6 and the Centennial Class of 2020 Enshrinement on Aug. 7.
The 15 finalists for the Pro Football HOF Class of 2021 were announced today (depending on posting time), included four first-time finalists. Even though ya boi, Ole Dozo is not one of the 48 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee, between my love of sports history and critiquing others, this is a topic right up my alley.
Seeing players I grew up hating, like Peyton Manning or that were drafted while I was in high school (playing football), like Calvin Johnson eligible for the Hall already is a serious "you're pushing 30 moment" for me, but I can put the biases of my younger days behind me to impartially say which of these men deserve a bust in Canton this year. It's not to say I don't think some of these guys will get the call eventually, but there's only so many spots. I may have despised Peyton Manning in my youth, but even I can admit Peyton's Places on ESPN+ is a solid streaming program.
Between the 20 members of NFL's 2020 Centennial Class whose enshrinement was delayed due to COVID and the at least four new members from the Class of 2021, it's going to be a capital V busy August in Canton, Ohio.
According to the Hall's by-laws anywhere from four and eight members can be selected by the Selection Committee. Even though said committee doesn't submit ballots, this blog will serve as mine since I'm not gonna make that meeting. Here's the DOL Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
Peyton Manning, QB: Indianapolis Colts 1998-2011; Denver Broncos 2012-2015
There's no denying Peyton Manning's place amongst the all-time greats. He's a surefire, first ballot HOFer. IMO he's the third best QB of the NFL-post merger after Tom Brady and Joe Montana.
Sure, the Sheriff's first Super Bowl victory came against the highflying Rex Grossman Bears in a postseason where he threw 3 TD and 7 INT. And yes, it's true, he won a second Super Bowl in his final season when documented prayer, Von Miller & the Broncos "No Fly Zone" defense carried the carcass of this five-time MVP to victory over the Panthers in Super Bowl 50 (final stat line: 13-23 for 141 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 2 fumbles (one lost) and five sacks) but the Hall would not be complete without the NFL's all-time leader in playoff one and dones with nine (9).
Charles Woodson, DB: Oakland Raiders 1998-2005, 2013-2015; Green Bay Packers 2006-2012
Charles Woodson ended up winning the Heisman over Peyton Manning in 1997, but that holds zero merit for a gold bust in Canton. It's what Woodson did during his 18 year career that makes him a first ballot HOFer in my eyes.
Calvin Johnson, WR: Detroit Lions 2007-2015
I was almost going to go full Baseball HOF voter hardo and leave Megatron off my ballot because I thought Randy Moss didn't get in on the first ballot, but I had him confused with Terrell Owens, so he's in. Although I'd be lying if I said Calvin calling it quits in his prime didn't hurt his case a little to me.
Even though he retired at just 30, in his nine NFL seasons Megatron cemented himself amongst the greatest to ever play Wide Receiver. I wouldn't be shocked to see him fall short on the first ballot just because he played for the Lions and retired early, but Calvin did more than enough to earn himself a bronze bust.
Ronde Barber, DB: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1997-2012
Lots of people use a simple gut reaction test when debating Hall of Famers in all sports. They'll say something like "if you have to hesitate they're probably not a HOFer". Well, when I say Ronde Barber, I instantly think HOF and honestly I'm a little surprised it's taken this long. Maybe it's because he played in Tampa? Maybe it's because played DB and I feel like they have a hard time getting in early? Maybe it's because people didn't realize the NFL's all-time leader in consecutive starts for a defensive back has been out of football since 2012? All I know is Ronde was one of the focal points of one the NFL's most dominant defenses. Plus anytime you close a stadium, you're HOF in my book.
As for actual statistical achievements:
Tom Flores, Coach: Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 1979-1987; Seattle Seahawks 1992-1994
Tom Flores and George Seifert are the only eligible coaches to win two Super Bowls who are not enshrined in Canton. Both did so with all-time great shoes to fill; John Madden for Flores and Bill Walsh with Seifert. I think both have been hurt by unsuccessful stints after their time in California, but I'm not here to talk about Seifert, I just think there's a lot of parallels between the two.
I know Flores coached (mostly) before I was born, so I'm basing everything off of what I've seen from NFL Films and read online over the years, but I've heard players say nothing but good things about this man and how he lead the Raiders in the 80's. The Hall of Fame is a museum that pays tribute to not only the all-time greats, but significant people in the history of the game. Tom Flores is the first minority Head Coach to win the Super Bowl. I feel like that's a pretty important milestone to document in the Pro Football HOF. He's also the first coach to lead a Wild Card team to a Super Bowl win (1980 Oakland Raiders).
During his nine years as Head Coach of the Raiders, Flores was 30 games over .500 (83-53) won two rings and went to the playoffs five times. Maybe his 14-34 stint in Seattle has kept him out? But even at 97-87, Flores still has a better winning percentage than HOF coach Weeb Ewbank (.502%; a whopping one game over .500) and more wins than recently inducted, Jimmy Johnson.
Drew Pearson, WR: Dallas Cowboys 1973-1983
Drew Pearson is literally the only non-special teams member of the NFL's First-team for the 1970's All Decade Team not in the Hall of Fame. He has waited long enough for his well-deserved spot in Canton.
Like I just mentioned with Flores, there's more to the story than stats alone; impact on the game's history matters too. Drew Pearson just so happened to be on the receiving end of Roger Stabauch's famous first "Hail Mary" pass in the 1975 Divisional Round.
During his 11 year career Drew Pearson tallied 489 receptions for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns. In 22 playoff games he add 68 catches, 1,131 yards and 8 touchdowns. Pearson recorded two 1000 yard seasons in an era where 800 yards was a monster year.
In 1974 he finished second in the NFL in receiving yards, only five behind Cliff Branch with 1087; third place had 785. He finished 5th in receiving yards in 1975, 10th in 1976, 1st in 1977 and 8th in 1979.
If Lynn Swann is in the HOF with zero seasons over 900 receiving yards and only 336 career receptions, I think Roger Stabuach's #1 target and fellow First-team All 1970's WR deserves his spot too. I'll say it again. He's literally the only (non-special teams) First-team member of the NFL's All 70's team not in the HOF. Drew Pearson is becoming the Jerry Kramer of skill position guys. Hopefully this is finally Drew's year.
Who do you think will get into the Hall of Fame this year? Who would you have included? Sorry John Lynch I probably should've let you get in with Ronde, but it's already almost midnight. Better luck next year!
He's not on the ballot, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not complete without Howard Cosell. That's for another day; I'm not opening that can of worms at this hour.