INDIANAPOLIS – The end of a long day of give-and-take, back-and-forth and exhaustive discussion ended with no public announcement on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
And that was the expected outcome of a nearly 9-hour Zoom conference call with the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee. I am one of the 48 Selectors. Others included Tony Dungy and Bill Polian, who have bronze busts in Canton, Ohio and were first-time Selectors.
If the Hall of Fame is able to carry out its plans during this COVID-19 environment, the Class of 2021 – a maximum of eight members, a minimum of four – will be announced Feb. 6, the day before Super Bowl LV in Tampa.
The 15 modern-era Finalists included a pair of Indianapolis Colts’ icons: Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne. It was my responsibility to make the presentations for each.
Manning, the NFL’s only five-time MVP and a two-time Super Bowl champion, is in his first of eligibility and considered a first-ballot lock. His presentation was brief.
Peyton Manning. End of discussion.
I’m a long-time member of the Selection Committee and the number of candidates who haven’t required any discussion is few: John Elway, Jerry Rice and Brett Favre come to mind.
Wayne is in his second year of eligibility and reached the Final 15 for a second straight year. His presentation was more in line with the 5-minute timeframe.
Wayne’s resume is chockfull of Hall of Fame-worthy information, including being one of three players who rank in the top-10 in receptions and yards in regular-season and post-season history, and one of three who rank in the top-7 in receptions and yards when lumping the regular season with the postseason. The other two in each instance: Rice and Larry Fitzgerald.
The selection process began with discussion involving the Senior Candidate (Drew Pearson), Contributors Candidate (Bill Nunn) and Coach’s Candidate (Tom Flores).
Then, we dove into the 15 modern-era candidates: LeRoy Butler, Torry Holt, John Lynch, Clay Matthews Jr., Charles Woodson, Manning, Wayne, Ronde Barber, Tony Boselli, Jared Allen, Zach Thomas, Alan Faneca, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour and Calvin Johnson.
In most instances, the 5-minute presentation was followed by 15-20 minutes of debate among the Selectors.
Should Boselli’s relatively-short career – essentially six years and 91 games – be held against him? Or does the fact he was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s and selected first-team All-Pro three times compensate for that?
How do we weigh Butler against Lynch? How about Wayne, Holt and Johnson?
Does Johnson, who set an NFL record with 1,964 yards in 2012 and was a physical freak for defensive backs with his 6-5, 237-pound frame, deserve first-ballot inclusion? Or should he wait behind Wayne and/or Holt because he retired after ’15, his ninth season, and ranks 47th in NFL history with 731 receptions?
By our unofficial count, the Calvin Johnson presentation/discussion was the day’s longest: some 40 minutes.
As our Zoom conference call ended, the Selectors knew which candidates made the cut to 10. We also voted on our personal final 5.
However, everything remains confidential. Again, we know who made the Final 10, but even the Selectors don’t know which reached the Final 5
Hall of Fame president David Baker will contact those who made the Class of 2021 at some point in the next few weeks, along with those who fell short.
If Baker is able to maintain confidentiality, the Class of 2021 will be revealed at the NFL Awards Show Feb. 6.
And if the COVID-19 pandemic allows, Canton, Ohio will host a stirring string of events Aug. 5-9.
On Aug. 5, the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers will meet in the Hall of Fame Game.
On Aug. 7, the enshrinement of the Centennial Class of 2020 will be held. That group includes another Colts’ icon: Edgerrin James.
Enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2021 are planned for Aug. 8.
Will the latter include Peyton Manning? I’ll go out on a limb and say probably.
Will it include Reggie Wayne? We’ll have to wait and see.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.