2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame Preview

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Hall of Fames are one of the best parts of every season in any sport and that is true more so for the league than anyone else.

The reason being that there may never be a more debated event than that of the hall of fame ballot.

Debates in sports are what drives every league and makes sports as big as they are at any level. Sports fans love to debate a point of view on a play or a players or even a team.

They love to throw out stats or accomplishments and claim that their favourite player is better than the next guy.

It drives people to watch games and learn more about their favourite sports and where would sports bars be without the debate that goes on every single night.

It is what makes events in every league bigger as people what to see who is right and if your opinion is validated or blown apart.

In the NFL there is no shortage of opinions to be debated and everyone has their own idea but more often than not those debates are solved on the field.

Two players playing against each other directly or two teams against each other will always solve a debate of who is better.

When talking about the best player every season there is a clear winner with the MVP and stats for that season can be used as good proof to compare two players.

When it comes to players that have come and gone the debate can only get bigger because there is nothing for them to prove.

They have no time to prove whether they are great or not, they are relaxing not having to go through the grind.

So it leaves fans and analysts and writers to wonder where these players stand among the best in the league.

That debate always comes to a head during Super Bowl week in the NFL when the new class is elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.football-sidebar

The classes from the NFL are not necessarily the most exclusive in sports that falls on the MLB where they have chosen to elect nobody to the Baseball Hall of Fame in year.

Still it is not an easy thing to do as many players know all too well sitting outside of the hall of fame despite putting up great years.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has to take a lot into consideration when electing players and sometimes a player comes up and is an absolute lock.

These players are often a lock from the time they start their career until the end and when it comes time for their chance at a bust in Canton it is a no-brainer.

There are many more players to look and debate though as they may have great stats but have never won a championship.

They may have won multiple Super Bowls and yet don’t make the top five in any statistical category when they leave.

They may be surrounded by controversy throughout their career or so averse to controversy that you forget about them altogether.

Then there are those players without any stats to speak of, offensive lineman, and how can they be measured among the best players in the game that make headlines all the time.

It is far from an easy decision but the football writers will take on that challenge again as they decide on the new class to enter Canton.

There are plenty of choices as well with a mix of first balloters, senior committee nominees, coaches, builders, and the most debated category those players who have been waiting years for the call.

Some may get that call but not everyone will get in and the debate will continue as the Hall of Fame gets a little fuller.

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Becoming a first ballot hall of famer is not an easy thing even in the big classes that the Pro Football Hall of Fame allows in every year. To be a first ballotter there truly needs to be no question that the player was the greatest and that the league’s history would be missing a big chunk out of it without that particular player. This year the finalist group includes three players that have all made their impact in the league when they were playing. All are slightly different players though and some may be debated a bit more than others. There is little doubt that Brett Favre’s name will be called when the class is announced. Despite the strange end to his career he left the league as the best passer in NFL history with every major NFL passing record along with three MVPs and a Super Bowl. If that is not a Hall of Fame resume there is no such thing as a Hall of Fame resume but he is not the only first balloter with a good chance. Alan Faneca was always one of the best lineman in the game and as one of the few lineman in the finalist group he has a good shot. Of course he is a lineman and it is never easy to predict if the writers have a perfect formula of a lineman. The most controversial will be Terrell Owens who left the league somewhat unwillingly as one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL. He was one of the biggest and most powerful receivers during his time but more often than not he was considered a locker room cancer. He was the diva receiver of an era full of diva receivers and despite his accomplishments the writers might look past him for now. After all he has not officially retired from the league and was far from that perfect view of a player that just does his job and shuts up. For Favre and Faneca the chances are good and for Owens the chances are good that he will make it but in his first year it might be more difficult than some expect.

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Every year the senior committee takes on the toughest debates throughout any class of hall of famers. They are the group of players that have been passed over time and time again but are constantly in the conversation. They are the players that seem to need some time to realize just how important they were in the history of the league. There are any number of players who retire and are not the top of the league or any statistical category. Yet the same players are a big part of the league and the history of the league which is sometimes the most important part of a hall of famer. The senior nominees are the players that might not have the stats to be the best in the league at their position but the question of whether or not the history of the league can be written without them. This year there are two finalists from the senior committee and both have been waiting a while for their shot at the Hall of Fame. After spending time with two different teams throughout the 1950s Dick Stanfel is a finalist for the third time. He was a senior committee finalist in both 1993 and 2012. He was a great guard and coach after his career but his issue has always been the limited years that he played in the league with less time to prove how important he was to the league. Generally only one senior committee finalist makes it every year and for Stanfel that is not a good thing as the other finalist was a bigger part of the league. Ken Stabler was one of the best quarterbacks in his era but the stats won’t reflect that. He is not near the top of any category but there is no doubt that the Oakland Raiders were never going to be as great as they were without him. Stabler was legendary and as sad as it might be his death in 2015 may be the final push to make people realize how important he was to the league. There is a chance that both make it but this time around the important of Stabler might be too much to overlook.

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There may be no other sport where a coach has a bigger impact on the game than in football where every play comes from the sidelines. As important as the coaches are in every sport they can make the difference between a team full of wasted talent and a Super Bowl champion in the NFL. They can create monumental shifts in the way things are done and can build legends out of great players. This year two such coaches have made the list of finalists as they both hope to join a long list of legendary coached in Canton. There is debate among these coaches though as neither have found their way to the hall of fame yet and clearly some have reasons not to elect them. Tony Dungy may be the most controversial inclusion as some see him as a great coach that led great teams while others claim that he had great teams that led him to great things. As a head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy helped lead Peyton Manning to a Super Bowl but also was the coach while Manning developed a reputation for blowing it in big games. The Colts were at once a great team and at the same time an underachieving teams and voters will need to decide if the underachieving is enough to keep Dungy out once again. Then there is the legend in Don Coryell who seems to only become more important to the league’s history as time goes on. He was the architect of “Air Coryell” in San Diego. That team and the ideas of the head coach are the building blocks of the current passing game in the NFL. He may have been ahead of his time and the talent level to support the new air raid system was not at the level that it is now. The system was successful but it never brought the Super Bowl to San Diego and never created that dominant team that hall of fame coaches are known for. There was never a stretch of time where San Diego was the team to beat and for that he has been overlooked. This year might be different though as he and Dungy will be considered for a trip to Canton with plenty of debate for and against each of them.

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If the senior committee is the toughest debate every year this group of players may just be the group with the most debates out of anyone. First Ballot hall of famers are the ones with little to no doubt about their influence on the league. When a player moves past that first year of eligibility it is largely because there is debate about them. They are not the guys that immediately look like hall of famers and are usually near the top of the stats and awards but not quite there. This year there are a number of great players that were passed over from years past and although many seem like great hall of famers none are without their detractors. There is Kevin Greene who was a big part of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the continuation of their great defence. Although he was not a part of the Steel Curtain defence of the 1970s he did play a major role throughout the 1990s to keep the Steelers as one of the best defences in the league. He put up 160 sacks in his career, good enough for third all-time, but has often been overlooked when better pass rushers were a part of the same finalist group. Players like Charles Hayley and Michael Strahan have pushed him out which may be over this year. There is also Kurt Warner who to many belongs in the Hall of Fame largely due to the story of a grocery worker making it to the Super Bowl. The fact is that as inspirational as his story is, he doesn’t rank near the top in most major QB categories and never won a Super Bowl meaning that he misses a lot of the marks of a hall of famer. Then there is Terrell Davis who could have been one of the greatest running backs in the history of the NFL. Then he retired at a young age and that potential was more of a question than a fact and for that reason he has consistently been passed over. The fact is though that all of these players have been at the top of the league and the history of the league may not be written in full without any of them as they all could make it or all could be passed over for another year.

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