Deion Sanders had a point regarding the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.
He did it in a narcissistic way when he suggested putting his bust in another room, but that didn’t make it any less true. The 2022 recruits were great players, but some certainly weren’t legendary. Also, DeMarcus Ware and Devin Hester were snubbed in their first year of eligibility, and why Patrick Willis didn’t make it twice is beyond me.
However, this year’s finalists should post a video of him giving this group a round of applause when the nominees are announced. Darrelle Revis, Joe Thomas and Dwight Freeney were named finalists in their first year of eligibility.
Unfortunately, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has this silly rule that allows for a maximum of five modern era finalists to be inducted each year. While Revis was set to face a suspension in his first year, Thomas could be forced to wait unfairly. A six-time first-team All-Pro but also an offensive lineman who never played in a playoff game, he spent his entire career with the Cleveland Browns after 1999.
Freeney will almost certainly be forced to wait despite being one of the most dominant pass rushers of his generation. On the lawn of the old Hoosier Dome he was a scare coming off the edge. At just 6-foot-1, he still made it to the first-team All-Pro three times. While Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne — who are currently stuck in that long, wide receiving line to get into the Hall of Fame — get the most praise, without Freeney this defense isn’t strong enough to give the Indianapolis Colts a two-super to bring bowls.
This year’s modern day recruits will likely be Revis, Torry Holt, Willie Anderson, Ware and hopefully Willis. It should be considered institutional misconduct by the committee that he was a two-time finalist and still not inducted. He retired after just eight seasons with a nagging big toe injury, but he made it to the Pro Bowl in his first seven years and was a five-time first-team All-Pro. He played a position of great reverence – inside linebacker – and was absolutely one of the best to ever play it.
If there were true justice, at least 12 players would be included out of the 15 finalists this year. Other finalists include Darren Woodson, Jared Allen and Andre Johnson. Woodson made it out of the semifinals for the first time despite being retired since 2003.
The 2023 course will be unforgettable. The introduction of Revis will of course be the highlight as it can be argued that he is the greatest cornerback of all time. The phrase “Revis Island” wasn’t a gimmick to sell T-shirts. Many of the greatest wide receivers to ever play in the NFL have been wrecked there. He also knew how good he was and made damn sure he got every dollar he could out of the NFL. A legend on the course and on the shore.
However, as great as this class will be, it will still fall short of what it could be due to limitations. Players like Hester, Willis, Johnson, Ware and Wayne should have been easy picks. They dominated the NFL for many years in a row. These players weren’t simply highlighted on the schedule, they were able to make a play each week that could win their team a game. Instead, the committee picked a weak class last year and will have to force some new worthy candidates to join some veterans if they all have to go through the process again.
What’s supposed to be a celebration of excellence is reduced to a bar fight, rightly pointed out by Colorado’s new head coach, due to silly restrictions and a committee that made some mistakes.