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Pro Football Hall of Fame announces Class of 2020 finalists

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced the 15 finalists for the Class of 2020, with first-time eligibles safety Troy Polamalu and receiver Reggie Wayne leading the way.

They’ll be joined by five other first-time finalists and a collection of other greats. From this list, the selection committee will then choose five honorees from the remaining finalists. The Class of 2020 will be officially announced on Feb. 1 – the day before Super Bowl LIV.

The no-doubter is Troy Polamalu, probably the best safety of his generation. His raw numbers are top-tier for a safety – he picked off 32 passes, had over a hundred passes defensed (107, to be exact) and forced 14 fumbles, scoring five TDs on turnovers all told. He was named to eight Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams. In 2010, he was the Defensive Player of the Year. He was a major key to bringing the city its first title since the Steel Curtain days … and then adding a second just three seasons later, all while building a reputation as one of the league’s hardest hitters and becoming a crossover cultural phenomenon. A Pittsburgh legend and beloved institution, one of the greatest players to wear the storied uniform.

Wideout Reggie Wayne is another superstar who spent his entire career with one team. In his case, it was 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts. Over those 211 games, he put up staggering numbers – he is one of just 14 to catch at least 1,000 passes; his 1,070 put him 10th on the all-time list. His 14,345 yards are also 10th all time. He had 82 TD receptions in his career as well. He was named to the Pro Bowl six times and was first-team All-Pro in 2010. One might argue that he benefitted from playing with two greats at QB – Peyton Manning at the beginning of his career, Andrew Luck at the end. But in truth, they benefitted from playing with him as well.

The other first-time finalists are safety LeRoy Butler, receiver Torry Holt, defensive lineman Bryant Young and linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas.

Returnees include running back Edgerrin James, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, safteies John Lynch and Steve Atwater, receiver Isaac Bruce and offensive linemen Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson.

In what might be considered a bit of a surprise, linebacker Patrick Willis failed to make the final list in his first year of eligibility. While his career ended early, he largely makes up for the lack of quantity with significant quality as far as performance is concerned. It’s also too bad that special teams player extraordinaire Steve Tasker didn’t make the list; a player of his skill set would be a welcome addition to the Hall.

A committee will convene to whittle this list of 15 finalists down to five inductees. Polamalu seems like the one certainty, but it will be interesting to see the rest. Can Wayne or one of the other wideouts overcome the Hall’s odd reluctance to proportionally recognize receivers? Will James finally get the nod after numerous close calls?

Also, alongside the five modern era inductees will be a special addition to the Hall in 2020 to celebrate the NFL’s 100th season. A special blue-ribbon panel consisting of some of the game’s luminaries has assembled a list of 15 – 10 senior players (i.e. those who have been retired for more than 25 seasons), two coaches and three non-coach/player contributors. The panel is comprised of Hall of Fame Selectors, Pro Football Hall of Famers, media members, football historians and industry experts.

Is it a seemingly convoluted process? Sure. Would we all benefit from a little more transparency? Maybe. But the Pro Football Hall of Fame still manages to ultimately recognize the sorts of players they should be recognizing. And really, that’s the ultimate goal. It’s a quality list, regardless of who gets in. That’s all you can ask.

Last modified on Tuesday, 07 January 2020 07:50

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