Does the Hall finally call for Eddie D?
In three of the past four years, with the Class of 2011 the lone exception, the Hall of Fame has enshrined at least one offensive and defensive lineman each.
Here's hoping that the sort-of trend continues.
The Hall announced on Wednesday that it will reveal the 15 modern finalists for potential Canton honors on Saturday, predictably during NFL Network's playoff pregame show. Yeah, even something as hallowed as the Hall of Fame clearly has trouble saying no to the league's financial and public relations reach.
No matter, though, whenever or wherever the Hall announces the 2012 finalists, the guess is that linemen will be pretty well represented in the bunch.
And, hopefully, well considered by the 44-person selection committee, of which yours truly is one, on Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl XLVI.
Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo also is a name that is coming up frequently in the conversation.
DeBartolo – the gold standard of NFL owners when his San Francisco teams were winning five Super Bowls during a one-of-a-kind dynasty that lasted almost two decades – is the person who arguably has elicited the most support this year. At least, that is, if you're judging from endorsement letters that keep showing up in the files of selectors.
DeBartolo built one of the greatest enduring dynasties in the history of professional sports in San Francisco before his involvement in a federal gambling scandal forced him to relinquish control of the team to his sister Denise and her husband, John York, in 1998. The DeBartolo-led 49ers hold the NFL record with 16 consecutive seasons of 10 victories or more from 1983-1998, a league standard that may never be broken.
The offensive linemen among the 26 semifinalists (one more than usual because of a tie) – center Dermontti Dawson, guard Will Shields, tackle Willie Roaf – all were exceptional during their respective careers. Ditto the defensive linemen who were in the semifinalist grouping: Former 49ers Chris Doleman and Charles Haley, along with Cortez Kennedy.
Doleman and Haley, dominant players both for the 49ers and other teams, have strong credentials for inclusion.
Haley might have been one top pass rushers in San Francisco history. Despite playing just seven seasons for the 49ers, and bolting from the franchise in his 1990s prime to help lead the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowls, Haley still ranks second in San Francisco history with 66.5 career sacks. Doleman is fifth among San Francisco's career sack leaders despite playing only three seasons for the 49ers.
Because of its popularity-contest perception, Pro Bowl selections probably aren't quite as significant as they once were. Still, it's laudable the three linemen on offense totaled 30 Pro Bowl nods, and all were chosen for the Team of the Decade at least once. On the defensive side, there were 21 Pro Bowl games for the trio, and all but Haley were Team of the Decade honorees.
There is no certainty that all six men will be among the 15 finalists announced Saturday morning. But all are deserving. And if the half-dozen linemen are, indeed, included in the final round, the presentations for each of them figure to be pretty compelling stuff.
As noted here previously, there is no quota, official or otherwise, for positions that get voted into the Hall of Fame. So, at least in theory, there should be no parsing of the credentials of the three blockers or of the three tacklers. If more than one of the offensive linemen merit induction, when their resumes are compared to those of the other finalists, so be it. The same is true of the defensive linemen.
Granted, it isn't often at all when two offensive or defensive linemen from the so-called "modern day" pool are enshrined in the same year, but this could be one of those rare occasions.
Perhaps benefitting the half-dozen linemen divided equally between both sides of the ball is the perception that the Class of 2012 ballot, regardless of the finalists that are revealed on Saturday, includes few "slam dunk" choices. That is illustrated by the write-in support of DeBartolo.
Notably, this will mark the sixth consecutive year in which no quarterback will be inducted. There hasn't been a quarterback among the semifinalists since 2009, none elected to the Hall since Troy Aikman with the Class of 2006.
That fact, and the absence of early groundswell for any of the player candidates, might bode well for the linemen, not to mention a non-player such as DeBartolo.
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