The Hall of Fame Finalists Square Off

The Vikings have two long-time fixtures – Cris Carter and Randall McDaniel – one player who spent half his career with the team (Gary Zimmerman) and a former NFL great (Emmitt Thomas) who helped beat the Vikings in Super Bowl IV and later served as a Vikings defensive coordinator among the 17 finalists for the Hall of Fame.

The Vikings have a good chance of being represented one way or another when the Hall of Fame inductions are made next summer, with former Vikings Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel and Gary Zimmerman all among the 17 finalists.

While selecting the Hall of Fame classes are a complicated process – some players have maintained that media bias toward other Hall of Fame voters has prevented some players from getting inducted – the primary problem is having a first-year class that will dominate votes. This year there are only two first-year finalists, but both are solid bets for inclusion – Carter and CB Darrell Green.

Here is a brief rundown of the finalists and their respective street cred for getting the call to Canton:

Cris Carter – Became just the second player to have 1,000 receptions (2000)…Had eight straight 1,000-yard seasons…Second all-time in receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130)…Once held the single-season record for receptions with 122 in 1994…An All-Decade selection for the 1990s…Selected to eight straight Pro Bowls (1994-2001)…His first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

Fred Dean – Had about 100 career sacks as a defensive end, but played seven years before sacks became an official stat…Set NFL record for six sacks in a game in 1983…Played for two Super Bowl championship teams with the 49ers…Four-time Pro Bowl selection…His 18th year of eligibility.

Richard Dent – Played 15 years and 203 games at defensive end…Had 10 or more sacks in eight of his first 10 seasons as a starter…Was third all-time when he retired with 137.5 sacks…In two-year period of Bears dominance in 1984-85, he recorded 34.5 sacks…The MVP of Super Bowl XX for the Bears…Four-time Pro Bowl selection…His sixth year of eligibility.

Marshall Goldberg - Running back for the Chicago Cardinals from 1939-43, 1946-48 – missing two seasons serving in World War II…Played both offense and defense for all of his career…Was on the championship 1947 Cardinals…Was viewed as a pioneer as a defensive specialist – credited as being the first true "cover corner"…Led the NFL in interceptions in 1941…Died in 2006…His 46th year of eligibility – brought forward as a candidate by the veteran's committee.

Randy Gradishar – Played 10 seasons at linebacker for the Broncos (174-83)…Was a staple of the "Orange Crush" defense in Denver…Broncos all-time leader in tackles with 2,049 and led the Broncos in tackles for nine straight years…Never missed a game in his career, playing in all 145 games…Named to seven Pro Bowls…In his 20th year of eligibility.

Darrell Green – One of the game's dominant cornerbacks despite being just 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds…Played 20 seasons and 295 games…Tied for league record for playing all 20 seasons with one team (the Redskins)…He was the guy who knocked the ball loose from Darrin Nelson in the 1987 NFC Championship Game that iced the game for the Redskins…Named to the All-Decade Team in the 1990s…Selected to seven Pro Bowls…In his first year of eligibility.

Russ Grimm – Played 11 seasons at guard for the Redskins (1981-91)…Member of the infamous "Hogs" offensive line…Played in four Super Bowls, winning three of them…Was named to the All-Decade Team in the 1980s…Four-time Pro Bowl selection…In his 12th year of eligibility.

Ray Guy – Revolutionized the position of punter after being taken in the first round by the Raiders in the 1973 draft (23rd pick)…Played 14 seasons and 207 games…Led the NFL in punting three times and had just three of his 1,049 career punts blocked…Seven-time Pro Bowl selection…Played in three Super Bowls, winning two of them…17th year of eligibility.

Bob Kuechenberg – Guard for the Dolphins who played 15 seasons and 196 games…Released twice before hooking on with the Dolphins…His 19 postseason games remain a Dolphins team record…Played for the undefeated Miami Super Bowl champions in 1972…Named to six Pro Bowls…19th year of eligibility.

Randall McDaniel – Played 14 seasons (12 with the Vikings and two with the Buccaneers) and 222 games…Started the final 202 games of his career…Nine times named to the All-Pro, which takes just two guards from the entire league…Holds the record for most selections to the Pro Bowl – 12 straight years from 1990-2001…His second year of eligibility.

Art Monk – Played 16 seasons (14 with the Redskins) and 234 games…Was at the forefront of the big, physical wide receivers that have come to dominate the NFL…Had 50 or more catches in a season nine times…During his career, he held the records for most catches (820), catches in a season (106) and consecutive games with at least one reception (164)…A three-time Pro Bowl selection…His eighth year of eligibility.

Andre Reed – Played 16 seasons – 15 of those with the Bills – and 234 games…Is the all-time leader in receptions for the Bills with 941, as well as franchise records for yards (13,095) and 100-yard games (36)…When he retired, his 951 receptions were third on the all-time list…Played in four straight Super Bowls…Named to the Pro Bowl seven straight years…His third year of eligibility.

Paul Tagliabue – The Commissioner of the NFL from 1989-2006…Contributors and executives do not need to be retired for Hall of Fame consideration, so no eligibility standard has been set for him.

Derrick Thomas – Played linebacker for 11 years for the Chiefs (1989-99)…Was Defensive Rookie of the Year…His 116.5 sacks in the decade of the ‘90s was the most of any player in the NFL…His 126.5 career sacks are fourth all-time among linebackers…Had 10 or more sacks in a season seven times…Named to the All-Decade Team for the 1990s…Seven-time Pro Bowl selection…Died in a car accident Feb. 8, 2000…In his fourth year of eligibility.

Emmitt Thomas – Played 13 years for the Chiefs at cornerback from 1966-78…Is ninth all-time with 58 interceptions…Had an interception in the Super Bowl IV win over the Vikings…Selected to five Pro Bowls…Coached with the Vikings in 2000-01…His 25th year of eligibility.

Andre Tippett – Played 11 years and 151 games at linebacker for the Patriots from 1982-93…Holds a franchise record with 18.5 sacks in 1984…AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 when the Patriots went to their first Super Bowl…Finished his career with 100 sacks…Named to the All-Decade team of the 1980s…A five-time Pro Bowl selection…In his 10th year of eligibility.

Gary Zimmerman – Played 12 seasons – seven with the Vikings and five with the Broncos – and 184 games…Played two years in the USFL before being taken in the NFL supplemental draft by the Giants in 1986 and traded to the Vikings…Started every game he played for the Vikings and had a streak of 169 straight starts until he was injured in 1996…Named to the NFL's All-Decade Team in both the 1980s and 1990s…A seven-time Pro Bowl selection…In his sixth year of eligibility.

The field looks strong, but both Carter and Green seem like very strong first-year candidates. McDaniel may find difficulty getting past offensive linemen like Zimmerman and Kuechenberg – who both have solid credentials and have had to wait longer. There may also be a sentiment to vote in Tagliabue, who turned the NFL into a media giant on his watch. While McDaniel would seem like more of a longshot than C.C., there is a decent possibility that if voters look at the 12 Pro Bowls – still a league record – that he could make it a pair of Vikings in the Hall for the Class of 2008.

For some of those that might be on the cusp of the Hall, they may want to get in this year. The Class of 2009 will include Bruce Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Aeneas Williams, Rod Woodson and John Randle. The Class of 2010 will include Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Tim Brown – at least two if not all three of them mortal locks. The Class of 2011 will include Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Willie Roaf and Dick Vermeil. With strong classes on the horizon, if players are borderline now, they will face stiffer competition in years to come.

The Class of 2008 will be announced Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Super Bowl Media Center. The enshrinement will take played Saturday, Aug. 2.

* Dennis Green was quoted in the New York Times this week fawning over the abilities of Randy Moss, whom Green drafted in 1998. In the story, Green said it's no coincidence that Moss was on both of the top scoring teams in NFL history and pointed out that of Tom Brady's 50 TD passes this year, almost half (23) went to Moss.
* Moss was scheduled to make $9.25 million with the Raiders this year, but settled for a one-year deal for $3 million with $2 million in incentives. It's a safe bet he earned those incentives.
* Adrian Peterson and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis have more in common than just being the Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Year. The two worked out together at Athletes' Performance in Tempe, Ariz.
* Leslie Frazier told Associated Press this week that he doesn't expect to get the Colts head coaching job if coach Tony Dungy makes good on the rumors that he intends to retire. Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, who was interviewed for the Vikings head coaching position before Brad Childress was eventually hired, is viewed as the in-house frontrunner if Dungy does opt to resign.
* Frazier has not received any updates from the Dolphins on the status of their head coach vacancy and, with the Cowboys now out of the playoffs, frontrunner Tony Sparano is likely going to be getting his name thrown around quite a bit more.

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