Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press
The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee meets Saturday to pick five modern era players to round out the Hall’s Centennial Class for 2020. (Fifteen senior players, coaches and contributors were already announced on Wednesday.)
Gridiron Digest polled several committee members to try to figure out how this year’s vote will go. Here’s what they had to say about this year’s 15 finalists. Per committee rules, all voters must remain off-the-record.
Troy Polamalu
All voters agreed that Polamalu is a likely shoo-in.
Skill-position players: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Edgerrin James and Reggie Wayne
Voter A: “Wayne’s arrival will likely impact both of the other receivers, and potentially James as well, if a voter isn’t convinced that two members of the Colts offense from the Peyton Manning era deserve induction.”
Voter B: “I don’t think Wayne will get in as a first-time finalist.”
Voter D: “I’m not so sure about Wayne getting in, even though he’s a Hall of Famer. Wide receivers are funky.”
Voter G: “I don’t see Wayne making it this year. Bruce and Holt would get my vote before him.”
Voter A: “Holt is the biggest long shot just because I don’t think he can leapfrog Bruce and, whether fair or not, voters will probably compare the two and choose one (if either) to vote for.”
Voter B: “Having Holt and Wayne on the ballot could actually help Bruce. Calvin Johnson is eligible next year, so picking Bruce could prevent a logjam.”
Voter E: “Edge has to get in one year. It’s just a matter of when the timing is right.”
Voter F: “I have not sensed momentum for Edge or Bruce, but who knows this year?”
Safeties: Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler and John Lynch
Voter C: “They’re all the same guy.”
Voter D: “You can’t lose with any of them. I think Lynch has got to move through to the Hall. They keep bringing him back for a reason.”
Voter B: “Atwater made it to the final 10 last year. People are finally realizing how good he was.”
Voter E: “I would put Atwater and Lynch a smidge above LeRoy, at least going in. I’ve been a big proponent of Lynch for years. Both he and Atwater were tone-setters who changed the way offenses played. Plus, they’ve been waiting in the queue longer.”
Voter F: “If I had to guess, Atwater over Butler and Lynch.”
Voter C: “I think it’s time for us to have a good discussion about Butler. But I don’t see two safeties [including Polamalu] getting in this year.”
Voter G: “Butler is an interesting guy. First time in the room. Don’t know how he’ll impact Lynch’s chances. I’m not a Lynch guy. Terrific Cover 2 safety, but not a HOFer.”
Offensive linemen: Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson
Voter B: “We’re probably going to pick one off each year. I think Hutchinson might have a little better case than Faneca, but it’s close. And whenever it’s close, many of us vote for the guy who has been waiting the longest.”
Voter C: “The class is going to be Polamalu, the three offensive linemen and one out of the other 11 guys. We’ve been saying in the room forever that these three are all Hall of Famers. If they are the best bet, then why are we waiting?”
Voter D: “Everybody knows all three of them ought to be in. But I don’t think we’re going to put them all in at the same time. I think people are warming to Boselli.”
Voter G: “There probably will be considerable discussion again about whether Boselli played long enough. I think his career was just too short. [Digest note: Boselli played 91 games over seven seasons.] I thought Faneca should’ve gotten in five years ago. I’m shocked each year when he doesn’t get the votes, because there’s zero negative talk about him when we discuss him.”
The rest of the field: Linebacker Sam Mills, defensive tackle Richard Seymour, linebacker Zach Thomas and defensive tackle Bryant Young
Voter A: “Mills is a long shot, considering he hasn’t played since 1997 and memories can fade.”
Voter G: “I’m partial to Mills. He’s got a lot of support in the room. Whether it’s enough to get him into the top five this year, I don’t know. I’m just glad we’re going to be able to discuss him.”
Voter F: “I am going to push hard for Mills. A great football player who was central to so much in the Saints’ defense when it was great.”
Voter E: “Seymour is probably borderline, mostly because he didn’t play a glory position. There aren’t many like him in the Hall of Fame. It’s easier for a guy with big sack numbers than for a guy who took on double-teams and two-gapped.”
Voter G: “Thomas and Young are real long shots.”
Voter E: “I’m really happy Thomas finally made it in the room. I think he was pretty special, but he’s polarizing, based on what I’ve heard from others. I think the discussion will be fascinating.”
Gridiron Digest’s ballot (if we had one):
Atwater, Bruce, Faneca, Mills and Polamalu.
Gridiron Digest’s prediction:
Faneca, Hutchinson, Mills, Lynch, Polamalu.