The NFL announced the 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2014 Wednesday night and predictably there was a Pittsburgh Steelers presence on the list as both running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene made the cut.
While Greene has very little chance of being enshrined in Canton this could be the year that Bettis gets that long awaited phone call.
This year’s class, which features first time nominees such as perennial All-Pro linebacker Derrick Brooks, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, tackle Walter Jones and head coach Tony Dungy, isn’t nearly as loaded as last year’s class, which is good news for the Bus.
The list of 25 semifinalists will be reduced to 15 modern-era finalists. Those 15 will be joined by two recommended candidates from the hall’s senior committee: punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey.
Although there is no set number of enshrinees for any Hall of Fame class, between four and seven new members are selected each year. No more than five modern-era nominees can be elected in a given year.
The semifinalists are as follows
Morten Andersen, PK
Jerome Bettis, RB
Derrick Brooks, LB
Tim Brown, WR-KR
Don Coryell, Coach
Roger Craig, RB,
Terrell Davis, RB
Edward DeBartolo Jr., Owner
Tony Dungy, Coach
Kevin Greene, LB-DE
Charles Haley, DE-LB
Marvin Harrison, WR
Joe Jacoby, OT
Jimmy Johnson, Coach
Walter Jones, OT
John Lynch, S
Karl Mecklenburg, LB
Andre Reed, WR
Will Shields, G
Michael Strahan, DE
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner
Aeneas Williams, CB-S
George Young, Contributor
Bettis should have a pretty good chance. Of the first-year nominees, Brooks, Harrison and Dungy all have realistic shots of getting in, but history has shown that not all three will.
Other than that I see a guy like Strahan as a potential lock after missing the cut last season. In addition, guys like Haley, Shields, Brown, Reed and Lynch all have strong cases.
Bettis’ biggest competition could come from Davis, the former Denver Broncos running back.
I doubt both running backs get in this year and it could come down to who the voters felt was the most dominant back.
A case can be made for both guys.
If you look at career numbers it is a no-brainer as Bettis is sixth on the all-time rushing list with 13,662 yards and Davis checks in only at No. 50 with 7,607. Even Craig, who is also eligible for enshrinement, rushed for more yards (8,189) during his stellar career.
However when you consider that Davis’ career was cut short by injury after only seven seasons, his accomplishments were just as impressive.
For a three-year span (1996-98) Davis was the most dominant back in the NFL, something I can’t say for Bettis. Several retired NFL players also have said on record that Davis should go in before Bettis.
However at the end of the day, the fact that he played only seven years and only three of them were dominant should give the edge to the Bus. Hopefully the voters see things that way as well.
Bettis had a 13-year career and while he wasn’t nearly as productive the final four years of that, he did rush for over 1,000 yards in a season in eight of his first nine years. Compare that to Davis, who accomplished the feat in only his first four seasons in the league.
At the end of the day a case can be made for both running backs, but Bettis has the more impressive resume overall.
The Hall of Fame election will be held Feb. 1, the night before the Super Bowl, in New York.
If I were Bettis I would sit closely by the phone. I have a feeling he will be getting a call.