For 16 years I sat in the meeting room on Super Bowl Saturday as part of the Selection Committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There was not a time in all those years that I walked out after seven, eight, nine hours of discussion that I felt I knew what was going to be announced when it came time to introduce the inductees. Each of those meetings had a life and personality of its own. No two were alike. The results generally were not predictable.
If I was walking into that room on this Super Bowl Saturday, I would be wondering like everyone else what direction the voting will take. There are 18 men waiting for the chance to become part of the Hall of Fame. As many as eight can make it, but likely the number will be short of that, somewhere in the neighborhood of six or seven.
One of those that will be under consideration is former Chiefs guard Will Shields. Without a doubt, Shields will gain induction to the Hall. He was one of the NFL’s best players in the 1990s and early 2000s. Everyone with a vote in that room knows the facts of his career.
So why hasn’t he already been voted in?
Because there have always been 15-16 other men that were Hall of Fame worthy. By the standards that have been established in voting over the last 20 or 25 years, there are plenty of candidates for the Hall. Some would say too many, that it has become the Hall of the Very Good, rather than the Hall of the Best.
Either way, Shields qualifies for a bronze bust in Canton. He will achieve that status when the timing is right. When will that be? That’s the tough part – even after being part of it, I can tell you there’s no way to predict when the football version of Venus and Mars align to make induction come true. It was five years of waiting for Derrick Thomas, and why it happened in year No. 5 and not year No. 1, 2, 3 or 4 is hard to identify. Long-time veterans of the committee told me to be patient and when the timing was right, it would go down. It did.
That’s the situation with Shields. Among the 18 men that are up for induction 15 finalists among former players and coaches, along with a senior’s candidate and two men in a new category of contributor. They will need 80 percent of the votes from the 46 selectors to be elected.
Looking at the list, I would say there is only one automatic selection – the late Junior Seau. His career as a linebacker with San Diego was Hall of Fame worthy even before he tacked on a couple years with New England and Miami. He played 20 total seasons and earned 12 trips to the Pro Bowl and six honors as first-team All-Pro.
In the contributor category, I think Ron Wolf is pretty close to a lock. His record as a personnel man and franchise leader is among the greatest in the game’s history. While running the Green Bay Packers, he traded for Brett Favre and signed Reggie White as an unrestricted free agent. Wolf almost signed Marcus Allen back in 1993 – the Packers came in second to the Chiefs for the running back’s services.
Generally, the senior candidate makes it. This year it’s Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, who played in numerous NFL-NFC Championship Games and a couple of Super Bowls. Of the last 30 senior candidates, 25 were voted in. That’s 83 percent, so figure Tingelhoff makes three inductees.
I see four others that should be selected – one man’s opinion. That would be St. Louis Rams left tackle Orlando Pace, Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, Tampa Bay safety John Lynch and Shields. Defensive end-outside linebacker-pass rusher Charles Haley has a chance as well.
That’s just me. Heaven knows what the selectors will come up with for the HOF Class of 2015. For most, it’s a question of timing.