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Picking this year's Hall of Fame class a major challenge; mail

I write and tweet about the Hall of Fame so much, and my buddy Don "Donnie Brasco'' Banks always tells me to stop doing it -- because the more I do it, the more I unleash the masses, angry that this guy or that guy didn't make the Hall -- or, in this case, didn't make the list of the finalists for enshrinement in the Hall when the 44-person Board of Selectors meets in Indianapolis Feb. 4.

I know. I get it. The Hall of Fame is important, and you care deeply about your favorite players and coaches. And the pressure on the selectors is going to be great this year because of the kind of year it is. There's no slam-dunk, obvious guy headed for Canton, as there was last year in Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk, or the year before in Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson. When you look at the class and say the most likely guy might be center Dermontti Dawson, you get an idea of what we're talking about. It's wide open.

To refresh your memory if you're not a Hall-nik: The process now is down to 15 modern-era finalists and two senior candidates. Each one of those 17 finalists is represented by one member of our committee, who makes the case for that person. Following that verbal presentation, the floor is open for anyone in the room to speak. The debate can be long; we went 57 minutes on Paul Tagliabue a few years ago; he didn't make it.

After the 17 cases are heard -- that can take five or six hours -- each voter is asked to choose, by secret paper ballot, the top 10 candidates among the 15 modern-era finalists. Then we break, and accountants on hand to tabulate the results do so, and about 15 minutes later we're told the final 10 on the modern-era list. There's a shorter round of any further discussion any selector might have, and then we have another secret paper ballot to cut the list to five.

Another short break. Then we're told the list of the final seven. It's the two Senior candidates, plus the top five vote-getters among the modern candidates. Then we have to vote yes or no, on seven private paper ballots, for the seven finalists. Those who get at least 80 percent of the vote -- 36 of 44, when every voter is present -- are elected.

It's important to realize, then, that at most only five of the 15 modern-era candidates will be enshrined. That's how difficult the process is. I look at this list of 15 and see 11 who I like a lot and would be predisposed to vote for -- though I don't make my final decision until hearing the debate in the room.

As for this year's class of 17 finalists, there's one who didn't make it -- again -- that boggles my mind. Ron Wolf's one of the best general managers and scouts of all time. In the '60s, he mined for American Football League talent, then went on to be Al Davis' prime scout with the Raiders, then helped build the Bucs into a team that made the NFC championship game in 1979, and later was named the GM of the Packers in late 1991. He hired Mike Holmgren, traded for a 248-pound, third-string Atlanta quarterback named Brett Favre, convinced Reggie White -- who wanted to begin an urban ministry in a big NFL market -- to sign in the smallest market in major-league sports, Green Bay. Wolf trained Ted Thompson to carry on the tradition of Green Bay's football renaissance, which has now lasted two decades.

We've got to find a way as a committee, in my opinion, to make a path for the best general managers to have at least a chance to make the Hall. Right now, if Wolf can't make the finals, what are the chances of any front-office ace to?

I'd love to be able to help you in your Hall prospecting, but it seems that being on the inside only muddles the picture. My gut feeling is that those with the best chance to be the final five this year are Dawson, wide receiver Andre Reed, defensive end Charles Haley, running back Curtis Martin and tackle William Roaf. Because I haven't heard any debate on them yet from this committee, I can't tell you how close new finalists Bill Parcells and Will Shields will be. I tend to think Parcells has a better shot because he took the four teams he coached to the playoffs and two to the Super Bowl, but it's always cloudy figuring who has real traction until you hear the debate in the room.

(Senior candidates Dick Stanfel and Jack Butler always have a better shot, because they've already been screened through a process by five members of the Selectors Board's seniors committee to find two candidates whose cases for whatever reasons may not have gotten a full airing when they were eligible after retirement. We simply vote yay or nay on them by paper ballot. They're not subject to the cutting process.)

So there you have it. I'm considering asking Joe Horrigan, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's vice president who oversees the selection process, to be on my podcast next week to discuss the process and the history of it, and to answer your questions about it.

If you'd like to hear from Horrigan, tweet me at @SI_PeterKing, and if enough of you want to hear from him, I'll ask him for next week. Then, I'll open up the floor to your questions via Twitter over the weekend. I think hearing from Horrigan might be an educational thing for those of you who really get into the Hall of Fame. God knows there's a bunch of you out there.

Now onto your email:

SO I TAKE IT YOU DON'T LIKE McDANIELS. "Good Lord, please stop with Josh McDaniels resuscitation. The saying 'Even a broken clock is right twice a day' applies here. The draft is only a part of what a head coach and general manager does. The rest of the 80% of his job was horrible.''-- Ted Striker, Emporia, Kans.

The vitriol toward McDaniels has always surprised me. Many of you wrote with similar sentiment to Ted. My point would be: OK, he lost. Lots of coaches lose and get fired. But the overriding sentiment is that McDaniels destroyed the franchise, setting it back for years. On Sunday, the quarterback, record-setting receiver, third receiver and two starting offensive linemen came from the 2010 draft that McDaniels oversaw. The quarterback he picked and was ridiculed for is 8-4 and saved your season and just knocked the defending conference champ out of the playoffs and has your team in the final eight of the NFL.

I'm not saying you should build a statue for the guy. I'm just saying your disdain for McDaniels is irrational. He needed a strong GM, never got one, blew a bunch of draft picks and lost most of his games. That we know. Can you tell me if, say, Raheem Morris or Eric Mangini or Todd Haley, other coaches who got jobs in 2009, got the Denver job you'd be better off now? I can guarantee you none of them would have taken Tim Tebow in the first round.

TAMPA BAY IS FACT-FINDING. THAT IS ALL. "I'm not a fan of the Bucs, and I know you said in today's MMQB that Cincy's Mike Zimmer was a strong candidate to replace Raheem Morris, but are they REALLY considering Wade Phillips or Brad Childress as their next coach?? Phillips has never proven himself as a head coach while he has excelled as the DC everywhere he's gone without the Ryan fanfare. And Childress, well, he didn't very well distinguish himself in his time with the Vikings. What can they possibly be thinking?''-- Jon Karp, Camillus, N.Y.

I actually didn't say that about Mike Zimmer; I said I thought Mike Sherman would be a candidate. Al Davis used to have this theory about coaching interviews. Cast a wide net and steal knowledge. If you have a chance once every three or four years to bring in veteran coaches who you may have a slight interest in hiring but absolutely have a strong interest in stealing knowledge from, why not interview these guys?

Why not ask Brad Childress his opinion on what's important in developing a quarterback, and what did he learn from Andy Reid on that? Why not ask Wade Phillips, who's been a terrific defensive coordinator, how he raised the Texans from the 30th-ranked defense last year to second this year -- without Mario Williams? Why not ask them to watch some tape of the awful Tampa Bay defense and say, "Give me your theory: What's wrong here?'' Not saying he did that, but that's something Davis would have done.

WHY DID THE STEELERS PLAY DUMB COVERAGE? "I understand the Tebow story is amazing in more ways than one. I like it just as much as the next guy seeing him prove experts wrong and win a playoff game. However, I cannot stand how most of the public praises an NFL starting quarterback for beating a coverage that is most commonly used in Pop Warner leagues. I have never before seen a defense in the NFL NOT use at least a post safety and play bump and run at the corners. Any quarterback in this league should beat that coverage 9/10 times (the one miss likely being a dropped pass).

The fact that he completed less then 50 percent of his throws against this childish coverage is embarrassing. Why do you think the Steelers blatantly used this coverage even after being burned deep multiple times? I would like to think most coordinators would make this adjustment, especially one like Dick LeBeau. Thanks.''-- Aaron Bartolomei, Buffalo

My feeling, Aaron? Either Ryan Mundy or Troy Polamalu made a mistake here and got greedy to stop the run on that first play. One shouldn't have, that's for sure, and Mike Tomlin admitted that Monday in his press post-mortem when he said the Steelers were not playing zero coverage on the play. That means one of the safeties should have stayed home and been there to tackle Demaryius Thomas.

Now, there's a certain element of risk in every defensive game plan, and I can't defend what the Steelers did there. As I wrote Monday, Denver had been incredibly predictable on first down all day, running 95 percent of the time, and with this being overtime, the Steelers obviously didn't want to play it safe and let Denver dink and dunk it down the field. But of course it was wrong to have nine defenders in the vicinity of the box and it turned out to wreck the Steelers' season.

ON McDANIELS BEING ALLOWED TO COACH WITH THE PATRIOTS. "I have a silly question for you. Why is Josh McDaniels allowed to join and coach with the Patriots immediately but another team in the playoffs not allowed to shore up the on the field talent by trading for a player? I know the trade deadline is long gone, but isn't this possibly and unfair competitive advantage? McDaniels is/was under contract with the Rams, so what makes him different than Bradford or Jackson?''-- Daniel Acosta, Indio, Calif.

It's an interesting story. On its face, it seems an unfair advantage to give New England, especially considering the Patriots hired him the week they're facing the team McDaniels used to coach. Obviously, there's a major advantage going to New England, and if I were Denver coach John Fox, I'd be plenty ticked off about it. But I'm not sure the league should be able to do anything about this anyway.

What if Roger Goodell ruled that McDaniels wasn't allowed to join the Patriots for the rest of the playoffs -- for some reason I can't quite figure out. But let's say he did that. And let's say for some reason McDaniels wasn't allowed to work anywhere until after the regular season. You think that would stop Bill Belichick from talking to McDaniels and asking: "What would [offensive coordinator] Mike McCoy's favorite play be in such and such a situation?'' I don't.

There's only one parallel I can think of in recent years. When defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was fired by coach Tony Sparano in Miami during the 2009 season, Dallas hired him for the rest of the Cowboys season.

If you want to blame someone, blame the Rams. They're the ones who decided to let McDaniels skate on the last year of his contract, rendering him a free agent. McDaniels, once the Rams told him they wouldn't hold him to his contract, was free to sign with any other team in the league, whether that team was playing this week or didn't have a game until next August.

HE BLAMES TOMLIN. "RE your comment about 'Roethlisberger's decisions, including playing when he shouldn't have in December.' I totally agree with you, but I'd take it one step farther - I lay the blame at Coach Tomlin's feet. As a Steelers fan, I was as excited as anyone to see Baltimore lose in Week 15 and possibly give Pittsburgh a shot at the division lead, but only Tomlin knew how bad Ben's ankle was at that time and he should have benched him for the 49ers game. Its Ben's mobility and ability to extend a play that makes him great. Without that he's an average QB, and it showed during the San Francisco, Cleveland and Denver games. For whatever reason, Tomlin felt that winning the division and getting a first round playoff bye was more important than giving his star QB three weeks of rest that would have left him in much better shape for a Wild Card game that they ended up having to play anyway.''-- Rob Davis, Omaha

Rob, it's hard to argue with you. I can't. I said all along Roethlisberger should sit until his ankle was in decent shape.

SENDING GOOD KARMA TO CORRENTE. "I related to your Tony Corrente story today. I'm starting my second round of chemo on a similar cancer as his, with radiation to follow. This is my third cancer and have had organs removed and a transplant. I still put in 10 hour days at work, but am exhausted afterward. As a former college basketball player and coach you learn to persevere. Tony's right. Every doctor says you're lucky or you've beaten it before so you can do it again. At 54 it's harder than when you're younger. What you are lucky for is your family and friends. I celebrate the 10th anniversary of my transplant in March and will have a big party with friends from all over the country coming. I would hope you'd pass on to Tony that it can be beaten. I'll be pulling for him.''-- Jeff Cohen, Stuart, Fla.

Jeff, scores of people have sent similar messages about Corrente, and I will certainly pass along your very good wishes.

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