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  • Two first-ballot superstars, four offensive linemen and two coaches will be among the most discussed candidates for the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
By Conor Orr
February 01, 2019

ATLANTA – We’ll soon be able to greet the newest Pro Football Hall of Fame class after hours of debate and consideration on Saturday.

To get you prepared for the announcement, here is a look at the current finalists up for the prestigious nod, and the arguments that will likely filter out in the coming days:

Steve Atwater, S
Champ Bailey, CB
Tony Boselli, T
Isaac Bruce, WR
Don Coryell, Coach
Alan Faneca, G
Tom Flores, Coach
Tony Gonzalez, TE
Steve Hutchinson, G
Ty Law, CB
John Lynch, FS
Kevin Mawae, C/G
Edgerrin James, RB
Ed Reed, FS
Richard Seymour, DE/DT

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Who gets in

The two locks seem to be Tony Gonzalez, the legendary Chiefs and Falcons tight end who is second all-time in receptions; and Ed Reed, the Ravens safety who is seventh all-time in interceptions and who helped redefine the safety position over the last two decades. Champ Bailey, a cornerback whose cerebral play and incredible longevity made him one of the best pass defenders of all time, will most likely also get the call. Interestingly enough, all are on their first ballot. Some additions were made by NFL.com’s Elliott Harrison, a known Hall of Fame watcher, who also sees this as the year both Edgerrin James and Tony Boselli also head to Canton. If nothing else, his ballot illustrates the wide-open debate that we’ll hear about in the coming days.

Handling the most crowded position

I think it’s always difficult for the committee to parse offensive line play, and this class is particularly loaded. That can make comparisons tough, especially given all of the players’ stellar careers but absence of comparable glamour stats like receptions, rushing yards or passing touchdowns. This could be one of those years where all four linemen on the ballot receive a strong push, or, unfortunately, a year where the class is too strong and they split the vote. Here’s something I think will be hard to ignore, though: Alan Faneca had a run of nine straight Pro Bowls with the Steelers and Jets, and a four-year run of first-team All Pro selections, which is nuts. Steve Hutchinson also had a seven-year Pro Bowl run, with a three-year stretch of first-team All-Pro nods while in Minnesota. Tony Boselli and Kevin Mawae are a tad behind on the All-Pro count, though it is worth noting that Boselli had three straight All-Pro seasons with the Jaguars before his career was cut short by a knee injury. 

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What I’m interested in

The coaches. I believe we’ll hear a lot about former Raiders head coach Tom Flores and former Chargers head coach Don Coryell. Here’s why: Flores, the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl, has two titles as a head coach, a third as an assistant coach and a fourth as a player. I thought Paul Gutierrez broke his candidacy down quite well over at ESPN.com

His 8-3 record in the postseason is a better winning percentage than his 83-53 regular-season mark with the Raiders over nine seasons. Flores has four Super Bowl rings overall, his first as a backup quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV and his second as John Madden's receivers coach for the Raiders at Super Bowl XI. Flores also called down from the booth for the famed "Ghost to the Post" play on Christmas Eve of 1977 during a playoff win at the Baltimore Colts.

Flores' record against coaches already enshrined is actually better than his overall winning percentage: .594 to .539.

He was 6-1 against Don Shula, the game's winningest coach; 3-1 vs. Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls; 2-1 against both Bill Walsh and Bill Parcells; 1-0 against Bud Grant (and, actually, two of Flores' rings have come with Grant's Minnesota Vikings on the other sideline); and 1-1 vs. Tom Landry

If rings matter, Flores is a lock. While my mind could certainly be changed given the circumstances, I think multiple Super Bowl titles as a head coach should stick an E-ZPass on the lane to Canton.

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That is what makes the argument about Coryell more complicated. Perhaps this is just me opining, but I think current issues and advancements help inform the perspective of the voting committee. Coryell created one of the most significant offenses in NFL history, though it didn’t necessarily translate to overall team success. Coryell was 111-83-1 as a head coach in the NFL and 3-6 in the playoffs, with two trips to the AFC Championship game in the 1980 and 1981 seasons. However, as we glide through this next era of offensive advancements and revolutions, I think Coryell will get a stronger argument than in years past. 

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