A look at Hall's Class of 2021 and why Faneca should survive a first-ballot rush
I saw a story the other day that minimized guard Alan Faneca’s chances of reaching the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021, essentially saying that because the class will include such first-year luminaries as Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson, Faneca’s chances are diminished.
Sorry, but I disagree.
His chances certainly aren’t enhanced by the arrival of two – and maybe three -- first-ballot choices. But they aren’t decreased, either. Reason: Of the Top 10 finalists who didn’t reach the Hall this year, Faneca is the next man up for Canton.
No, I don’t know that for a fact. I just listened to the discussion at this year’s meeting, and it was clear that Faneca and/or guard Steve Hutchinson was reaching Canton on this ballot.
As it turned out, it was Hutchinson.
I should’ve known it would be no more than one. Because while both he and Faneca were among the most qualified of all 15 finalists, electing one guard is consistent with voters’ past behavior.
Go ahead and tell me the last time two guards were chosen in the same class. You can't. There weren't any. Initially, I thought John Hannah and Stan Jones were the only pair, with both elected in 1991, but one of our readers (rewing84) accurately pointed out that Jones was a senior candidate.
And he was.
For some reason, Hall-of-Fame voters are slow to act on guards, voting in four modern-era players at that position in the last 11 years – including 12-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro Will Shields on his fourth year of eligibility in 2015. Now, imagine that happening to, say, a running back or wide receiver with those credentials.
OK, so Faneca was a victim of bad timing. But with Hutchinson out of the queue, only Faneca and tackle Tony Boselli remain from the four offensive linemen that split votes the past four years. And given that choice, I’d say it’s not Faneca who needs to worry about 2021.
If voters were sold on getting him to Canton, they would’ve voted him in this year when the field was wide open, and he was in his 14th year of eligibility. But they didn’t, and, frankly, I don’t get it. Yeah, I know, longevity is always the issue with Boselli, but it shouldn’t be – not after the Hall admitted Terrell Davis and Kenny Easley in 2017.
Like Boselli, their careers were cut short by injuries. But Boselli played more regular-season games (91) than either Easley (89) or Davis (78). Yet they moved on to Canton, and he hasn’t. Instead, his candidacy continues to stall because of recurring questions about longevity.
For that reason alone, I believe he plays second to Faneca in 2021.
Look, both Boselli and Faneca should be the next men up because each has been Top-10 finalist the past three years, with Boselli a Top-10 finisher the last four. But my guess is that only one makes it in 2021.
And here’s why: While voters aren’t as loathe to induct two offensive linemen in the same class as they are two guards, they don’t exactly leap at the opportunity. They’ve had plenty of chances the past four years when Kevin Mawae, Hutchinson, Boselli and Faneca were eligible, and they chose just two.
Of course, that’s consistent with their history, too. The last time selectors inducted two modern-era offensive linemen in the same year was 2013 when Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden made it. And before that? It was 2001 when Mike Munchak and Jackie Slater were elected.
That’s 20 years where it happened twice. And that should be somewhat encouraging for Boselli because it means it CAN happen. But it also means there’s a 10 percent chance.
So, let’s cut to the quick here. Let’s say you’re going to choose just one for 2021, too. Will it be an All-Pro guard who missed only two regular-season games in 13 seasons or an All-Pro tackle whose career was cut short after seven years? I think you know the answer.
Both belong, but I know how voters feel about longevity with offensive linemen. Because it’s a question that never goes away.
So Faneca has the advantage. He played over twice as many games as Boselli, was named to more Pro Bowls (9-5) and All-Pro teams (8-3) and won more Super Bowl rings (1-0). I understand they played different positions, and I know Boselli was as accomplished at tackle during his tenure as Faneca was at guard. But I also remember what happened last weekend: The Class of 2020 was Boselli’s best chance for admission, and he couldn’t budge from the Top 10.
I still remain optimistic he gets in. But I was confident the past two years. And nothing happened.
Bottom line: The way I see the Class of 2021 is that Manning and Charles Woodson are first-ballot locks. I’m not as certain about Johnson, but voters lately can’t wait to anoint finalists in their first years of eligibility. Over the past four years, nine of the 15 modern-era inductees – or 45 percent – have been first-ballot choices.
That bodes well for three more making it in 2021, something that happened two of the past three years. But it shouldn’t affect Faneca.
Boselli? That’s another story for another day.
NOTEWORTHY FIRST-YEAR ELIGIBLES FOR 2021
QB Peyton Manning
DB Charles Woodson
RB Steven Jackson
WR Calvin Johnson
G Logan Mankins
LB Jerod Mayo
DL Justin Tuck
DE Jared Allen
TE Heath Miller
CB Charles Tillman
DT Kevin Williams
QB Michael Vick
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