The votes are in, and the five modern-era candidates for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2021 have been elected. Yet they haven’t been announced. And they won’t ... at least for awhile.
Reason: Nobody knows who they are.
That’s because this year’s board-of-selectors’ vote, which happened Tuesday, was conducted in such a manner that the results won’t be known – correction: aren’t supposed to be known – until the televised NFL Honors Show on Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl LV.
But who’s kidding whom? There is no way the Pro Football Hall of Fame can keep Tuesday’s result secret for two-and-a-half weeks. I’m not sure it can keep it secret for two-and-a-half days. I know it thinks it can because it happened with the Centennial Class of 2020.
But this is different.
Because this is the modern-era class, and what happens each year when the Hall wants to make its announcement on the NFL Honors program? Yep, those who were elected – and those who were not – take to social media to break the news.
Because of embargoes placed on the Hall’s board of 48 voters, they’re the last to go public ... and how ironic. They’re the ones who make the decisions and, in virtually every year, know the results before the inductees.
But this is not every year … though it is a virtual one … because of the COVID pandemic. It prevented the annual Hall-of-Fame meeting from happening in-person on Feb. 6 at Tampa, site of Super Bowl LV.
Instead, Tuesday’s session – which lasted an astonishing 8:47, considered a one-day record by senior voters – was done by Zoom. Hall-of-Fame president and CEO David Baker opened the meeting at 9:30 a.m., and it wasn’t concluded until 6:17 that afternoon.
It was a long day’s journey into night … and it was unique.
Votes were tabulated electronically. There was no lunch break. There was a coaching candidate (Tom Flores) for the first time. There was an individual (linebacker Clay Matthews) who was a first-time finalist … in his last year (20th) of eligibility as a modern-era candidate. There were computer glitches.
Then, of course, there was the class itself, and I wish I could say more. I can’t. Nor can any of the other 47 selectors. Because they simply don’t know. All I can tell you is that Peyton Manning’s presentation was the quickest (surprise), and wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s was the longest. In fact, here’s the breakdown of Tuesday’s debates:
Calvin Johnson … 39:17.
John Lynch … 37:06.
Tony Boselli … 31:51.
Bill Nunn, Jr. (contributor) … 30:38.
Drew Pearson (senior) … 28:31.
Peyton Manning … :12.
Ronde Barber … 8:11.
Jared Allen … 8:28.
Torry Holt … 11:09.
Richard Seymour … 12:24.
Now, before you ask, let's make something clear: The length of discussion is not related to a candidate’s chances for success. Manning had the shortest presentation and is certain to be elected. OK, so we do know one guy who made it. But after that?
Charles Woodson is likely. So is six-time finalist Alan Faneca. But we won’t know for certain until sometime in the future. In the meantime, here’s a glimpse into what happened … at least what we can talk about.
Per usual, the board voted on the coaching (Flores), senior (Drew Pearson) and contributor (Bill Nunn, Jr.) candidates first, then cut the 15 modern-era finalists to 10. At that point, selectors reduced the group to five ... but were never told who those five were.
They were, however, notified of the identities of the 10. Otherwise, they couldn’t make the final cut. But that’s where everything stopped. Voters have no idea how the results went from there, but stay tuned.
I don’t know how, when or where, but somehow the results will leak. In a social-media world you have to believe that one of those 10 who made the first cut … or maybe it’s one of the five who didn’t …will be known.
I’m not saying I don’t trust voters. I’m saying I don’t trust the process.
A smart man once said that secrets remain secrets only if one person knows. Well, more than one person does. And the history of this process is that the persons most directly involved – the Hall-of-Fame finalists themselves – break the news before voters can.
I don’t expect that to change, even though the procedures did.
The Hall entered unchartered territory Tuesday, conducting business as ... well, unusual ... and while the session lasted longer than anticipated the discussions were thorough, amicable and comprehensive. So Canton cleared one hurdle that appeared formidable.
But now it has another that is bigger and more daunting. The Hall must know it can’t keep a secret until Feb. 6. Yet it is determined to try. Logic says it won’t happen. The Hall thinks it can. It just doesn’t know how.
Neither do I. Good luck.