We need to talk about the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists, and who should be getting in.
This class is stacked.
First and foremost, Darelle Revis needs to be the first one in. He had his own damn island. Not only was he probably the best cornerback of his era, he’s one of the best corners of all time. He’s definitely a first-ballot guy.
And I feel the same way about Dwight Freeney. There was nobody I played against that caused more trouble for offenses. Two blockers? Three? Never made a difference. Dwight Freeney was an unstoppable game wrecker with that dumbass spin move.
Joe Thomas should be in on the first ballot, but I think it’s fair to objectively admit that there are levels to being a Hall of Fame player, and I’m not sure I put Thomas on the same level as a Walter Jones or an Orlando Pace. But timing matters, and Joe Thomas was probably the best offensive tackle of his era.
I’m also including Zach Thomas, and you’ll never convince me that as a linebacker, even though he was four inches shorter, Thomas had a career any less praiseworthy than Brain Urlacher. And Urlacher got in on the first ballot.
My fifth inductee is Ronde Barber. 47 interceptions. Didn’t miss a game for his final 13 seasons. Scored 10 times on defense, and that’s just in the regular season. If you don’t remember his touchdown in the 2002 NFC championship game, stop this video and go look it up. Donovan McNabb probably still has nightmares about this man. He’s also the best pass-rushing corner the NFL has seen outside of Charles Woodson.
Before I give you my sixth person I’d include in this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class, let me talk about some of the players I think are on the cusp of getting in.
Devin Hester is an interesting one. He’s one of, if not the best returner of all time, but the NFL Hall of Fame has a long precedent of ignoring specialists altogether. Ray Guy is the Hall’s only punter, and it took 28 years after he retired, after he’s already been forced to sell off his Super Bowl rings due to financial difficulties, to get him in. I’m hoping the Hall doesn’t treat Hester the same way, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Patrick Willis feels a lot like Gale Sayers, Jim Brown, Terrell Davis and Calvin Johnson. Yes, they had short careers, but they were undeniably great. Willis was arguably the best defensive player in the NFL for a seven year stretch. And like I said, there’s levels to the Hall of Fame- outside of a very select few, players are included for what they accomplished in their prime stretch, and Willis’ career just happened to be all prime stretch.
Jared Allen and Demarcus Ware are part of the 100 sack club, I have no doubt they’ll get in eventually.
And this year’s crop of receivers are all probably stealing votes from each other. Andre Johnson deserves it, but the idea of him getting in before Torry Holt doesn’t make sense to me.
Now for my sixth inductee. One that isn’t even on this list, but everyone that ever had to play against him knows he damn well should be.
I’m talking about my old teammate Fred Taylor.
Of the 16 running backs in NFL history that had more rushing yards than Fred, 14 are in the Hall of Fame. The other two, Adrian Peterson and Frank Gore, aren’t eligible to even be nominated yet.
And of those 14 Hall of Fame running backs, only Barry Sanders and Jim Brown averaged more yards per carry than Fred.
If Fred Taylor played in a different market, he’d have been in already. I’d say make it make sense, but you can’t.
So to recap, if it were up to me, your 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class would be Darrelle Revis, Dwight Freeney, Joe Thomas, Zack Thomas, and Ronde Barber.
And if the world made any sense, you’d have Fred Taylor in there too.
Let that sink in.