If there is any justice in the world for long-suffering Kansas City Chiefs fans, the same football gods that ripped their hearts out last week in the 45-44 playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts will help get one of the greatest Chiefs of all time, guard Will Shields, into the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class after the NFL announced Shields is one of the 15 finalists to be considered on Thursday.
Of course, the justice would be served if Shields makes it in over former Colts (and first-time nominees), wide receiver Marvin Harrison and head coach Tony Dungy. And yes … your Chiefs Examiner is fully aware of the fact that Dungy spent three wonderful years (89-91) as the defensive backs coach in Kansas City under head coach Marty Schottenheimer and defensive coordinator Bill Cowher, but the sting of the playoff loss to the Colts trumps any KC connection for this year.
This is Shields’ third year to make the final 15, and along with Dungy and Harrison, he is joined by eight of last year’s 10 finalists who did not make the cut: wide receivers Andre Reed and Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, defensive ends Michael Strahan and Charles Haley, linebacker Kevin Greene and cornerback Aeneas Williams, along with owner Ed DeBartolo Jr.
Joining Dungy and Harrison as first-timers are linebacker Derrick Brooks and tackle Walter Jones. Kicker Morten Andersen (another former Chief!!) and safety John Lynch round out the final 15.
Voting takes place February 1 and no more than five of the 15 modern-day finalists can be elected into an enshrinement class. So who are the best bets to make the 2014 class?
If Brooks doesn’t make the Hall, then they probably shouldn’t have one. He helped changed the way the game was played as the lynchpin of Dungy’s Tampa-2 defense. An 11-time Pro Bowler, Brooks is also a member of the All-Decade Team for the 2000s and is widely regarded as one of the greatest outside linebackers to ever play the game.
Strahan was a dominant personality for the dominant team in New York – and oh, by the way, was a dominant pass rusher for a championship team. He owns the single-season sack record of 22.5, despite the fact that many people feel it is jaded because of Brett Favre’s “dive” in that season’s last game that gave his buddy Strahan the record. Strahan is a virtual lock to go in this year after he was probably “punished” for that dive by not making the Hall last year in his first year of eligibility.
The fact that Strahan’s face beams out on national TV every football Sunday on FOX’s NFL show, plus daily on his popular morning talk show with Kelly Ripa, makes it a certainty he’ll get in this year. Your Chiefs Examiner is hopeful because for three years he has owned an autographed football from the FOX show that has Strahan’s signature along with current Hall-of-Famers Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long, who host the show with Strahan. Cha-ching!
Jerome Bettis could finally hear his name called for the Hall this year. One of the most popular players in the league when he played, the only people that hated “the Bus” were fans of his division foes (that hate EVERYTHING in Pittsburgh) and linebackers that had to tackle him every week. Bettis was the 1993 Offensive Player of the Year and 1996 Comeback Player of the Year. He topped 1,000 yards eight different times during his 13-year career, which spanned three seasons in St. Louis and 10 in Pittsburgh. Bettis also sits 10th on the career rushing TDs totem pole, with 91.
Tim Brown will probably make the Hall because now that Harrison is eligible there is a logjam at wide receiver with Andre Reed thrown in the mix as well. Statistically, there are few receivers better than Brown, but he has done himself no favors in the “wide receiver whining” department about not getting into the Hall earlier. HOF watchers marvel at how wide receivers almost single-handedly whine the most every year about getting disrespected by voters. The voters finally silenced Cris Carter by voting him in last year and this could be the year they shut Brown up.
And finally, the Chiefs fan in me says that Shields will make the Hall. Shields took over as the Chiefs’ starting right guard in Week 2 of the 1993 and never left that spot until he retired after the 2006 season — a span of 223 consecutive starts. Shields was one of the most dominant interior linemen the NFL ever saw, as evidenced by 12 straight Pro Bowl appearances from 1995-06. Now that Larry Allen has his bust at the Hall, Shields should get his turn.
Besides, the football gods owe us one ….
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