The Pro Football Hall Of Fame announced its list of 25 semifinalists for its 2021 class on Tuesday, a list which includes first-year eligibles Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and Charles Woodson, among others.
Defensive end Jared Allen also made the semifinal cutoff in his first year of eligibility thanks in large part to his 136 career sacks. Other names that stick out of the semifinalists roll call include: shutdown Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner Ronde Barber, thumping safety John Lynch (now the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers), Greatest Show on Turf standout wideout Torry Holt, longtime New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, tough-as-nails Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward, elite linebacker Patrick Willis, and one of Manning’s all-time favorite targets, wideout Reggie Wayne.
For Lynch, this will be his ninth time as a semifinalist, the most of any of the 25 who made the cut this year. The selection committee will trim the list down to 15 in the coming weeks and eventually cut it down to a max of five modern-era enshrinees for the 2021 class.
Other finalists for the 2021 class include the Hall coach’s committee choice, Tom Flores, the legendary Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders head coach who led the team to two Super Bowl wins in 1980 and 1983, becoming the first Hispanic or minority head coach to lead a team to victory in the big game. Flores is the only coach in NFL history to win multiple Super Bowls who’s not yet enshrined in the Hall despite eligibility.
Bill Nunn, a scout and personnel guy who was one of the leading architects of the Steelers’ glory years in the 1970s, is also a finalist as a contributor, and Drew Pearson, who won Super Bowl XII and caught 48 touchdowns with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s, is the seniors committee choice for enshrinement this year. If all three are chosen, the class of 2021 would grow to eight.
Manning is often discussed in the debate of the greatest quarterback of all-time. Now, with all that Tom Brady has done, Peyton may not be the greatest, but he very well may have been the most talented. The NOLA native threw for just under 41 miles and 539 touchdowns in his distinguished and decorated career.
Manning also won five MVP awards, two Super Bowls, and a Super Bowl MVP in 2007 for the Indianapolis Colts. And speaking of the team that drafted Peyton out of Tennessee 22 years ago, they are now poised to win the AFC South as -182 odds favorites (888sport) with one of Manning’s biggest rivals, Phillip Rivers, now calling the shots in The House That Peyton Built. Times are-a-changin’ huh.
Woodson was a thorn in the side of offensive coordinators for nearly two decades roaming the defensive secondary for the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. A nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLV champion with Green Bay, Woodson also finished his career ranked fifth all-time in interceptions, with 65.
Johnson, who is referred to commonly in the football world as ‘Megatron,’ is one of the great ‘what-could-have-been’ stories of the modern NFL. After nine unbelievable and record-breaking seasons with the Detroit Lions, Johnson abruptly retired in 2015 seemingly in his prime, citing a lack of team success as a big factor.
Johnson could have easily gone on to be viewed as the greatest wideout of all-time, but alas, he’ll have to settle for the greatest of his generation. On top of a bursting trophy case, Megatron also holds a bevy of NFL records, including single-season receiving yards (1,964, 2012).
Manning would seem to be a certainty, but Woodson and Johnson are pretty much shoo-ins in their first year of eligibility as well. So, the only real question is, who are the other two that will be chosen alongside them?