Over the 10 years I have been a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I annually survey hundreds of coaches, executives and former players about the 15 Modern Era finalists.
This year, 352 people answered my survey, including 21 Hall of Famers, 10 current NFL head coaches and 15 general managers. Here's a breakdown of the results for the Class of 2022. On Tuesday, 49 selectors will gather for the annual selection meeting.
Asterisk denotes first year of eligibility.
2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Finalists
|Eligible Player||Votes||Percent of Votes|
|*DeMarcus Ware||175||49.7 percent|
|Tony Boselli||173||49.1 percent|
|Reggie Wayne||151||42.9 percent|
|Zach Thomas||139||39.5 percent|
|*Devin Hester||136||38.6 percent|
|Richard Seymour||135||38.3 percent|
|Torry Holt||135||38.3 percent|
|*Andre Johnson||125||35.5 percent|
|Sam Mills||108||30.7 percent|
|Bryant Young||99||28.1 percent|
|Ronde Barber||88||25.0 percent|
|Jared Allen||79||22.4 percent|
|Patrick Willis||76||21.6 percent|
|Willie Anderson||64||18.2 percent|
|Leroy Butler||56||15.9 percent|
I'm completely confused about what's going to happen.
I'm also more prepared than I have ever been during the decade I have had the honor and duty to be a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On Tuesday, the 49 selectors gather to debate the 15 Modern Era finalists. Additionally, the group will consider two contributor candidates (Dick Vermeil and Art McNally) and one senior candidate (Cliff Branch).
The results will be announced on Thursday, February 10, on NFL Network, three days before Super Bowl LVI.
Unlike most of the recent years, there aren't any clear-cut, no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Fame players on this ballot. In the previous nine years, there has been at least one first-ballot selection. There have been four years in which there were at least three first-ballot picks, including Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson last year.
As part of my preparation, not only do I read up as much as possible about the candidates (all of which I saw play), but I seek the opinions of people I consider experts. I do that by texting or emailing hundreds of coaches, ex-coach, executives, ex-executives and former players. This year, I received 352 responses, including 21 from Hall of Famers, 10 from current head coaches and 15 from current general managers.
The question I ask is simple: Of the 15 people on the list, name up to five. Some people go with fewer because their standards are higher for what qualifies as a Hall of Famer. I set no ground rules. At the same time, I know this is not completely scientific. As former Hall of Fame selector Len Pasquarelli once put it to me, being selected is more like a "smell test."
That's true, but it's always wise to test your own theories. That's especially true this year in what should be a wide-open race. For the first time in my 10 years of doing this, no player has received more than 50 percent support. Of all the first-ballot Hall of Famers I have voted on the past nine years, none of them got less than 60 percent support on this survey. Most of them were well over 75 percent.
So, while I wouldn't be surprised if the top vote-getter on the survey this year (DeMarcus Ware at 49.7 percent) gets in, I also wouldn't be surprised if Ware doesn't get in and safety LeRoy Butler (No. 15 at 15.9 percent) does get in.
With that, here's a breakdown of the candidates and my findings:
2022 NFL Hall of Fame Class: Who Will Make It?
- DeMarcus Ware: Ware was a dominant edge rusher (138.5 sacks) and at 6-foot-4, 258 pounds, he looked like what you expect a Hall of Famer to look like. Bill Parcells drafted him to be the next Lawrence Taylor and Ware lived up to most of that promise.
- Tony Boselli: The selection committee had to wade through Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Steve Hutchinson and Alan Faneca over the past three years, the other three all getting in. Boselli's short career hurt him, but for a five-year period, he was the best left tackle in the NFL during the best era of left tackles the league has ever seen.
- Reggie Wayne: Wayne, Torry Holt and Andre Johnson are part of a long list of quality wide receiver waiting to get in the Hall. Guys like Steve Smith, Anquan Boldin and Hines Ward are still in the queue.
- Zach Thomas: Thomas is the opposite of Ware in that he doesn't look like a Hall of Famer. At 5-foot-10 and with short arms, Thomas was an unlikely star. But he might be the smartest defensive player in the history of the league. He has incredible respect from some of the biggest names in the game, including Peyton Manning.
- Devin Hester: Hester finishing this high on the survey shocked me. Yes, he's the greatest returner in the history of the game and 19 return touchdowns is simply ridiculous. But as hard as the Bears tried, Hester could never learn to be a receiver and that makes me pause about picking him over the likes of Wayne, Holt, Johnson or other full-time players like Richard Seymour and Jared Allen.
- Richard Seymour: This is why the system a team plays and its success matter. No player on this list sacrificed more to win than Seymour. In other systems, Seymour would have been allowed to rush the passer at will and build up his stats. In New England, Seymour played within the confines of what was asked and won three Super Bowl rings.
- Torry Holt: He was the deep threat on the Greatest Show on Turf and his numbers all line up with the other four Hall of Famers he played with on those St. Louis teams (Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Orlando Pace).
- Andre Johnson: He is probably a better pure receiving talent than either Wayne or Holt. At the same time, this is where winning a title or not can make the smallest of difference about when a player goes in the Hall. Johnson is in his first year on the ballot. Wayne and Holt have been waiting.
- Sam Mills: Like Zach Thomas, the 5-foot-9 Mills didn't look like a football player. But man did he hit people and he was the brains behind the famed Dome Patrol defense in New Orleans.
- Bryant Young: Plenty of people will tell you that Young was every bit as good as Warren Sapp, he just wasn't an obnoxious trash talker like Sapp. The quiet, dignified Young overcame what probably should have been a career-ending injury to return to the game. Like everybody on the list, he's deserving.
- Ronde Barber: He has stats, longevity, a title, a place in one of the transcendent defenses of the past 25 years, and he's as classy as it gets. He will one day become the fourth member of the Tampa 2 to get in, alongside Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch. Will that one day be this year?
- Jared Allen: This is where perception can be changed by the team you play for. Allen spent his career with some mediocre Kansas City and Minnesota teams. His career stats (136) and yearly performances measure up right next to Ware. But Ware played for America's Team and finished his career with a Super Bowl win in Denver. Those facts make for an 11-position difference in the survey.
- Patrick Willis: Willis is the next in line of the Boselli/Terrell Davis types who had careers tragically shortened by injury. He was first-team All-Pro five times and an eight-time Pro Bowlers in his nine seasons and he was a monster hitter. He also delivered the exquisite line, "Come on Todd, flap them chicken wings."
- Willie Anderson: He might be the greatest right tackle in the history of the game, which is akin to trying to make the Hall as a safety. Someday it may happen.
- LeRoy Butler: He's not Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, but he was every bit as good as Brian Dawkins and John Lynch. All of those guys are in, but Dawkins and Lynch had to wait. Butler and other safeties like Darren Woodson and Rodney Harrison deserve to be discussed after the value of the position increased the past 25 years.
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