Setting odds on Eagles' 2018 nominees for the Hall of Fame

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Setting odds on Eagles' 2018 nominees for the Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of 108 nominees for induction in 2018, and the list has a very Eagles flare.
 
Fifteen players and one coach who spent at least one season with the Eagles are up for enshrinement this year, although some naturally have better odds than others. There are a handful that many feel should be a lock to have their bust immortalized in Canton, Ohio, and there is at least one player who is literally on the list by mistake. Otherwise, it's usually an honor just to be nominated.
 
The process certainly could be exciting for Eagles fans, as two former club members have an excellent shot to get in, and two or three more might be knocking on the door. We handicapped the group and took a closer look at each candidate's specific situation.
 
Brian Dawkins: 3/2
 
If Dawkins doesn't make it this year, he may have to wait awhile. There's about to be a logjam at safety. Ed Reed becomes eligible in 2019, Troy Polamalu in 2020, and for whatever reason, those two guys are higher-profile players. That certainly isn't reflected in the numbers. Dawkins is the only player in NFL history to record at least 25 interceptions (37), forced fumbles (36) and sacks (26), and leads both players in every major statistical category except interceptions, where Reed has the edge (64). What's more, Dawkins did it first. Voters will recognize the situation, which should result in a strong push -- and Dawkins slipping in the door before his peers.
 
Terrell Owens: 5/2
 
As much as Owens probably deserves to be in the Hall, he has only himself to blame for this plight. At first glance, the path doesn't appear to get any clearer in 2018 now that Randy Moss is eligible. Then again, Moss was no saint, either, and Owens has his fellow wide receiver beat in receptions (1,078 to 982), yards (15,934 to 15,292) and is only beaten only narrowly in touchdown catches (156 to 153). Plus, this is not the most loaded class we've seen, with Ray Lewis seemingly the only mortal lock to get in. Production should win out over politics, although Owens continues to hurt his own cause, so it wouldn't be a complete shock if the voters pass once again.
 
Donovan McNabb: 8/1
 
We've officially entered McNabb's very small window for the Hall. There are only five quarterbacks among the nominees, and McNabb's 37,276 yards and 234 touchdowns through the air has the other four beat by a mile. Those numbers are only good for 22nd and 29th all-time, respectively, and will continue falling down the list, but it just seems like a signal caller gets in every year. McNabb has an additional 3,459 yards and 29 touchdowns rushing, not to mention seven trips to the playoffs in a 10-year span. It's now or never, though. If McNabb doesn't get in this year or next, he'll likely wind up forever lost in the mix of more prolific passers.
 
Dick Vermeil: 10/1
 
Vermeil's resume doesn't scream Hall of Fame. He has the one Super Bowl championship with the Rams, and another appearance in the big game with the Eagles. That being said, Vermeil only has a 120-109 record with three division championships and eight trips to the playoffs in his 15-year NFL coaching career. He has the fame part going for him, being at the helm for two of the league's most famous underdog stories -- Vince Papale and Kurt Warner -- and is a renowned nice guy who has always stayed around the game. Vermeil absolutely could sneak in on reputation in a thin class.
 
Brian Mitchell: 12/1
 
If this were any other year in any other period in history, a return specialist might not be in the conversation. Yet, the voters have been making it a point to include some specialists in the Hall, electing punter Ray Guy and kicker Morten Anderson in recent years. The depth of this class is also creating opportunities for some fringe candidates. For what it's worth, many feel Mitchell is deserving on merit. He's second all-time in all-purpose yards with 23,330 -- only 246 back of Jerry Rice, so it's not at all difficult to envision somebody championing Mitchell's cause, especially at this point in time.
 
Randall Cunningham: 20/1
 
If you want to talk about a player who revolutionized a position, paving the way for guys like McNabb, like Michael Vick, like Cam Newton today, Cunningham is the guy. Cunningham was the first weaponized mobile quarterback of the modern era, which that alone qualifies him for the discussion based on fame. His numbers weren't bad either, with 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns through the air, and 4,928 yards and 35 touchdowns on the ground. But if Cunningham made it this long without ever garnering serious consideration, don't expect a sudden groundswell of support to emerge.
 
Seth Joyner: 25/1
 
Some would say it's criminal that Seth Joyner isn't in already. Joyner was one interception away from becoming the first player ever to record at least 25 picks (24), forced fumbles (26) and sacks (52.0), long before Dawkins accomplished the feat. He also picked up his Super Bowl ring in his final season with Denver, something Dawkins, Owens and McNabb all lack on this list. Yet, Joyner never really racked up the individual accolades, earning an invitation to just three Pro Bowls over 13 seasons. The weak class of '18 gives an otherwise overlooked great a remote chance, but it's just that -- remote.
 
Eric Allen: 40/1
 
Allen is in a similar boat with Joyner. When you see cornerbacks like Aeneas Williams get in a few years back, you wonder why Allen's name never comes up. Nothing against Williams, but Allen had one less interception (54) in the same span of 14 NFL seasons. Regardless, his time appears to have come and gone without any meaningful consideration. It's a shame, but Allen is a serious long shot.
 
Greg Townsend: 50/1
 
Ricky Watters: 50/1
 
Mark Bavaro: 75/1
 
Keith Millard: 75/1
 
Herschel Walker: 75/1
 
Gary Anderson: 250/1
 
Sean Landeta: 250/1
 
Steve Smith: 1,000,000/1

 
Whoops! There were once two NFL wide receivers named Steve Smith. The good one, Steve Smith Sr. of Panthers and Ravens fame, finished his career with 14,731 yards and 81 touchdowns -- but is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. The other Steve Smith wound up with 2,641 yards and 12 touchdowns, his career shortened by injury. Yet, that is the Steve Smith who's eligible for the Hall and was mistakenly voted one of the 108 nominees in for enshrinement in 2018. We have to assume the voters will sort this out, and bad Steve Smith will not be inducted by accident. Smith spent one season with the Eagles in 2011, recording 124 yards and a touchdown.

LaDainian Tomlinson steals show at Pro Football HOF induction

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LaDainian Tomlinson steals show at Pro Football HOF induction

CANTON, Ohio -- As he so often did on the field, LaDainian Tomlinson stole the show.

With a powerful speech calling for "Team America" to be a place for inclusion and opportunity, the great running back of the San Diego Chargers was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

The 2017 roster of entrants into the shrine was deeply impressive: fellow running back Terrell Davis ; quarterback Kurt Warner; defensive end Jason Taylor ; safety Kenny Easley ; placekicker Morten Andersen ; and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones .

All spoke eloquently, with bursts of humor and heartwarming stories. But Tomlinson's words resonated so strongly that he drew several standing ovations not only from the crowd of 13,400, but from his now-fellow Gold Jackets.

"Football is a microcosm of America," Tomlinson said. "All races, religions and creeds, living, playing, competing side by side. When you're part of a team, you understand your teammates -- their strengths and weaknesses -- and work together toward the same goal, to win a championship.

"Let's not choose to be against one another. Let's choose to be for one another. ... I pray we dedicate ourselves to being the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind. Leading the way for all nations to follow."

Tomlinson and Taylor were elected in their first year of eligibility. Taylor's emotional speech during which he had to pause several times to compose himself was another highlight.

A third-round draft pick from Akron -- just down the road from the Hall of Fame -- Taylor's 139 1/2 career sacks helped him make the All-Decade Team of the 2000s. He also was the NFL's Man of the Year in 2007.

"I honestly can't believe I am here," said Taylor, who kissed the shaved head atop his bust when it was unveiled. "In 1992 I was at the University of Akron, just 20 miles away. It took 20 years to travel 20 miles to put on this jacket. It was worth every step."

The longest wait, 24 years, was by Easley, chosen for enshrinement by the seniors committee. The hard-hitting safety for the Seahawks and a member of the 1980s All-Decade Team played only seven seasons and 89 games. But what an impact he made as an intimidator and ballhawk.

The 1981 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Easley was the league's top overall defender in 1984 when he had a league-leading 10 interceptions, a career high.

"I thank you for welcoming me into your exclusive club," he said.

Andersen, the league's career scoring leader, joined Jan Stenerud as the only placekickers in Canton.

A native of Denmark who knew nothing of American football when he came to this country as a teenager, Andersen played an incredible 25 pro seasons, a league record. A member of the NFL's 1980s and `90s All-Decade Teams, he played 382 total games, scored 2,544 points (565 field goals, 849 extra points) and is the all-time scoring leader for both New Orleans and Atlanta.

"Good evening, Canton, Ohio," he began. "Good morning Denmark.

"My story isn't only about my love for my country of Denmark and its people, but also my deep appreciation and respect for what I discovered here in the United States of America."

It took Warner years to get discovered by the NFL. By way of the Arena Football League, NFL Europe -- and stocking shelves at a grocery store in between football jobs -- Warner stepped in when Trent Green tore up his knee in a 1999 preseason game.

He went on to win two NFL MVP awards and one league title, reinvigorating moribund Rams and then Cardinals franchises along the way.

"People say Hollywood couldn't have written it any better," Warner noted. "After this, they don't have a chance."

Davis had a similar story. A sixth-round draft pick after a nondescript career at Long Beach State and Georgia, his mercurial NFL stay (seven years, five of them spectacular) had been something of a hindrance for entry into the hall. But he was the catalyst for the NFL titles Denver won in 1997 and `98 with another Hall of Famer, John Elway, at quarterback.

The 1996 and `98 Offensive Player of the Year, 1997 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player and `98 NFL MVP, Davis' meteoric stint came to an ugly end with a devastating knee injury in 1999. That in great part kept him out of the hall for more than a decade.

Now, he is in, having overcome migraines that plagued him since he was a teenager -- and overcome the questions over the longevity of his NFL stint.

"The overwhelming feeling running through my body is gratitude," he said.

The current Cowboys showed their gratitude to Jones by sticking around the area after winning the Hall of Fame game on Thursday night. They were in the stadium for his induction, which Jones earned not only for winning three Super Bowls within six years of buying the team, but for being a power broker within the NFL.

Jones has been a key figure as the league grew to a multi-billion dollar business, having a hand in many important decisions, from TV contracts to sponsorships to labor issues.

"As someone who owned a team, I was always thinking how we could go to the next level," Jones said.

That next level for "America's Team" is a value of $4.2 billion, the most for any sports franchise.

"Buying the Dallas Cowboys frankly was that kind of risk, even exaggerated in my mind," Jones said of the 1989 purchase. "But I knew it was now or never. Football kicked in."

Terrell Owens' Hall of Fame snub unfair backlash for attitude during career

Terrell Owens' Hall of Fame snub unfair backlash for attitude during career

I never liked T.O. very much, and he didn’t like me. No big deal. It happens all the time when you cover a team. Some guys you click with, some guys you don’t.

In 2014, nine years after he last played for the Eagles, T.O. came after me on Twitter after someone asked me who I thought was the greatest wide receiver in Eagles history, and I answered Mike Quick. Owens didn’t like that.

Time heals all wounds, and in 2015 T.O. did a guest appearance with me and Derrick Gunn on Quick Slants. We had a blast. We cracked jokes on each other, we laughed throughout the whole show, and when it was over I gladly accepted his offer to help publicize his charity whenever he had an event in Philly.

A few days later, he blocked me on Twitter.

I don’t know why. I haven’t talked to him since. It doesn’t even matter. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s one of the greatest receivers in NFL history, and there’s absolutely no question he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and anybody who didn’t vote for him – which apparently is an awful lot of the voters – had to do it solely for personal reasons.

This is the problem with writers voting for the Hall of Fame. It’s their way of getting back at guys who didn’t give them interviews or weren’t good with the media. Guys they didn’t like.

And that’s a travesty.

How else do you explain Terrell Owens, second in NFL history only to Jerry Rice in receiving yards and third in touchdowns, being snubbed a second straight year by the Hall of Fame voters?

You just can’t argue with the numbers. So there has to be another reason.

And that reason is personal and has nothing to do with football.

Last I checked, it’s not the Hall of Good Guys. But it seems like a lot of the guys that get in these days are media types themselves, national TV analysts, color commentators. Guys who were always around for interviews during their career and were considered cooperative with the media when they played.

Heck, half of the six inductees this year work for NFL Network.

Owens is a different kind of guy and took a different kind of path. I remember trying to interview him in an almost empty locker room after he had a massive game against the Chiefs in Kansas City early in 2005.

He had 11 catches for 171 yards that day in a win that pushed the Eagles to 3-1 a year after their Super Bowl appearance.

Things were about to fall apart, but we didn’t quite know that yet.

T.O. sat there at his locker listening to music through his earbuds, his eyes closed, simply shaking his head no when I asked if he had a couple minutes to talk about the win and his performance.

Finally, without removing his earbuds, he nodded over at Greg Lewis a few lockers away and said: “G-Lew will answer any questions you have.” Then he walked away.

Multiply that sort of experience with all the football writers in the country and all the Hall of Fame voters and you see why T.O. keeps getting denied.

But what really mattered that day was the 11 catches for 171 yards, not the fact that he was surly and uncooperative.

And that’s a metaphor for his entire career.

When he was on the field, he produced. He wouldn’t always talk about it, but inside that 100-by-53-yard field, he flat-out produced.

For 15 years.

Like almost no one else.

Nine 1,000-yard seasons. Five 1,200-yard seasons. Two more over 900 yards. Led the league in TD catches three times. Averaged 10-and-a-half TDs per year over a decade and a half.  

Five-time all-pro.

Do you know how many wide receivers have been first-team all-pro five times in modern NFL history?

Five.

There is simply no argument that T.O. doesn’t belong in Canton other than the fact that he came across much of his career as a jerk.

But that didn’t stop the Hall of Fame voters in the past.

They didn’t hesitate to induct Lawrence Taylor on the first ballot, and his list of off-the-field issues was WAYYYYY longer and way worse than T.O.’s.

Taylor was suspended twice during his career for testing positive. He was arrested twice on drug-related charges. He admitted on 60 Minutes that he sent hookers to opposing players’ hotel rooms to distract them the night before a game. He admitted submitting the urine of teammates to avoid testing positive. He once arrived at a team meeting wearing handcuffs.

All this before he was voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Now, L.T. was an incredible talent, one of the greatest defensive players in history. But he was also great with the writers. Always had a funny quote and time for an interview.

You can certainly make a case that T.O. is one of the greatest offensive players in history. He has more receiving yards than 24 of the 25 wide receivers already enshrined in the Hall.

In fact, only 11 of the wide receivers already in the Hall are within 5,000 yards of T.O.

And last I checked, he’s never been arrested. And the worst thing he did was have a knack for not getting along with quarterbacks.

We saw both sides of T.O. up close in 2004 and 2005. Brilliant enough to help carry the team to a Super Bowl – and catch 9 passes for 122 yards on a broken leg in the game – but also disruptive enough to get kicked off the roster a year later.

I’m not saying he was a choirboy. He wasn’t. But you just can’t debate 1,078 catches, 15,934 yards and 153 touchdowns.

One other human being in the history of Earth has ever done that, and that’s Jerry Rice.

Now, I don’t worry about Dawk, because Dawk is going to get into the Hall in the next couple years. And as much as I love Dawk, I don’t think his omission at this point is as glaring and as egregious as T.O.’s.

With T.O., it’s simply the panel of voters saying, “We don’t like you, and we’re going to get back at you now the only way we can.”

And that’s not what the Pro Football Hall of Fame should be about.