Feb 1, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker announces the class of 2020 inductees during the NFL Honors awards presentation at Adrienne Arsht Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football HOF president David Baker retiring

Pro Football Hall of Fame president and executive director David Baker announced his retirement on Saturday.

Baker, 68, is stepping down effective immediately to return to his home, family and business projects in California and Nevada.

“I have come to the conclusion that it is time for someone else to have the ‘best job in the world’ so I can still do a few more exciting things in my professional life while also returning home to our four children, 10 grandchildren and soon-to-be great grandson in Orange County, California, who I’ve missed so much during my tenure at ‘The Most Inspiring Place on Earth,’” Baker said in a news release.

Baker has turned over the day-to-day operations but will continue to represent the Hall of Fame at ceremonies at NFL stadiums across the country honoring the members of the Centennial Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell praised Baker, who took over in January 2014, for expanding “the Hall’s brand nationally and footprint locally in Canton, Ohio.”

“His mission to honor and support the heroes of the game will be one of his most lasting and important legacies,” Goodell said. “We are grateful for David’s many contributions and extend our utmost thanks and best wishes to Colleen and him.”

Jim Porter, 57, has been named as the new president. He previously served as the Hall of Fame’s chief marketing and communications officer.

–Field Level Media

The bust display in the HOF museum before the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremony Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021 at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.

Hof Calvin

Art McNally named Contributor Finalist for Hall of Fame 2022 class

Art McNally, often referred to as “The Father of Modern Officiating,” was selected as the Contributor Finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 on Tuesday.

The 96-year-old McNally would be the first official honored in the Hall of Fame if he were to be inducted next year.

McNally became an official in 1959, served as referee from 1960-67 and was supervisor of officials from 1968-1991. He oversaw the implementation of instant replay in 1986.

“Officiating is critical every day for those who work in the game, and the most important part of officiating is integrity,” said Hall of Famer Bill Polian, one of nine members of the Contributor Committee that selected McNally over 10 others.

“Art McNally first and foremost is a man of utmost integrity. … He set up a system of scouting, training and evaluating officials that is the gold standard for every officiating group in every other sport.”

After his initial retirement, McNally stayed involved and returned to the NFL as assistant supervisor of officials from 1995-2007. He worked as an observer through the 2015 season.

In 2002, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue created the Art McNally Award, which honors a game official each season who exhibits “exemplary professionalism, leadership and commitment to sportsmanship” on and off the field.

To be elected to the Hall of Fame, McNally must each receive 80 percent of the vote by the full 49-member Selection Committee when it meets in early 2022.

Last week, former wide receiver Cliff Branch was selected the Senior Finalist and Dick Vermeil was tabbed the Coach Finalist.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; American former football player Demarcus Ware during the second quarter of the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

DeMarcus Ware favored to lead 2022 Hall of Fame class

With the Hall of Fame fresh off enshrining two years of classes last weekend, the attention can turn to the candidates for the Class of 2022.

Former Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos pass rusher DeMarcus Ware has the shortest odds at -150 by SportsBetting.ag. Ware played 12 NFL seasons, finishing with 138.5 sacks and being selected to nine Pro Bowls.

The next-shortest odds belong to former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt at -110. Holt finished his career with 920 catches for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns. He holds the NFL records for most consecutive seasons with at least 1,300 receiving yards (six) and consecutive seasons with at least 90 receptions (six).

Former wide receiver and standout return specialist Devin Hester is next on the list at +100, followed by former Jacksonville Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli (+120).

Hester played 11 seasons, spending time with Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore and Seattle. He remains the only player to return the opening kick of the Super Bowl for a touchdown and holds the NFL record for most all-time combined punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Boselli played in 91 games over seven seasons for the Jaguars. He was selected by Houston with the first pick in the 2002 expansion draft but retired due to a shoulder injury before ever playing a down for the Texans.

2022 Hall of Fame Odds (www.SportsBetting.ag)
DeMarcus Ware (-150)
Torry Holt (-110)
Devin Hester (+100)
Tony Boselli (+120)
Richard Seymour (+175)
Reggie Wayne (+250)
Robert Mathis (+250)
Zach Thomas (+275)
Jared Allen (+300)
LeRoy Butler (+300)
Andre Johnson (+350)
Ronde Barber (+600)
Steve Smith (+900)
Asante Samuel (+1200)
Anquan Boldin (+1600)
Vince Wilfork (+1600)
Darren Woodson (+2500)
Steve Tasker (+2500)

–Field Level Media

Feb 1, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Johnson speaks to the media during the NFL Honors awards presentation at Adrienne Arsht Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Jones: Jimmy Johnson ‘will be in the Ring of Honor’

Former Dallas Cowboys head coach and current FOX analyst Jimmy Johnson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February of 2020, and on the eve of his induction, his former boss, Jerry Jones, let slip on live television that Johnson “will be in the (Dallas Cowboys) Ring of Honor.”

As a member of the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, Johnson would join such notable franchise standouts as Don Meredith, Roger Staubach, Tom Landry, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and several others.

Such a move would be newsworthy for long-time observers aware of the many twists and turns of the Jones-Johnson relationship over the years.

After Johnson led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl championships in 1992 and 1993, the two agreed to part ways in 1993 amid many reports of their relationship having devolved significantly.

Since that time, the two haven’t failed to take shots at one another in public, including a notable tiff in 2014 in which Jones called Johnson “disloyal.” But they’ve seemingly reconciled in recent years, as Johnson was in attendance for Jones’ Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2017.

Jones teamed with Aikman, who quarterbacked Johnson’s Super Bowl-winning teams, to deliver the news. And Johnson, ever the jokester, couldn’t resist a quick comeback.

“While I’m alive?” Johnson asked.

–Field Level Media

Feb 1, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Hall of Fame inductee Troy Polamalu speaks to the media druing NFL Honors awards presentation at Adrienne Arsht Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Polamalu may miss HOF ceremony with COVID-19

Former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in February 2020, and he’ll be enshrined in the Hall one way or the other in about a week. He just may not be able to be there for the ceremony, after announcing Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19.

“Thank God I feel great and family are well,” Polamalu announced on social media. “I’m working with the HOF to ensure we abide by all protocols to make it to Canton in time for all the festivities.”

The Hall also commented on the situation, expressing disappointment for Polamalu. The Hall said it is working with health officials to determine whether he could be cleared to travel to Canton.

The enshrinement ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 7.

Polamalu, a four-time first-team All-Pro and 2010 AP Defensive Player of the Year, totaled 32 interceptions and 783 tackles in a 12-year career. He retired following the 2014 season and was elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

–Field Level Media

Aug 4, 2018; Canton, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers former receiver Lynn Swann arrives during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Bensen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Pearson’s wait a cautionary tale for WRs in 2022

From the time Drew Pearson caught his last pass for the Dallas Cowboys in December 1983 to when he finally learned he would be immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, more than 37 years of futility had passed.

For nearly four decades, he’d watched 21 of his fellow 22 AP first-team all-decade offensive and defensive selections for the 1970s receive their shiny busts in Canton.

Meantime, Pearson had never even been a finalist, which would have enabled the Hall of Fame’s selection committee to discuss if he was worthy of joining the all-time greats. He also saw almost every receiver who was named to a first-team all-decade team from 1930 to 2010 — a span of 80 years — get into an exclusive club while he was left out.

Pearson watched as 10 fellow receivers who caught passes in the 1970s get enshrined — Lance Alworth, Fred Biletnikoff, Harold Carmichael, Steve Largent, James Lofton, Don Maynard, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Charley Taylor and Paul Warfield — yet he never received the call to the Hall until Saturday night.

“Now, you are giving me the chance of immortality and the legacy of that is amazing,” Pearson said upon receiving the good news from Hall of Fame President David Baker.

While Pearson reached his ultimate destination, his journey to Canton should be a cautionary tale for next year’s first-time eligible players. It’s a group that will include receivers Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson and Steve Smith, who will likely be joined by several receivers who return from previous ballots such as Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne and Hines Ward.

Pearson was named first-team AP All-Pro three times, was a three-time Pro Bowler and won a Super Bowl. He was also named by the Hall of Fame committee as the best receiver for the 1970s along with Swann, who was named first-team All-Pro just once and made the same number of Pro Bowls. Swann, who won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was enshrined in 2001.

Carmichael and Warfield, the second-team all-decade receivers for the 1970s, got enshrined in 2020 and 1983, respectively.

So how does what happened to Pearson impact current and future receivers on the ballot?

Well, it’s complicated, very, very complicated.

First, you have to ask: What makes a Hall of Fame receiver? Is it catches? Is it yards or touchdowns? Is it Pro Bowl, All-Pro or All-Decade selections? Is it Super Bowl titles? Or a combination of all of them?

The answer is perhaps all of them — or none of them.

“The game has changed,” said Rick Gosselin, who has been on the Hall of Fame voting committee for the past 25 years and prepared Pearson’s case for enshrinement to present to the committee. “It has changed tremendously.

“Back in the 1970s, if a receiver caught 50 passes and had 1,000 yards, you made the Pro Bowl. Now, you need 100 catches and 1,500 yards to be a Pro Bowl receiver — that’s how much the game has changed. In those terms, the receiving numbers in today’s game are artificial.”

Today’s NFL is a pass-happy league. Receivers are bigger, faster and stronger and defensive backs are no longer able to play as physical as they did decades ago. The terms “defense-less receiver” and “concussion protocol” weren’t even used when Pearson played. That’s when receivers could be man-handled by defensive backs, who were free to launch helmet-first at them like 200-pound missiles.

Collectively, Pearson’s three Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pros and first-team all-decade team are unmatched by any first-time eligible receiver next year, or any receiver expected to return to the ballot in 2022.

Of the receivers on the ballot for the first time in 2022, Andre Johnson made seven Pro Bowls but made just two All-Pro teams, while Smith made five Pro Bowls and is a two-time first-team All-Pro. Boldin made three Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl, but he never was a first-team All-Pro.

Of the two receivers who were Modern-Era finalists this year and are expected to return to the ballot next year, Holt made seven Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team and won a Super Bowl, while Wayne was a six-time Pro Bowler, made one All-Pro first team and won one Super Bowl.

Ward, who was a Modern-Era semifinalist this year, was a four-time Pro Bowler, was never a first-team All-Pro and won two Super Bowls.

Now, look at the nine other receivers — Donald Driver, Henry Ellard, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Muhsin Muhammad, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Wes Welker and Roddy White — who were nominated for the Hall of Fame this year but didn’t even make the cut to the semifinal list.

These players, none of whom made an all-decade first-team, could all be in the mix next year, and in future years, too.

“If you look at what has happened previously, the committee likes players who have won a championship and made an all-decade team,” Gosselin said.

Now, let’s look at statistics, where every receiver likely to be on the ballot has more than the 489 receptions, 7,822 receiving yards and 48 touchdowns that Pearson amassed during his 11 seasons as a Cowboy.

In fact, it’s not even close.

Johnson is 11th all-time in catches (1,062) and receiving yards (14,185) to go along with 70 touchdowns. Boldin is ninth all-time in receptions (1,076) and 14th in yards (13,779) and tied for 25th in touchdowns (82).

Wayne is 10th in catches (1,070) and yards (14,345) to go along with 82 scores. Holt is 21st in catches (920), 16th in yards (13,382) and tied for 38th in touchdowns (74). Ward is 14th in receptions (1,000), 26th in yards (12,083) and tied for 16th with Warfield and Alworth in scores (85).

Now, look at the committee’s voting history when it comes to receivers. Of the 29 receivers enshrined in Canton, no class has ever had more than two receivers. The best decade for receivers was the 2010s, when seven got in, but the first five — Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Andre Reed, Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison — all got enshrined in different years, while Randy Moss and Terrell Owens got in together with the Class of 2018.

The committee’s by-laws allow for between four and eight new inductees to be selected annually, provided a candidate receives 80 percent of the 48-member committee’s vote required for enshrinement.

It’s likely today’s wide receiver hopefuls will have to wait their turns to get in — if they get in at all — since they could split the committee’s vote for years, maybe decades.

If Rice, Carter, Reed, Brown and Harrison — many of whom competed against each other for votes on the same ballot — had to wait their turns, who’s to say the same won’t hold true for today’s candidates?

After all, only seven receivers — Calvin Johnson, a first-team All-Decade receiver for the 2010s who got in this year, Moss, Rice, Largent, Warfield, Alworth and Raymond Berry — are first-ballot Hall of Famers. And what have Andre Johnson, Smith or Boldin done to be on that level?

Not all Hall of Famers are created equal; that’s why linebacker Chris Hanburger had to wait 27 years and linebacker Lawrence Taylor didn’t have to wait at all.

In fact, looking at all players — regardless of position — who are eligible next season because they played at least five years and have been out of the game for five years, none is a lock to get into the Hall of Fame at all, let alone on the first ballot.

Quarterback Tony Romo, defensive ends Robert Mathis and Mario Williams, linebackers Chad Greenway and DeMarcus Ware and defensive end Vince Wilfork all had good careers, but were they Hall-of-Fame-good?

They could very well wait decades for an answer.

Just like Pearson.

–Jon Gallo, Field Level Media

Feb 26, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; A Peyton Manning statue on display in the fan fest area during the 2020 NFL Combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson highlight eight-member HOF class

Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson and Calvin Johnson were among the eight players selected Saturday night for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, headliners of the Class of 2021.

They are joined by John Lynch, Alan Faneca, Drew Pearson, Tom Flores and Bill Nunn.

The eight will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Aug. 5-9.

Two-time Super Bowl winner Manning, Woodson and Johnson were all in their first year of eligibility.

Manning was a five-time MVP and 14-time Pro Bowl selection, having played 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts and four with the Denver Broncos to close out his career.

“It’s almost an impossible task to put into words what Peyton Manning has meant to the Colts, the NFL, the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, and fans across the globe,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said in a statement. “His preparation, performance, and success on the field were legendary and speak for itself. Books have been and will continue to be written about the impact he and his family have made in all aspects of sports and life.”

Woodson was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection in 18 seasons with two teams – the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. Woodson was also a four-time All-Pro, Defensive Rookie of the Year (1998) and Defensive Player of the Year (2009). He finished his career with 65 interceptions (fifth all-time) and 13 defensive TDs (No. 1 all-time).

Johnson finished his career ranked 31st all-time in receiving yards (11, 619) in nine seasons, all with the Detroit Lions. “Megatron” was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro. Johnson will be the third player inducted at age 35 or younger, joining a small club – Gale Sayers and Jim Brown.

“The culmination of all the work, all the grind, all the ups and downs that you’ve been through, just to be able to excel at the level and be able to have the opportunity to be among such greats, I’m sleeping with a smile tonight,” Johnson said on the NFL Honors broadcast.

Faneca was a nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro in 13 NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2007), New York Jets (2008-09) and Arizona Cardinals (2010).

Pearson played 11 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (1973-83) and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro.

John Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection in 15 seasons with Tampa and Denver.

“I’m humbled, I’m honored — so many people to thank and we’ll have plenty of time. To all the fans: Thank you for always having my back and expecting greatness for me and my teammates,” Lynch said in a video message.

Flores is one of only two people to win Super Bowl rings as a head coach, player and assistant coach, joining Mike Ditka. Flores won two Super Bowls as coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Nunn was a scouting dynamo for the 1970s Steelers who died in 2014 after 45 seasons with the Pittsburgh organization.

The August inductions will also include the Class of 2020 and the centennial class, both of which were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

–Field Level Media

Aug 3, 2019; Canton, OH, USA;  General overall view of the Pro Football Hall of Fame logo. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Packers S LeRoy Butler on HOF: ‘Maybe next year’

Former Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler said he won’t be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, tweeting “maybe next year” on Wednesday.

“It’s always a good thing, to be discussed with the best to ever play THE GAME!” added Butler, who was one of the 15 modern-era finalists for induction into Canton, Ohio.

The voting has already been conducted, but the results will not be released until Feb. 6, the day before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.

Butler, 52, was a four-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl selection who was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s.

He appeared in 181 games for the Packers from 1990-2001, registering 38 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and 20.5 sacks. Butler helped Green Bay defeat the New England Patriots 35-21 in Super Bowl XXXI.

The other finalists, in alphabetical order, are Jared Allen, Ronde Barber, Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Torry Holt, Calvin Johnson, John Lynch, Peyton Manning, Clay Matthews Sr., Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, Zach Thomas, Reggie Wayne and Charles Woodson.

–Field Level Media

Dec 3, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers former players Ron Mix (left), Charlie Joiner (center) and Fred Dean are honored during a Pro Football Hall of Fame ring of excellence ceremony during an NFL football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Hall of Fame DE Dean dies

Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Fred Dean died late Wednesday night. He was 68.

“The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Fred Dean,” Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a statement. “He exemplified many of the values learned from this great game — commitment, integrity, courage — over the course of his life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Fred’s wife, Pam, and their entire family. We will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration for future generations.”

A two-time first team All-Pro and two-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers, Dean entered the NFL as a second-round pick of the then-San Diego Chargers in 1975.

Dean earned Pro Bowl selections in 1979 and 1980 with the Chargers before being traded to the 49ers during the 1981 season. He then helped San Francisco to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title following the 1981 season.

Dean also earned Pro Bowl nods in 1981 and 1983 and played a role in the 49ers’ Super Bowl championship following the 1984 season.

Dean recorded 13 fumble recoveries and one interception in 141 career games (82 starts) with the Chargers (1975-81) and 49ers (1981-85). Former Niners owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. presented Dean for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

–Field Level Media

Apr 26, 2019; Tempe, AZ, USA; Detailed view of an Arizona Cardinals logo during a press conference at the Cardinals Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Wilson, Hall of Fame S for Cardinals, dies at 82

Pro Football Hall of Fame safety and long-time Arizona Cardinals executive Larry Wilson died on Thursday at the age of 82, the team announced.

Wilson was selected to eight Pro Bowls and earned five first-team All-Pro honors during his 13 seasons (1960-72) for the then-St. Louis Cardinals. He later oversaw the franchise relocation from St. Louis to Arizona for the 1988 season when he was both vice president and general manager of the team.

“Besides my father, Larry Wilson was the most influential male figure in my life,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said. “He was someone who truly lived his faith and demonstrated it daily in the kindness he showed every single person he met. Any of us lucky enough to be in his orbit – whether that was for a few minutes or four decades – was always better off from the experience.

“I will remember Larry Wilson first as a fantastic person but then obviously as one of the greatest players the National Football League has ever seen.”

Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978 and named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team in 2019.

“The game lost a true legend with the passing of Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Wilson,” Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker said. “He was not only one of the greatest to ever play the game, but one of the nicest and kindest men I have ever met. The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Larry.”

Wilson holds the Cardinals’ franchise record with 52 interceptions, and he led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 1966 when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He scored seven career defensive touchdowns — five on interceptions and two on fumbles.

Wilson retired from the Cardinals’ front office in 2003.

Wilson is survived by wife Nancy, daughter Christie, son Larry Jr.

–Field Level Media