Thursday night the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014 were announced, and the list featured 3 first time players and a first time head coach eligible for the Hall. More significantly to Colts fans, the list featured two former Colts - both of whom are first time candidates.
Head coach Tony Dungy (Colts head coach 2002-2008) and wide receiver Marvin Harrison (Colts receiver 1996-2008) were both named to the list of the 15 finalists. The Hall of Fame voting will take place the day before the Super Bowl, February 1, where a group of 46 voters will decide the Class of 2014. No more than 5 modern-era finalists will make the Hall of Fame this year, and in order for someone to be inducted it takes a minimum of 80% vote. The list of 15 finalists was originally a list of 126 candidates that was cut down to 25 and now cut down again to 15. Both Dungy and Harrison made it this far at least, and it seems likely that both will be in at some point - the question is just when that is.
Harrison's case should be a no-brainer - but, unfortunately, there's some debate. Harrison played 190 games with the Colts, catching 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns, making him one of the most prolific receivers in the history of the game. He set the NFL single season record for receptions with 143 in 2002 and became the first player in NFL history with over 100 catches in four straight seasons (1999-2002). He is still the only player ever to record 8 consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 or more touchdowns. 8 consecutive seasons. That's incredible. Harrison is without doubt one of the greatest receivers in the history of the game and is quite possibly the second best ever to play. There shouldn't even be a question about him getting inducted into Canton as a first-time candidate, but there is. Some people will knock him because they'll say it was Peyton Manning who made him a great player. Even still, however, Harrison caught 137 passes for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons in the league - and that was without Peyton and while still adjusting to the NFL as a first and second year player. And additionally, Jerry Rice played with Joe Montana and Steve Young - two Hall of Famers. The fact that Marvin Harrison played with Peyton Manning should not be a knock on him at all. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Harrison deserves to be a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2014, and if the voters don't put him in it will be utterly apparent that something is very wrong with the voting process.
Dungy's case is a little less clear, but it's still a very strong one. In 7 seasons as the Colts head coach, Dungy was 92-33, and in his entire career overall he has a 148-79 record (.652). Dungy is the winningest coach in Colts history and his win percentage is among the best in NFL history as well. While in Indy he led the Colts to 5 division titles, 6 consecutive 12+ win seasons, 2 AFC Championship game appearances, and a victory in Super Bowl XLI - and in doing so became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
"I think guys like Tony are so important to the game. "There's a saying in the (voting) room, ‘Can you write the history of the game without fill-in-the-blank, in this case Tony Dungy?' I'm not sure you could."
Both Tony Dungy and Marvin Harrison stand a good chance of getting into the Hall of Fame, and both are deserving. The only real question is how soon they get.
Here is the complete list of the 15 modern-era finalists:
LB Derrick Brooks
WR Marvin Harrison
OT Walter Jones
Coach Tony Dungy.
WR Andre Reed
WR Tim Brown
RB Jerome Bettis
OG Will Shields
DE Michael Strahan
DE Charles Haley
LB Kevin Greene
CB Aeneas Williams
Owner Ed DeBartolo Jr.
K Morten Anderson