Sometimes it seems like so long ago that the Peyton Manning era in Indianapolis officially came to an end, and now that era seems even longer ago. Two of the most integral parts of the phenomenal success of the decade are now eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which only happens once you have been out of the league for five consecutive years.
Head coach Tony Dungy and wide receiver Marvin Harrison headline the list of the sixteen first-time candidates for the Hall, both of whom are legends amongst Colts fans.
Dungy took over control of the team in 2002, after he had (stupidly) been fired from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after one of the best rebuilding projects in NFL history. Dungy is still the franchise's most beloved, successful, and winningest coach, but in the minds of most people he is identified as a Colt. In just seven seasons with the Colts, he became their winningest coach of all time and compiled an incredible 85-27 record, 7 playoff berths, and 5 AFC South titles. The pinnacle of his career came when he led the Colts to the 2006 Super Bowl Championship, in the process becoming the first African-American coach to win it. He is the only coach in history to make the playoffs in ten straight seasons and is the creator of the Tampa 2 defense.
Here's what I wrote of Dungy's chances this past summer while looking at the Hall of Fame candidates from the Manning era:
Tony Dungy, Head Coach: Dungy also is eligible next year, but I'm pretty sure he won't get in then. But I do think he has a pretty good chance to be in sometime. He has a very impressive coaching resume (which includes a Super Bowl), but on top of that, he is a great guy and leader and influence on the NFL, he rebuilt the Buccaneers from pretty much nothing, he invented the Tampa 2 defense, and he did huge things for African American coaches, becoming the first to win a Super Bowl. I think Dungy has a good shot, but he'll likely have to wait. Chances: 70%
Marvin Harrison was always the type of player who wouldn't let many people in but who would show up each and every Sunday. Marvin played 13 seasons for the Colts, catching 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns, all of which rank in the top five of all time. He was an eight-time pro bowler and set nearly every quarterback / wide receiver record with Peyton Manning. Harrison is widely considered as one of the best receivers in NFL history and statistically speaking, only Jerry Rice compares to him.
Here are my thoughts on Marvin's chances, from this past summer's article as well:
Marvin Harrision, Wide Receiver: Marvin, statistically, should be a no-brainer. He's arguably second all-time to Jerry Rice, and that's worthy of a first ballot hall of famer. I don't think there is much doubt that Marvin gets in, but the question is whether he gets in first ballot or not. There is a big wide receiver logjam right now for the Hall (which the voters need to resolve NOW) which could possibly prevent Marvin, who has some off the field questions that shouldn't impact the voting but which might, from being a first ballot hall of famer. I'm not sure if he'll get in next year or the year after, but I'm confident he'll get in. Chances: 95%
The wide receiver logjam makes Marvin's case an interesting one, whereas normally it would be a no-brainer choice. He definitely deserves to be in next year, but it remains to be seen whether or not he actually will be. Dungy also faces a tough situation to make it in next year, as coaches hardly ever go in the first year they are eligible. For Dungy to make it at all would be a huge accomplishment, and while I think that happens, it probably won't be next year.
As an interesting note, Dungy's former star linebacker on the great Buccaneers' defense that he built, Derrick Brooks, is also eligible for the first-time next year. Jon Gruden, the coach that replaced Dungy in Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl (with Dungy's team), is also eligible for the first-time, although I have to imagine that it is more of a formality and that he stands no chance to get in. Because if he does, it's pretty much a joke. Not even pretty much - it would be a joke.
Here is the full list of the sixteen first-time nominees. For a full list of every nominee (not just the first-timers), head here.
Quarterback(s): Trent Green
Running Back(s): Shaun Alexander, Warrick Dunn
Wide Receiver(s): Marvin Harrison
Offensive Linemen: Willie Anderson, Walter Jones
Linebacker(s): Derrick Brooks, Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Zach Thomas
Defensive Back(s): Rodney Harrison, Sam Madison, Patrick Surtain
Coaches: Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren