The Pro Football Hall of Fame is the most prestigious recognition that an individual person could achieve, as it's for the best of the best in NFL history - or, sometimes, those who have been waiting the longest. The Class of 2015 was voted on today and the new enshrines were announced, and former Colts general manager Bill Polian is going into the Hall of Fame. Wide receiver Marvin Harrison and head coach Tony Dungy, who were finalists for the past two seasons, did not make it once again. The Class of 2015: Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Junior Seau, Will Shields, Bill Polian, Ron Wolf, and Mick Tingelhoff.
Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy survived the initial cut from 15 to 10, but failed to garner enough support to reach the final 5.— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) February 1, 2015
Polian was inducted as a contributor finalist, a new category for non-players who had a huge impact on the game: something that describes the longtime general manager perfectly. Polian was an NFL general manager for 25 seasons and for three different teams, compiling a 238-145 career record (.621 win percentage), a 18-16 postseason record (.529 win percentage), reaching five Super Bowls, winning one, and winning six Sporting News Executive of the Year Awards (the most of anybody in history). He was the Buffalo Bills' GM from 1986-1992 and he built the team that reached four consecutive Super Bowls. He was fired after the third Super Bowl loss due to disagreements with management, but after a couple of years he took over the expansion franchise Carolina Panthers, nearly building them into a Super Bowl team in just their second season (though they fell just short in the NFC Championship game). After four seasons in Carolina (1994-1997), the Indianapolis Colts hired Polian as their general manager and team president. During Polian's tenure with the Colts (1998-2011), they compiled a 143-81 record, winning eight division titles, two AFC titles, and a Super Bowl. The Colts went from consistently one of the worst to consistently one of the best under Polian, and the Colts had the winningest decade in NFL history in the 2000s. The Colts made the playoffs in eleven of fourteen seasons with Polian running things. He is widely regarded as one of the best executives in league history, and he built three different teams into contenders. In addition to his work in constructing franchises, Polian had a major voice within the National Football, as he served on a number of committees, including the competition committee. Considering that he was a contributor finalist, there was almost zero doubt that Polian wasn't getting in this year, and he'll be inducted into Canton this August.
The biggest snub was that Marvin Harrison did not make it for the second straight season, which is ridiculous. He is the Colts' all-time leader in receptions, yards, receiving touchdowns, and pretty much every other significant category. Not only that, but he's one of the best in NFL history as well. His 1,102 receptions rank third all-time, his 14,580 receiving yards are the seventh-most all-time, and his 128 receiving touchdowns rank fifth all-time. He holds the NFL record for most receptions in a single-season with 143 in 2002, and no one has come that close to breaking it either. He was named first-team All-Pro three times and second-team All-Pro five times, also being named to eight Pro Bowls. From 1999-2006 (eight seasons), he recorded at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in every single season. He caught at least one pass in every single game he ever played in (190) and recorded sixteen different games with 10+ receptions, 59 different games with 100+ yards receiving, and 28 different games with multiple touchdown catches. He led the NFL in receiving yards in two different seasons and led the league in receptions in two different seasons as well, while tying for the league lead in touchdown receptions in 2005. Harrison, along with Peyton Manning, holds the records for most career receptions, yards, and touchdowns between a quarterback and wide receiver. He's a member of the Colts Ring of Honor (inducted in 2011). Longtime NFL cornerback Champ Bailey said Harrison was the toughest receiver he ever had to cover. Another longtime corner in Charles Tillman said the same thing. Marvin Harrison is widely considered to be one of the best receivers in league history… and he didn't make the Hall of Fame in either of his first two years of eligibility. Why? It's simply about politics - last year Andre Reed had been waiting longer so he got in, and this year Tim Brown had been waiting longer so he got in. It's stupid, but that's the way the voters think. Marvin will get in at some point, but he should already be there. Instead, he's left waiting once again.
Former head coach Tony Dungy didn't make the cut for the second straight season as a finalist, though it's likely that his time will come. In seven years as the head coach of the Colts (2002-2008), Dungy compiled an 85-27 record (.759) and won five division titles, an AFC Championship, and Super Bowl XLI. The Colts made the playoffs in every single year under Dungy, and they won 12 or more games in each of his final six years. In his career with both the Colts and the Buccaneers, Dungy went 139-69 (.688 win percentage, the 12th best mark all-time). In 13 seasons as a head coach, Dungy's teams missed the playoffs just two times and his teams finished with a losing record just once - his first year with the Bucs, which saw him take over one of the worst franchises in sports and still win six games. He implemented the "Tampa 2" defense and was widely known as a defensive guru throughout the league, a reputation he earned long before becoming a head coach. He was the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl and one of the most respected men in football during his time in the league and even still today. Dungy is a member of the Colts Ring of Honor, being inducted in 2010. Though he wasn't inducted this season, he'll likely get in at some point - but he'll probably have to wait for a little bit.
Huge congratulations to Bill Polian, who is incredibly deserving and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this August. It's hard to overlook Marvin Harrison getting snubbed, but at the same time, let's recognize Polian, one of the best executives in NFL history, for being elected to the Hall of Fame Class of 2015.