As we speak, the 44 members of the Hall of Fame's selection committee are attempting to come up with the Class of 2010. Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice are virtual locks, but then things get interesting.
After visiting with several voters this week, I'm starting to believe that Bears defensive end Richard Dent has the next best shot at getting in the Hall. That would obviously make it tough for another great pass-rusher, Cowboys/49ers defensive end Charles Haley, to make the cut.
More than all the sacks, the best thing on Haley's resume is that he won five Super Bowls, three with the Cowboys and two with the 49ers. Anyone who was around the Cowboys organization in the early '90s will tell you that Haley's arrival was a huge reason the team got over the hump and started winning Super Bowls. He was a player that opposing quarterbacks and offensive tackles feared, and trading for him was one of the best decisions Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson ever made.
Unfortunately, his turbulent off-the-field behavior might be difficult for voters to ignore. I realize that the bylaws in the voting process forbid the selectors from considering off-the-field transgressions, but it's hard to fight against human nature. Not by coincidence, Haley has recently opened up to reporters about taking medication for bipolar disorder and he's apparently in a good place in his life.
I think making the Hall of Fame is extremely important to him because it would validate and bring some closure to a remarkable football career. But from talking to some of the voters this week, it looks like Haley will have to wait a little longer.
And I fear he won't be the only other play with NFC East ties waiting. It's time for one of the famed "Hogs" to go into the Hall, but I'm not sure this is the best year for Redskins guard Russ Grimm to go in. You have the two locks and then a host of talented wide receivers. I also think it might hurt that the Skins recently had two players enter the same class with Art Monk and Darrell Green.