NFC West: Kevin Greene

The Greatest Show on Turf will have to wait another year to get its second member (and possibly more) into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The five modern-era finalists were announced Saturday night with former St. Louis Rams tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Kurt Warner on the outside looking in.

The five modern-era players headed to Canton this year are running back Jerome Bettis, linebacker Junior Seau, defensive end Charles Haley, guard Will Shields and receiver Tim Brown. Contributors Bill Polian and Ron Wolf and senior nominee Mick Tingelhoff will join those five.

Warner and Pace were among 15 finalists for the award and both players made the cut to 10 before falling short of making the final five. In what was described by some voters as an incredibly close proceeding, Pace and Warner will now have to wait at least another year.

Pace's omission was probably the biggest surprise of those not making it but with Shields going in, it's reasonable to assume that voters viewed it as Shields' time to get in and they didn't want to double down on offensive linemen. Pace figures to be one of the strongest candidates next year, though guard Alan Faneca will be on the ballot for the first time then.

Warner's absence is less surprising though his path figures to get more muddled next year when former Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre is added to the ballot. That's not to say two quarterbacks can't make it in one year but it might make things more difficult. Former Rams pass-rusher Kevin Greene was shut out again after being named a finalist for the fourth consecutive year.

For Rams fans hoping for some good news from this Hall of Fame class, the road to Canton might have removed a couple of road blocks for a few of those still trying to get in. With Shields going in, Pace moves to the head of the class among offensive linemen and Haley's entrance should help Greene's cause.

Receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt didn't make the list of finalists this year but the voters continue to put a receiver in every year which could help with the anticipated backlog. Brown going in still leaves Marvin Harrison waiting his turn but Terrell Owens will join Holt and Bruce next year, so it seems likely that duo will have to keep waiting.

Running back Marshall Faulk was the first Ram of the St. Louis edition of the franchise to make it, getting his call in 2011.

HOF wait continues for Kevin Greene

February, 1, 2014
ST. LOUIS -- For five modern-era players, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will open its doors this summer. For Kevin Greene, the former Los Angeles Rams pass-rusher, the wait continues.

The Hall of Fame announced its next class of inductees Saturday night, a class that for the 10th consecutive year does not include Greene.

That Greene didn’t make the cut again doesn’t come as much of a surprise given the competition among the 15 finalists. In the company of other talented pass-rushers with more cache such as Michael Strahan and Charles Haley; it stood to reason that Greene would have to wait yet another year.

Although Greene still stands third in league history in sacks with 160, the fact that he bounced around to three other franchises after spending his first eight seasons with the Rams has left some to wonder about his legacy.

Likewise, Greene’s pass-rushing production is Hall of Fame caliber, but many wonder if he was a bit too one-dimensional.

It still seems likely that Green’s time will come, but it doesn’t figure to get any easier in the coming years.

For Rams fans just hoping to see one of their guys get in, the odds should increase dramatically next year when quarterback Kurt Warner, receiver Isaac Bruce and tackle Orlando Pace join Greene on the ballot.
ST. LOUIS -- Although his name may not ring out in conversations of the league's greatest pass-rushers, Kevin Greene sits third in NFL history with 160 career sacks.

Bruce Smith, Reggie White and Chris Doleman, the players ranked Nos. 1, 2 and 4 have already been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Greene is in his 10th year of waiting for the call and is a finalist for the third straight year.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will convene Saturday afternoon and sift through the 15 modern era finalists. The competition, as it's been for the past nine years, will be tough. Despite his strong credentials, Greene is anything but a lock for election.

Looking closer at Greene's pure production, one would think he's already been enshrined in Canton (see right).

Perhaps it works against Greene that he spent plenty of years bouncing from team to team rather than establishing his legacy with one. Players like Smith and Lawrence Taylor made their names known for dominating in one place while keeping track of Greene was a bit more difficult. Even for the purposes of this piece, it was hard to peg what team would handle the case for Greene's induction.

Many will likely remember Greene's work with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1993-1995 since that was right in the prime of his career, but Greene actually served the most years with the Rams and had his best seasons with the Los Angeles edition of the team.

Greene was originally a fifth-round choice of the Rams out of Auburn in 1985. He played for the team from 1985 to 1992 and posted a career high 16.5 sacks in 1988 and 1989. He would go on to play in Pittsburgh, Carolina and San Francisco as well.

In looking at Greene's chances for induction, it can be difficult to see how he might breakthrough this year. Some of the game's greats such as linebacker Derrick Brooks, offensive tackle Walter Jones, running back Jerome Bettis and guard Will Shields are also up for induction. Beyond that, the competition amongst pass-rushers is tight in itself.

Giants defensive end Michael Strahan and Dallas defensive end Charles Haley are also on the ballot and it seems unlikely that more than one of that trio would land a spot. Although Greene has more sacks than both players, Strahan has the advantage of winning a Super Bowl and the season record for sacks in a season. Haley has fewer sacks than Greene and Strahan but is also one of the winningest players of all-time with five Super Bowl trophies to his name.

Beyond a lack of star power, Green is also viewed as a bit more one-dimensional than the likes of Haley and Strahan. He was never known as an elite run stopper and most of his claim to fame comes from his ability to get after the quarterback.

Ultimately, it seems unlikely Greene will get his call for Canton this year. It seems the popular Strahan is the most likely of the pass-rushers to get the nod. Greene may also have to wait behind Haley as well. Greene's impressive sack total is too good to keep him out forever but more patience may be required.

Three former Rams are Hall finalists

January, 10, 2014
ST. LOUIS -- For the second consecutive year, a trio of former Rams has landed spots as modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Defensive back Aeneas Williams, running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene made the list of 15, which was whittled from 25.

Williams, Bettis and Greene spent varying parts of their careers with the Rams. While none are exactly remembered in the big picture for their time with the team, all made valuable contributions to the organization at some point.

Probably the most familiar to Rams fans is Williams, who came to St. Louis via trade in 2001. He promptly moved to safety and served as a veteran leader of a defense that helped the Rams reach Super Bowl XXXVI. Williams still lives in St. Louis and is active in the community. He spent most of his career in relative anonymity in Arizona but was long regarded as one of the team's best cover corners. His time is probably coming in Canton, but this year might not be it.

Bettis spent just one season in St. Louis after his first two came with the team in Los Angeles. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 1996 and went on to become the sixth-most accomplished rusher in league history. Of this group, Bettis probably has the best chance to break through this season.

Greene never played a down for the St. Louis version of the Rams, but he played for the Los Angeles edition from 1985 to 1992. Greene also has local ties as he hails from nearby Granite City, Ill. Like Bettis, Greene is probably more renowned for his time with the Steelers. He finished with 160 sacks, which ranked third all-time at the time of his retirement. Much like Williams, Greene will probably have his day, but it might not happen right away.

The competition to make it to Canton this year figures to be difficult. First-ballot candidates such as Seattle offensive tackle Walter Jones, Indianapolis wide receiver Marvin Harrison and Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks look to have strong cases to earn a nod this year. Giants end Michael Strahan, defensive end Charles Haley, Buffalo receiver Andre Reed and guard Will Shields are among the others with a shot to get in.

This year's crop of Rams candidates will pale in comparison to what the team figures to have in the next couple of years. Receiver Isaac Bruce, tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Kurt Warner are due for Hall of Fame eligibility for the class of 2015, followed by receiver Torry Holt in 2016.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Eddie DeBartolo is a happy man.

Charles Haley is a finalist again for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yes, DeBartolo is one of the 15 finalists again, but he said last month Haley's candidacy is more important to him.

Last month, I asked DeBartolo, the 49ers' former owner, about being a semifinalist. He said he'd be thrilled to be inducted, but his focus is on getting Haley, a pass-rush star, voted into the Canton, Ohio, museum. Haley has asked DeBartolo to present him if he gets inducted. They were both finalists last year.

According to some members of the voting committee, Haley probably has a better chance than DeBartolo of getting in when the vote is made Feb. 1. In addition to the 15 finalists, there are two senior committee nominations. No more than seven and no less than four of the 17 nominees will be elected.

Linebacker Kevin Greene is also a finalist. He spent some time with the 49ers at the end of his career.

Former 49ers star running back Roger Craig did not make the transition from the semifinalist list to the final 15 Thursday night.

Three 49ers are HOF semifinalists

November, 20, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Three key figures from the San Francisco 49ers’ Super Bowl era are among the 25 semifinalists up for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014: former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., running back Roger Craig and pass-rusher Charles Haley.

Linebacker Kevin Greene, who played his last season with the 49ers, also is on the list.

The list will be pared down in January to 15, plus two nominees from the Seniors Committee. The final vote will be revealed in February, on the day before the Super Bowl. At least four and no more then seven new members will be elected.

If I had to guess, I’d think Haley has the best chance among the 49ers' group to be elected in 2014. DeBartolo is one of several league contributors on the semifinal list, so that may be difficult.

101ESPN St. Louis audio: Miklasz Show

February, 6, 2013
Eight hours in a New Orleans Convention Center ballroom Saturday wasn't enough for Bernie Miklasz and me, so we hung out some more over the phone this week for his 101ESPN St. Louis radio show. Feel free to eavesdrop .

At issue, among other things: Pro Football Hall of Fame voting. Bernie and I were among the selectors meeting Saturday to vote on the 2013 class. We both think former Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams has a very good chance in the future.

Williams was among 10 of the 15 modern-era finalists missing the cut this time. That happens every year. It doesn't mean all 10 were unworthy. Far from it. I'd expect quite a few of them to make their way to Canton eventually.

Williams and fellow NFC West alum Charles Haley made the final 10, often an indication they're headed for enshrinement at some point. Might former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. join them? He's made the final 15 in consecutive years without advancing to the final 10, making it tough to say his candidacy has momentum at present.

Nineteen current Hall of Famers were enshrined as contributors: Bert Bell, Charles Bidwill Sr., Joe Carr, Al Davis, Jim Finks, George Halas, Lamar Hunt, Curly Lambeau, Tim Mara, Wellington Mara, George Preston Marsahll, Hugh Ray, Dan Reeves, Art Rooney, Dan Rooney, Pete Rozelle, Ed Sabol, Tex Schramm and Ralph Wilson Jr.

The 49ers had an NFL-best .633 winning percentage when DeBartolo owned the team from 1977 through 1999. That included .741 from 1981 through 1998. The 49ers won five Super Bowls during that period. They were .511 during the 10 seasons prior to DeBartolo's ownership and .425 in the 10 years after it.
Five of 15 modern-era finalists for 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement have ties to teams currently in the NFC West.

Their names are shaded in the chart below: Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Aeneas Williams, Jerome Bettis and Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

The first two men listed qualify as seniors candidates. Their enshrinement does not affect the maximum five slots available to modern-era candidates.

San Francisco 49ers great Roger Craig was among the 12 semifinalists not making the reduction to 15 this year. The others were: Morten Andersen, Steve Atwater, Don Coryell, Terrell Davis, Joe Jacoby, Albert Lewis, John Lynch, Karl Mecklenburg, Paul Tagliabue, Steve Tasker and George Young.

The next round of voting begins and ends one day before the Super Bowl. I'm one of the voters and will have a tough time reducing to five on the final ballot, as usual. It's a select group that makes it in the end. Strong cases can be made for each of the four players eligible for the first time. Adding them to the list makes it tougher for some of the holdovers.

First look at Hall of Fame semifinalists

December, 1, 2012
Seven of 27 recently announced semifinalists for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class have ties to current NFC West franchises.

The full list is available here. A few resources on the seven in question:
  • Roger Craig: The San Francisco 49ers great has lived by advice Bill Walsh gave him regarding the Hall. KGO-TV's Mike Shumann has the details in this 2010 item.
  • Eddie DeBartolo Jr.: This 1990 piece by Rick Reilly for Sports Illustrated captures the essence of the 49ers' former owner.
  • Kevin Greene: The former Los Angeles Rams and (briefly) 49ers outside linebacker has been a finalist previously. Jason Lisk's 2010 item for Pro Football Reference looked at Greene, Chris Doleman and the next man listed.
  • Charles Haley: ESPN's Jean-Jacques Taylor made the Hall case for Haley this year. Haley won Super Bowls with the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
  • Aeneas Williams: Williams made the final 10 last year. Hall selector Kent Somers profiled the former Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams defensive back this year.
  • Larry Allen: Allen finished his career with the 49ers after spending his best years with the Cowboys. Back in 2006, Dr. Z chose Allen as the most likely offensive linemen of the era to win quick enshrinement.
  • Jerome Bettis: Bettis began his career with the Rams before spending his prime years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Our AFC North blogger, Jamison Hensley, thinks Bettis has a better shot at enshrinement this year.

I'm one of the Hall selectors and feel privileged to be one. We'll gather in New Orleans one day before the Super Bowl to narrow the list from 15 finalists to no more than five modern-era enshrinees. To simulate the process, reduce from 27 to 15. From there, cut to 10 and then five. There are always tough choices with the bar set so high.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thirteen modern-era NFL players were finalists for enshrinement Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Only one was named offensive or defensive player of the year during his career.

That was the Seattle Seahawks' Cortez Kennedy. His eight Pro Bowls, all-1990s selection and overall dominance made my job as his presenter quite simple. State the facts and let Kennedy's career do the talking. Picking the final five out of 15 modern-era finalists is always tough, however, because it usually requires leaving off worthy candidates.

[+] EnlargeCortez Kennedy
US PresswireNo doubt, Seattle's Cortez Kennedy was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era.
The 43 other selectors and I met for more than seven hours before identifying Kennedy, Chris Doleman, Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf as the class of 2012. Jack Butler made it as a seniors candidate.

A few thoughts on the process and the results:

  • This class made it through at a good time. Larry Allen, Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Bryant Young, John Lynch and Steve McNair become eligible for the first time in 2013. Shaun Alexander, Derrick Brooks, Marvin Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren join the list in 2014. Isaac Bruce, Edgerrin James, Walter Jones, Junior Seau, Chris Samuels, Kurt Warner, Ty Law and Orlando Pace are among those eligible beginning in 2015.
  • Former St. Louis Rams
    and Arizona Cardinals
    cornerback Aeneas Williams should feel great about cracking the final 10 in his first year as a finalist. Williams had 55 career interceptions and scored nine touchdowns. He was a big-time playmaker for bad and good teams alike.
  • The situation at receiver remains a mess and it's not going to get easier with Harrison becoming eligible in a couple years. Voters are having a tough time deciding between Cris Carter and Andre Reed. Both made the final 10 this year. Reed made the final 10 last year as well. Having both crack the final 10 this year made it harder for one of them to break through. Voters were more likely to choose one wideout when forced to pick only five players.
  • Former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. did not make the reduction from 15 to 10. I think it's tougher for voters to quantify how owners and even coaches -- think Bill Parcells, who missed the cut from 10 to five -- contributed to their teams' success. The discussions for Parcells (55-plus minutes) and DeBartolo (42-plus minutes) were more than twice as long as the discussions for other candidates. Hall bylaws prevented voters from considering the legal troubles and suspension that preceded DeBartolo's exit from the game.
  • DeBartolo was a finalist in part because he hired Bill Walsh, promoted a winning culture, cared tremendously for his players and helped win five Super Bowls. He spent this weekend with former 49ers player Freddie Solomon, who is in the final days of a battle with cancer. The 49ers' renewed success this past season also reflected well on DeBartolo, who has become a tremendous resource for current team president Jed York, his nephew.
  • Electing one pass-rusher (Doleman, who spent part of his career with the 49ers) to the Hall could give former 49ers and Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Charles Haley an easier time in the future. But with Strahan joining the conversation in 2013, Haley faces stiff competition again. Former Rams pass-rusher Kevin Greene did not make the final 10 despite 160 career sacks.

It's been a whirlwind day. Hall bylaws prevent me from sharing specifics about what was said in the room during the proceedings. The Hall also asked voters not to reveal their votes outright. I voted for five of the six players enshrined on the final cut and supported others. As always, however, reducing to only five in the end required leaving off candidates I hope will make it in the future.

Programming note: Hall of Fame voting

February, 4, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- Pro Football Hall of Fame voters are beginning to assemble for a day-long session to determine the 2012 class.

Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Cortez Kennedy, Kevin Greene, Aeneas Williams, Charles Haley, Chris Doleman and Jerome Bettis are among the 15 modern-era finalists with ties to current NFC West organizations. I will be presenting Kennedy's case to the selectors as the representative for the Seattle market.

We will discuss each candidate -- see them all here -- and then hold a series of votes. The first vote will reduce the modern-era finalists from 15 to 10. The second vote will reduce that group from 10 to five. From that group, those with an 80 percent approval rate gain selection.

The NFL Network is scheduled to announce results at 5:30 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, here are our Super Bowl predictions.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Seven NFL figures with ties to current NFC West franchises head toward Saturday as finalists for the 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

Cortez Kennedy, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Kevin Greene, Charles Haley and Aeneas Williams spent all or much of their careers with franchises currently in the division. Jerome Bettis and Chris Doleman spent shorter stretches with current NFC West franchises.

I'll be among the 44 selectors trying to single out the five best candidates for enshrinement with the class of 2012.

710ESPN Seattle hosts Dave Grosby and Bob Stelton inquired about Kennedy's chances during our latest conversation Tuesday. That audio is here. In my view, more than five candidates deserve enshrinement in a typical year. That means worthy candidates must wait. Predicting how the voting will go becomes a futile pursuit.
The San Francisco 49ers' resurgence this season recalls the team's greatest years.

How appropriate, then, that Eddie DeBartolo Jr. has emerged as a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the first time. DeBartolo and former St. Louis/Arizona defensive back Aeneas Williams add NFC West flavor to the proceedings as first-time finalists for the Hall. I'll be among those casting votes when the selection committee gathers during Super Bowl week.

No more than five of the maximum 15 modern-era finalists can qualify for enshrinement in a given year. That makes handicapping a candidate's chances difficult. Worthy finalists miss the cut every year, in my view. They must wait their turn while other worthy finalists gain enshrinement.

Without slam-dunk candidates such as Emmitt Smith or Jerry Rice on the ballot this year, the door could open for some who have waited their turn recently. Cortez Kennedy, Charles Haley, Jerome Bettis, Chris Doleman and Kevin Greene are among the finalists with ties to franchises currently in the NFC West. Kennedy made the final 10 last year.

Also among the modern-era finalists: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin, Bill Parcells, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf and Will Shields. Jack Butler and Dick Stanfel are eligible as seniors nominees. Their enshrinement would not come at the expense of the maximum five slots for modern-era finalists.

Silver linings: Rams vs. 49ers

December, 5, 2011
The facts: The St. Louis Rams fell to 2-10 with a 26-0 road defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Chris Long collected two more sacks, giving him 12 for the season. Long has the most sacks by a Rams player since Leonard Little had 13 in 2006. Kevin Carter had 17 in 1999, the most for a Rams player since the NFL began tracking sacks officially during the 1982 season. Kevin Greene twice had 16.5-sack season with the team. Pro Football Reference shows all Rams players with at least 12 sacks during the sack era. Long joins a list featuring Carter, Little, Greene and Mike Wilcher. Long has at least one sack in each of the Rams' last six games. He added two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits Sunday.
  • Steven Jackson moved within 16 yards of Henry Ellard for third place on the Rams' all-time list for all-purpose yardage. Jackson has 11,691 all-purpose yards.
  • Quarterback Sam Bradford gained a week to get his high-ankle sprain healthier. Bradford aggravated the injury during practice.
  • Brandon Lloyd made another improbable catch, this one for a 34-yard gain along the sideline.
  • The Rams' defense held the 49ers to field goals on all four San Francisco possessions in the red zone.
Looking ahead: The Rams visit the Seattle Seahawks on "Monday Night Football" in Week 14.

Rams pull off NFL first in last 30 years

October, 31, 2011
A few notes from Elias Sports Bureau on the St. Louis Rams' 31-21 upset victory over the New Orleans Saints:

  • The Rams entered the game as the lowest-scoring team in the league. The Saints were the highest-scoring team. This was the second time in the last 30 years that the NFL's lowest-scoring team defeated the highest-scoring team.
  • Chris Long's three-sack game gave him 23.5 over his first four seasons. Kevin Carter (35.0), Kevin Greene (30.0), Grant Wistrom (29.5) and Sean Gilbert (24.0) own the Rams' highest totals through the first four seasons of a player's career, dating only to 1982, the first year sacks became an official stat. Long now has six sacks for the season. He set a career high with 8.5 last season.
  • The Rams reached their highest single-game point total since Week 12 of the 2010 season. Their 17 first-half points were one more point than they had scored in any full game this season.
  • This was the second time in the last 14 seasons that a team with no victories and at least six defeats beat a first-place team. The 0-6 Miami Dolphins beat the 4-2 Rams in 2004.
  • The 2007 Rams got to 1-8 with a victory over the Saints.

I've watched this latest Rams-Saints game a couple times and am looking forward to skipping the Silver Linings file for this team.