NFC West: Tim Brown

Football Today: Hall of Fame snubs

July, 11, 2013
ESPN's Robert Flores, Jay Soderberg and I used the latest "Football Today" podcast to consider two subjects: Hall of Fame snubs and NFL teams whose championship windows are closing.

Flores pointed to Ray Guy and asked about another former Raider, ex-coach Tom Flores. Soderberg stumped for a Canadian Football League legend. I offered thoughts from my perspective as a Hall of Fame voter.

One key point: Selectors do not vote "against" candidates. We vote for them, and some miss the cut because only five modern-era players can qualify in a given year. The very best candidates get in quickly, while others get in eventually.

The bar for enshrinement rises and falls depending upon the strength of the field. In that way, the process resembles a golf tournament. Shooting even par would have won the Masters in 2007. It would have fallen short by 19 strokes in 1997.

Still, there are some valid questions surrounding Hall of Fame candidates repeatedly considered as finalists before fading from the conversation. We discussed some of the considerations during this podcast.

The chart ranks candidates by most appearances as finalists without being enshrined to this point. Thirty-one others have been finalists up to three times, including NFC West favorites Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Roger Craig and Aeneas Williams.

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.
Tim Brown's inflammatory comments toward former Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan provided the launching point for the latest "Inside Slant" podcast with Kevin Seifert.

It's not every day a Hall of Fame finalist -- Brown, not Seifert -- suggests his former coach blew a shot at the Super Bowl by changing the game plan, perhaps out of hatred for his own team.

Brown has since backed away from the word "sabotage" when describing Callahan's alleged plan to ditch a run-heavy game plan.

Kevin and I discussed potential ramifications for Brown in Hall of Fame voting. That included a run through the 15 modern-era finalists and which ones might stand out as most deserving. Brown's comments regarding Callahan have no bearing on his credentials, according to Hall bylaws.

I also used the opportunity to revisit run-pass ratios for the Raiders against Tampa Bay during the Super Bowl in question. Turns out Oakland was even more pass-happy during the first half of its game against Tennessee for the AFC title.

The Raiders attempted passes on 56.7 percent of first-half plays against the Buccaneers. That was below their season average (62.3) and their sixth-lowest rate in 19 games that season. I singled out first halves because score differential tends to influence play selection later in games.

The rate of pass drop backs, which includes sacks, was at 66.7 in the first half for that game. It was higher for the Raiders in 10 games and lower in eight games before that Super Bowl.

Oakland's full-game rate of pass drop backs was at 81.7 percent for the Super Bowl, a season high. The Raiders' 17-point halftime deficit was also a season high by six points, putting Oakland in obvious passing situations while playing from behind.
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.

RENTON, Wash. -- Michael J. Mooney’s piece for Grantland is worth another read now that its subject, Terrell Owens, has resurfaced in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks.

Published in June, it found Owens playing in the Indoor Football League:
He’s only 45 miles from the plush confines of Cowboys Stadium, with that gigantic screen, but tonight it feels like a world away. This arena is in a shopping plaza -- in a town locals call "a suburb of a suburb" -- between an In-N-Out Burger and a furniture store. There is no JumboTron here. There are ads for a casino in Lake Charles and a local burrito place and a roofing company. Before the game, the announcer thanks Jesus Christ for dying on the cross -- to great applause. The fans are inches away from the players, and some -- mostly young boys -- call to him. It’s constant. Sometimes it’s encouragement. Mostly it's not.

Owens figures to get a warmer welcome from Seahawks fans attending his first practice with the team Wednesday. The team is scheduled to be on the field at 10:15 a.m. PT.

The IFL does have a franchise north of Seattle in Everett.

The fact that Owens was playing in the IFL only two months ago invites questions about his readiness for the NFL. The 4.45-second time he posted in the 40-yard dash Monday puts those questions on hold.

Owens, 38 until December, is looking to join a relative short list of NFL wide receivers with receptions at his age.

Jerry Rice was still catching passes at age 42, including with Seattle. Former Seahawk Joey Galloway caught passes for Washington at age 39. Charlie Joiner was 39 when he was finishing up with San Diego in 1986. The list of receivers still catching passes at age 38 includes Tim Brown, Irving Fryar, Art Monk and Ricky Proehl.

Rice was still producing 1,000-yard seasons at Owens' age. He was the only one. Owens played with Rice in San Francisco and seems to have adopted the work ethic that helped Rice play so long. That gives him a chance.
Ed from Lake Arrowhead, Calif., thinks the St. Louis Rams have sufficient draft needs to stand pat at No. 6 and select a player that falls to them. He thinks there's no reason to panic if Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon is not available.

"There are two first-rounders to use for the next two years, and free agency might be kinder to the Rams next season," Ed writes. "This will take some time to get right."

Mike Sando: Offensive players currently on the Rams' roster combined for 10 touchdowns last season. Marshawn Lynch (13) and Beanie Wells (10) had at least that many for division rivals. Finding players to score touchdowns has to be the Rams' top priority as they help Sam Bradford and, of course, win games.

Quite a few projections suggest that Blackmon and Alabama running back Trent Richardson will not last past the fifth pick. In that case, we're seeing LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne listed as a logical Rams choice based more on value than need.

Adding Claiborne would not help Bradford directly. But the draft does go beyond the sixth overall pick. The Rams also hold the 33rd and 39th choices. They could use those second-round choices to trade up into the first round for a shot at a wide receiver. They could even trade one of the second-rounders for a 2013 first, giving them three next year.

Teams have drafted eight receivers from 30th through 42nd since 2008, a range that approximates where the Rams are scheduled to pick. The eight: Arrelious Benn, Kenny Britt, Brian Robiskie, Donnie Avery, Devin Thomas, Jordy Nelson, James Hardy and Eddie Royal.

Blackmon would not be a sure bet at No. 6, but the list of receivers drafted in that slot shows the potential value. James Lofton (1978), Tim Brown (1988) and Torry Holt (1999) were the last three receivers taken sixth until the Atlanta Falcons, led in part by new Rams general manager Les Snead, selected Julio Jones in that slot last year.

Charles from Atascadero, Calif., wants to know which pick the San Francisco 49ers received for safety Taylor Mays, who was traded during training camp last offseason.

Mike Sando: The 49ers will receive a 2013 seventh-round choice. That is why there was no additional pick for San Francisco when the 2012 draft order came out.

Jeff from Las Vegas thinks the Seattle Seahawks should have been ranked higher than 22nd in ESPN's NFL Power Rankings. He points to their defense, running game and an upgraded quarterback situation in suggesting the Seahawks can challenge the 49ers for the NFC West title and possibly earn a wild-card playoff berth.

Mike Sando: I ranked Seattle higher than 22nd, but the Seahawks have quite a bit to prove. Matt Flynn offers hope, but no guarantees. Can he produce over a full season? Is he durable? Will offensive linemen Russell Okung, John Moffitt and/or James Carpenter be healthy enough to contribute? What about Sidney Rice?

These are subjects we can discuss in greater detail Wednesday when following up the item soliciting opinions on which team is best positioned to overtake the 49ers.

I'm expecting to hear from Arizona Cardinals fans then as well, if not in the mailbag (been quiet on the Cardinals front recently, but I know you're out there).

What precedent says about Randy Moss

March, 21, 2012
The San Francisco 49ers cannot be sure what they'll get from Randy Moss in 2012.

Expectations are naturally low after Moss, 35, produced sparingly for three teams in 2010 before sitting out the 2011 season.

But what does history tell us?

With an assist from Pro Football Reference, I've put together a list of 20 productive seasons from receivers age 35 or older, ranked by most receiving yardage.

Jerry Rice was 35 when he suffered a career-threatening knee injury early in the 1997 season. He returned to catch 82 passes for 1,157 yards and nine touchdowns the following season.

Rice shows up on the chart three times, most recently in 2002, when he had 92 receptions for 1,211 yards at age 40.

Rice is a special case, obviously. He was also less dependent than Moss on raw speed, which tends to be fleeting as players get older.

The odds are stacked against Moss, but other 35-and-up receivers have occasionally produced at a high level.

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.

Skip Bayless and Dan Graziano took up the case for Charles Haley as a Pro Football Hall of Famer on ESPN's First Take.

Bayless thought Haley should have qualified on the first ballot as a key championship variable for the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. Bayless and Graziano also touched upon to what degree Haley's sometimes disagreeable and disruptive behavior affected his candidacy. Those are relevant factors, but this discussion is incomplete without acknowledging what role the process plays in enshrinement.

To say that Haley or another player should have earned enshrinement in a given year usually suggests another player wasn't as deserving. The Hall accepts no more than seven candidates per year, including a maximum of two seniors candidates, meaning even deserving candidates must be more deserving than those actually enshrined to raise a serious beef.

Haley was first eligible in 2005. Steve Young and Dan Marino were the only modern-era candidates elected that year. Michael Irvin and Harry Carson were also finalists that year, but neither received the 80 percent approval rating required for enshrinement. Both became Hall of Famers later. Was Haley obviously more deserving than those four?

Troy Aikman, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Carson comprised the 2006 modern-era class. Irvin, Bruce Matthews, Thurman Thomas and Roger Wehrli comprised the 2007 modern-era class. Fred Dean, Darrell Green, Art Monk and Gary Zimmerman made it in 2008. Randall McDaniel, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Rod Woodson and Ralph Wilson made it in 2009. The 2010 class featured Rickey Jackson, John Randle, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith.

The current class includes Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and Ed Sabol.

We could argue that he was more deserving than a candidate here or there, but only a very few elite candidates -- Rice, White, Emmitt Smith, Bruce Smith, etc. -- have credentials strong enough to transcend any Hall class.

Tim Brown, Roger Craig, Dermontti Dawson, Andre Reed, Cris Carter, Cortez Kennedy, Bob Kuechenberg, Randy Gradishar, L.C. Greenwood and several of the above-mentioned Hall of Famers have also been finalists since Haley became eligible.

Was Haley obvious more deserving than each of them? It's a debate worth having, but also one that goes beyond whether Haley should get in at all.

Kennedy HOF finalist; Craig left off

January, 9, 2011
Five first-time finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame pushed San Francisco 49ers great Roger Craig off the list this year.

That's a bad sign for his long-term Hall hopes because there's already a backlog of Hall-worthy players. Former St. Louis Cardinals coach Don Coryell also did not make the list of finalists this year after appearing previously.

Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, Willie Roaf and Deion Sanders made the list of 17 finalists for the first time. I thought former Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams would make the list. The fact that he did not shows how high the bar for enshrinement has risen.

Seattle Seahawks great Cortez Kennedy is back on the list of 17 this year after making the final 10 last season. I hold the Hall of Fame vote for the Seattle market and will again present Kennedy's case to voters this year. I consider Kennedy to have been the most dominant all-around tackle of the 1990s. No interior defensive lineman dominated against run and pass the way Kennedy did while earning eight Pro Bowl berths from 199o to 2000 (two more than any other defensive tackle earned during that time).

Faulk's inclusion on the list of 17 hardly qualifies as news, and I mean that as a compliment. Very few players in NFL history possessed his specific combination of talents as a runner and receiver.

Bettis also played for the Rams, but he earned his Hall credentials with Pittsburgh. Chris Doleman (49ers) and Richard Dent (49ers) made the list of 17 finalists after playing most of their careers elsewhere.

Former 49ers and Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Charles Haley is back on the list of 17 and will again get strong consideration.

Also on the list of 17: Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Hanburger, Andre Reed, Ed Sabol and Shannon Sharpe.

Settling on just five enshrinees, plus two seniors candidates, is a tough task.

Like old times: On the ground in Oakland

October, 31, 2010
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Seeing an Oakland Raiders fan sitting beside a Seattle Seahawks fan during my flight to Oakland -- there were no injuries, only some obligatory smack talk -- brought back memories from old AFC West battles between the teams.

Seattle's game at Oakland in Week 8 is the team's first road game against the Raiders since the 2002 opener, the Seahawks first game back in the AFC West. Oakland won that game, 31-17, during a Super Bowl season featuring MVP quarterback Rich Gannon throwing to Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. The Raiders finished that game with a 423-186 yardage advantage as Seattle committed 13 penalties and converted only once in 11 third-down chances.

Matt Hasselbeck is the only Seahawks player left from that 2002 game. Then as now, the Seahawks were playing without their starting left tackle. Floyd Womack started at left tackle in that game while Walter Jones held out for a new contract. This time, Tyler Polumbus starts at left tackle for Seattle while Russell Okung recovers from an ankle injury.

Seattle last won at Oakland when Jon Kitna overcame a rough start and three Jeff George touchdown passes for a 22-21 victory on Dec. 14, 1997.

The Raiders are favored Sunday. If you haven't graced us with your prediction for this and other NFC West games, please do so right here.

Around the NFC West: Faneca shows value

September, 15, 2010
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic credits Alan Faneca for much of the Cardinals' success running the ball against the Rams in Week 1. Somers: "At 33, he proved he's still agile enough to pull and be an effective lead blocker. By my count, Faneca pulled on 9 of the 20 called runs (Derek Anderson scrambled once). He pulled both right and left. When he pulled left, the tight end and tackle Levi Brown blocked down. On those nine plays, the Cardinals gained 78 yards and scored a touchdown. A disclaimer: I'm not saying Faneca was responsible for all those yards. Other good blocks were made, and running backs Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling made good reads. But Faneca hit someone on almost every one of those plays." Meanwhile, right tackle Brandon Keith struggled against Chris Long.

Also from Somers: Arizona is vastly different at receiver. How different? Practice-squad wideout Tim Brown occupies Anquan Boldin's old locker.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic offers a Q-and-A transcript featuring Steve Breaston. Breaston on the Cardinals' sharpest dresser: "Adrian Wilson. He looks like he's in a Grey Poupon commercial every time he walks into a place. . . . He can pull off the suit thing and still style it up in a T-shirt. He looks fresh." Breaston on pregame meals: "In the morning, I go with the sausage-egg McMuffin from McDonald's. If we have a later game, I go with the double cheeseburger meal. It's not on the menu, but it's there. It's about $4.58."

Darren Urban of explains the origins of Breaston's inclusion in the "Backpack Boys" club.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have had trade talks in their efforts to acquire a backup running back. Also: "The Rams signed former New York Giants tight end Darcy Johnson to the active roster, releasing defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo to free up a roster spot."

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says ratings were up for the Rams' opener, presumably thanks to Sam Bradford. Looks like attendance was down, however.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch puts Bradford's 55-attempt debut in perspective by pointing out that 21 of those attempts came during two-minute situations.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports says the 49ers' communication problems stem from procedural changes the team made since last season. Cole: "In Singletary’s first full season last year, offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, one of the more respected veteran coaches in the league, was calling plays from the coach’s box upstairs. Raye would call plays down to offensive assistant Jason Michael, who would then send the play into the quarterback. That system worked effectively even at times when Raye struggled to find exactly the right play or say it exactly the right way. Michael, who worked closely with Raye, was good at filling the gaps in communication. However, one of the problems created by the Raye-Michael relationship was that it began to alienate quarterback coach Mike Johnson, whose involvement in building the game plan had diminished. In addition, some players began to resent Raye’s tendency to blame them if things went wrong. As a result, several players went to Singletary this offseason to complain about Raye and the overall situation. Singletary’s solution was to change the mechanics of how the plays were sent in. He replaced Michael, who is still on staff, with Johnson in the play-calling process. On Sunday, that became a problem because Johnson couldn’t decipher what Raye was saying during tense moments when the Seattle crowd was making noise. Singletary was seen several times yelling at Johnson on the sideline when plays didn’t get relayed in a timely fashion." There's no excuse for having the sorts of problems the 49ers are having. This is basic stuff. Either the 49ers fix this problem by Week 2 or the coaching staff is going to have a hard time recouping credibility.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at the 49ers' receiver situation now that Ted Ginn Jr. is injured.

Clare Farnsworth of says coach Pete Carroll is looking forward to the challenge of performing in a hostile environment. Carroll on playing at Denver: "It will be very difficult for us. The thing that we want to learn how to do is how to carry our game on the road. That’s important for us. We need a game like this at this time. We need to figure this part out. And it might as well be as tough as it gets, like it is in Denver."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Max Unger finished the regular-season opener despite a toe injury, but he's finished for the season. O'Neil: "Mansfield Wrotto took Unger's spot on the roster. Wrotto was re-signed Tuesday a little more than one week after Seattle cut him. Wrotto was a fourth-round draft choice of Seattle in 2007, and though he played tackle in training camp, he is expected to be a guard." Losing Unger hurts depth, but it's not a crushing blow, in my view. Getting Chester Pitts back from knee surgery remains important for the long term, however.

Also from O'Neil: Raheem Brock is still finding his bearings in Seattle (the former Colts lineman couldn't find the team hotel Saturday night).

Greg Johns of says Brock was a factor against the 49ers.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks are plus-one in turnover differential. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "It’s a huge emphasis. I'm really just following Pete’s lead on that. That’s what is most sacred to him. So all of us that get to touch the ball, that’s got to be what’s most sacred to us."

Rice did not take Canton for granted

February, 6, 2010
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jerry Rice left nothing to chance during his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks.

The all-time receiving leader certainly wasn't banking on enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even if others viewed his candidacy as a no-brainer.

[+] EnlargeJerry Rice
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeAn emotional Jerry Rice reacts to his induction into the Hall of Fame.
"It means the world because a weight is on your shoulder for so long and you just never know," Rice said after his selection as part of the 2010 class. "I never took it for granted. I'm a very superstitious guy and I didn't think of myself as being a shoo-in."

Rice's face revealed elation even well after his name was announced.

"When my name got called, it was just like when I got drafted by the San Francisco 49ers," he said. "All the emotions hit and like I said, I'm glad to be part of this class. Now I get a chance to say thank you to everyone that played a very important part in my life: my family, my coaches -- high school, college, professionally -- the fans and media because I drew energy from my fans and also from the people who supported me."

Rice became emotional when reflecting on his late father, the late Bill Walsh and the values his parents instilled in him through hard work and old-school discipline. Rice recalled the way his father made him lay bricks as a kid and the hard stares his dad would give him when young Jerry needed to be kept in line. He also admitted that some 49ers teammates initially wondered if he was showboating when he insisted upon taking every reception to the end zone during practices.

"But then it became contagious and Roger Craig started doing it, Brent Jones, and it was all for just getting in position so you could make blocks downfield," Rice said. "If you came to a practice for the San Francisco 49ers, it was just like a game situation."

Rice voiced support for Craig, Charles Haley, Tim Brown and the other former teammates who fell short on Hall of Fame voting.

Brown, one of 15 finalists this year, called Rice and offered congratulations -- on Friday.

"But still, I didn't take it for granted," Rice said. "I think he deserves to be in here, also."
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jerry Rice's enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame stood as a formality.

[+] EnlargeJerry Rice
Otto Greule Jr/Stringer/Getty ImagesWill Jerry Rice's enshrinement clear the way Cris Carter, Tim Brown or Andre Reed next year?
Little -- OK, nothing -- needed to be said about the greatest receiver in 49ers history and arguably in NFL history.

The big question at receiver heading into the Hall of Fame discussion next year is whether Rice's enshrinement clears the way for other receivers to earn a spot in Canton. Former Bills great Andre Reed made the cut from 15 to 10 finalists at the expense of Cris Carter and Tim Brown.

Having so many receivers competing for limited spots could have led some voters to favor other positions on the reduction to 10 and ultimately five finalists. Voters still could have a tough time picking between those three because each produced at a high level for an extended period. But a case can be made that more receivers deserve enshrinement, particularly as passing games become more prominent.

Should the Bills' Super Bowl appearances give Reed the edge over Carter, who caught 43 more touchdowns, and Brown, who also produced as a return specialist? These questions can be tough to resolve. Carter made the cut to 10 in balloting a year ago, but not this time. Reed did not make the cut to 10 a year ago, but he did Saturday.

There were no such complications with Rice, nor should there have been.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Jerry Rice, Russ Grimm, John Randle, Emmitt Smith and Rickey Jackson made the list of five final candidates for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of the five, only those receiving 80 percent approval from the committee will qualify for enshrinement. Those results are scheduled to be announced on NFL Network about 25 minutes into a program that begins at 5 p.m. ET.

Cortez Kennedy, Richard Dent, Dermontti Dawson, Andre Reed and Shannon Sharpe survived the cut from 15 to 10 finalists. Charles Haley, Roger Craig, Cris Carter, Don Coryell and Tim Brown were eliminated in the cut from 15 to 10 finalists.

The status of the two seniors-committee candidates, Dick LeBeau and Floyd Little, will be announced with the other enshrinees.

This was my first year as a voter. Rules prevent me from revealing which candidates received my votes. Rules also prevent me from disclosing specifics of conversations.

Kennedy, arguably the best defensive player in Seahawks history, took a step forward in the process by making the cut to 10. And if Randle is enshrined, Kennedy could emerge next year as the top defensive tackle eligible for consideration.

Rice's selection was a formality. Grimm's inclusion among the final five candidates marks a big step forward for him. Harry Carson once made the cut to five, but failed to receive the necessary 80 percent support, so nothing is final until the announcement is made. But it is looking pretty good for Grimm.

Carter took a step back by missing the cut to 10. Look for Kennedy, Dent, Dawson, Reed and Sharpe to receive strong consideration in 2011.