Quick take: Hall of Fame class of 2011

February, 5, 2011
2/05/11
7:51
PM ET
Stephen Perry Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireHall of Fame president Stephen Perry announces this year's 10 finalists for the class of 2011.
DALLAS -- Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors elected Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Richard Dent, Shannon Sharpe and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol to the class of 2011.

Les Richter and Chris Hanburger earned enshrinement as seniors candidates.

I was one of the voters. We spent more than seven hours discussing the 15 modern-era candidates and two seniors committee candidates.

Some candidates with very strong credentials missed the cut. That is not a travesty. It's the process. There were only five spots for 15 players, forcing 10 strong candidates to wait another year.

I presented the case for Cortez Kennedy. He made the final 10 for a second year in a row, keeping him firmly in the mix for the future.

With that, let's take a closer look at the candidates with ties to teams currently aligned in the NFC West:

Marshall Faulk

Position: RB

NFC West team: St. Louis Rams

The verdict: Yes

Quick take: Voters spent considerable time laying out the case for Faulk even though there seemed to be little doubt about his status as a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer. Faulk had no significant weaknesses. He could run for speed or power. He could catch the ball. He was a tenacious blocker. He could line up as a true wide receiver (former teammate D'Marco Farr told me he once saw Faulk beat a cornerback on a post route. What would a cornerback be doing covering a running back? That's the point. Faulk could do it all, and he did it all for historically great offenses that competed for championships and won one. Case closed.


Richard Dent

Position: DE

NFC West team: San Francisco 49ers

The verdict: Yes

Quick take: Dent had been a finalist seven times and among the final 10 five times. This was his time, although it's always tough to know when that time will come. Dent was a dominant pass-rusher and very strong against the run. He put up the necessary sack numbers to get voters' attention, but his status as an elite all-around end offset criticisms that he earned Pro Bowl honors only four times. Dent had 137.5 career sacks, including 34.5 sacks over a two-year period early in his career.


Deion Sanders

Position: CB

NFC West team: 49ers

The verdict: Yes

Quick take: The most dominant cover cornerback of his generation, and perhaps all time, offered more than just stellar play in the secondary. Sanders averaged more than 15 yards every time he got his hands on the football. He scored five different ways during the regular season. Sanders made his only season with the 49ers a memorable one, helping San Francisco win the Super Bowl after the 1994 season.


Les Richter

Position: LB

NFC West team: Los Angeles Rams

The verdict: Yes, as seniors candidate

Quick take: Richter went to eight consecutive Pro Bowls as a hard-hitting, allegedly dirty enforcer type beginning in 1952. He also played center and kicker. Richter passed away last summer.


Cortez Kennedy

Position: DT

NFC West team: Seattle Seahawks

The verdict: Made the final 10, but not the final five

Quick take: Kennedy has made the final 10 two years in a row. That means he commands respect in the room. Kennedy was among the players potentially losing out when selectors voted in a non-player in NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. The fact that this was Dent's year also might have had an impact on Kennedy. They played different positions on the line, but both were defensive linemen. Voters went with only one this time.


Charles Haley

Position: OLB

NFC West team: 49ers

The verdict: Did not make the final 10

Quick take: Dent was the preferred pass-rusher this year. Haley played a pivotal role in helping the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys win championships. He affected the rivalry between the teams. Haley won five Super Bowl titles while with the 49ers and Cowboys.


Jerome Bettis

Position: RB

NFC West team: Rams

The verdict: Did not make the final 10

Quick take: "The Bus" departed St. Louis following three productive seasons when the Rams traded him to Pittsburgh after using a first-round draft choice for Lawrence Phillips. Consider it one of the more ill-fated moves in Rams history. This was Bettis' first year of eligibility. His size-speed-moves ratio sets him apart from just about every back in NFL history. Faulk's enshrinement might have made it tougher to accommodate another running back, particularly with Curtis Martin also on the ballot.


Chris Doleman

Position: DE

NFC West team: 49ers

The verdict: Did not make the final 10

Quick take: Doleman enjoyed most of his success with the Minnesota Vikings, but he had 38 sacks in three seasons with the 49ers from 1996-98. Doleman had 150.5 career sacks and he had a knack for forcing fumbles. Dent was the defensive end to break through this year. Doleman was a finalist for the first time. He has a shot in the future.

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