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Hall of Fame look ahead: Orlando Pace

2/2/2015

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced Saturday night and to the surprise of many, none of the players who spent the majority of their careers with the St. Louis or Los Angeles Rams made it in.

Sure, running back Jerome Bettis qualified but he was not long for the team that drafted him and played his defining years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But former Rams legends such as Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner and Kevin Greene came up short and receivers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce didn't even make the list of finalists.

With that in mind, it's never too early to begin looking at how things might shake out in 2016. So we'll begin with Pace, the player I believe was the most glaring omission this year, not only from the Rams' nominees but from the class as a whole.

Why he missed: It became apparent when the 2015 class was revealed that this would be the year when players who have been waiting their turns would finally get the call. It included guys like Bettis, end Charles Haley, receiver Tim Brown and, most important in Pace's case, Kansas City guard Will Shields. Only linebacker Junior Seau made it as a first-ballot finalist. Shields was in his fourth year of waiting his turn and clearly the voters didn't believe he should wait any longer. It stands to reason that with Shields going in, the voters didn't want to double down on offensive linemen so Shields got the call with Pace being asked to wait at least a year. Additionally, some voters hinted that there was a belief that Pace wasn't as dominant as left tackle contemporaries such as Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones and Willie Roaf. I would disagree but that sentiment is out there.

Why he should go: The case for Pace is pretty easy. He played 12 years in St. Louis, posting seven Pro Bowl trips, five All-Pro honors and landing a spot on the second team of the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team. With Pace on the blindside, the Rams finished in the top 10 of total offense seven times and led the league in total yards, passing yards and points three straight seasons (1999-2001). Additionally, Pace was the left tackle for an offense that finished in the top five of passing yards for eight consecutive seasons

How it looks in 2016: The biggest names joining the ballot next year are quarterback Brett Favre, receiver Terrell Owens, guard Alan Faneca and running back Clinton Portis. One would imagine Favre is the surest bet from that group, though Owens and Faneca figure to land in Canton at some point. Faneca would seem to be the one on the list who could serve as a potential roadblock for Pace. But if Pace wasn't considered dominant enough to go in on the first ballot and forced to wait to reward a guard who had waited himself, it doesn't seem logical that Pace would then have to wait again for a first-ballot guard who wasn't as dominant as Pace. The guess here is that Pace goes in relatively easily in 2016.