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Brian Dawkins is probably going to have to wait to get into Canton

The Hall of Fame’s voting history isn’t in his favor

San Diego Chargers v Philadelphia Eagles

Brian Dawkins was named a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 earlier this week, moving him one step closer to the chance of enshrinement in Canton. It was an exciting moment for Eagles fans, as Dawkins is a deserved Hall of Famer and likely the only one from the Andy Reid era besides Terrell Owens. This is his first year on the ballot, and he is now one of 26 players and coaches that the selection committee will then reduce to 15, and then to 10, and then to 5. It’s a long process that lacks transparency and logic. Because of it, even if a lot of voters feel that Brian Dawkins is a Hall of Famer, he will probably have to wait a while.

Pro Football Hall of Fame voters have an unwritten rule that has caused them problems over the years: they almost never induct multiple players at the same position. In the past twenty HOF classes, multiple players at the same positions been inducted only thrice: tackles Jackie Slater and Ron Yary in 2001, quarterbacks Steve Young and Dan Marino in 2005, and quarterbacks Warren Moon and Troy Aikman in 2006. Yes, despite QB being the a position that there is never two of on the field at once, Hall of Fame voters have twice inducted two at a time and not, say, offensive tackles or corner backs. (The veterans committee has doubled up on occasion, but their voting process is separate.)

This has created a log jam that has left plenty of worthy players needlessly waiting. Because of their refusal to induct two WRs or two LBs, Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, and before them Derrick Thomas and Rickey Jackson spent years being shut out as the voters couldn’t decide which to induct first rather than the obvious solution of inducting more than one at once. And then as first ballot locks such as Jerry Rice or players who were running out of eligibility such as Harry Carson were inducted, they delayed their deserving peers another year. There’s no good reason why Carson and Thomas, whose careers didn’t overlap, couldn’t have gone in together in 2006 when only four players were enshrined. And then Rickey Jackson could have gotten in a year later, which could have gotten Richard Dent or Shannon Sharpe in a year earlier, which could have gotten Chris Doleman or Cortez Kennedy in a year earlier, which could have gotten Cris Carter in a year earlier, etc, etc, etc.

The Baseball Hall of Fame, the most notable and debated HOF, has no such qualms. In 2015 three pitchers were inducted, in 2014 two were, in 2009 two left fielders were, in 2006 two center fielders. And unlike Canton, Cooperstown has no minimum (four) or maximum (eight) number of inductees each year.

And they do all this in a closed room with no accountability and small group of writers.

In that room, some believe the presentation can make the difference between a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer and a guy who has to wait.

Says second-year at-large voter Jason Cole: “In the battle between Warren Sapp and Michael Strahan, Ira Kaufman made the difference.”

Canton has just 48 voters this year and has an 80% vote minimum. That means just 10 voters have to not like a guy for whatever reason they want and they can keep a player out. The Baseball Hall of Fame has its own problems with transparency and accountability, and its methods mean that sometimes there aren’t any inductees such as in 2013, but it had 440 ballots that were submitted by mail in 2016, with a 75% vote minimum. That is a safeguard against a handful of writers delaying a deserving candidate because of a personal bias. No one person trying to persuade three dozen people about his favorite player he covered. No one person trying to dissuade 9 people from the least favorite player he had to cover. Everyone has to do their own work.

As if that wasn’t enough of an obstacle, the Hall of Fame hasn’t inducted a true safety since Paul Krause in 1998. The only other safeties inducted since then were Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson, who started their careers as excellent cornerbacks. And there’s a worthy crop of safeties on the horizon beyond Dawkins as Ed Reed and Troy Polumalo will be eligible in two and three years, respectively. If Dawkins is not inducted this year or next, the line he is in will only grow, and grow with key players on Super Bowl winners at his position.

On the other hand, this year’s field could be favorable to Dawkins. Of other first ballot players, LaDainian Tomlinson is a shoo-in, Hines Ward and Jason Taylor are not. Everyone else has been waiting in part due to the selection committee’s backlog. However there’s not an absolute stand out candidate among them. Last year’s finalists who did not get in are Morten Anderson (3 time finalist), Steve Atwater, Don Coryell (3), Terrell Davis (2), Alan Faneca, Joe Jacoby, Edgerrin James, John Lynch (3), Terrell Owens and Kurt Warner (2). None of those players seem locks to make it either.

And the only one position at a time method might benefit Dawkins this year. Tomlinson will block Terrell Davis, Edgerrin James and Roger Craig. That makes four spots from 10 positions up for grabs: QB (1), K (1), OT (3), WR (4), G (2), C (1), CB (1), DE (1), LB (2), Coaches (2). But we can trim that down. Having inducted a LB in three straight years and having never selected four straight in in the past 20, the committee most likely won’t select a LB this year. Also, they have never selected coaches back to back, so we can probably rule out Jimmy Johnson and Don Coryell. With four OTs in the past five years selected and none of them recent nominees, it seems likely none will make it this time around. That means we can predict with some confidence that the 2017 class will be Tomlinson and four of seven positions: QB, G, C, K, CB, DE, and S. That’s beneficial to Dawkins.

But first he’ll have to clear Lynch, Atwater and Darren Woodson, which he should. If he does when the list of 26 is reduced to 15, he’s got a pretty good chance. But it might be his best, as next year Ray Lewis and Randy Moss hit the ballot, reducing everyone else’s chances.

Dawkins is a deserved Hall of Famer, the best player on the Andy Reid Eagles teams, the cornerstone of Jim Johnson’s outstanding defenses that saw players come and go all around him. A playmaker, a fierce and hard hitting tackler, and a leader, he was the total package. The only argument against him is if he is a “first ballot” level of player, and unfortunately for him because of the HOF’s senseless induction policies and tendencies, if he’s not a first ballot HOFer he and fans are probably going to have to unfairly wait many years.

Four Downs

1 Special teams are still being treated as special

We’ve discussed this before but it’s nice to see it borne out with contract extensions: the change from Chip Kelly to Doug Pederson hasn’t lessened the focus on special teams. The waiver wire pickups of Kamu Grugier-Hill, Terrence Brooks and bringing back Najee Goode strongly indicated that there would be roster spots devoted solely to special teams players. But the re-signing of Chris Maragos, Donnie Jones and John Dorenbos show that the Eagles know it’s just as much players as coaching—which has been excellent—that have made them extremely good at it for the past three years.

And tomorrow Adam has a really good feature on Dave Fipp. Make sure you check it out.

2 Age ain’t what it used to be?

One thing that kind of sneaked under the radar with the three re-signings is that they’re all over 30. For Jones and Dorenbos, that’s not a big deal, plenty of punters, kickers and long snappers are over 30. But the Maragos signing showed a possible course correction from the Eagles attempts to bring back the days of Andy Reid. The Reid era, as you remember, was notorious for letting players go around the time they hit 30, living by the adage that it’s better to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late. Special teams players weren’t immune, Ike Reese was allowed to leave after his age 31 season. Maragos will be 30 in January, and even though he only plays 20-25 snaps a game, bringing him back could signal a shift in philosophy. The Eagles good health under Shaun Huls’ sports science program only adds another reason to bring back productive role players regardless of age.

3 Have your cake and eat it too

Last week I said that if the Eagles lost to the Falcons they should just go ahead and play young players and not worry about where they finish the season. But on Sunday we got the best of both worlds: not only did the Eagles win, they won with youth playing. Wendell Smallwood had his biggest non-injury replacement workload, Isaac Semualo got action off the bench, and Jalen Mills played the entire game.

It wasn’t all good, Julio Jones had 4 catches for 62 yards in the 2nd half against Mills. To put that in perspective over a 16 game season that’s almost a clone of Jones’ 2015 season, where he led the league in receptions and yards with 136 and 1871, or 8.5 for 117 a game. But playing a full game helps development and evaluation, and that it came in a win is even better.

4 Which Seattle are we going to get on Sunday?

There’s no denying the Seahawks are one of the most talented and best coached teams in the league. But this year they’ve been out of sorts. Divisional games can be wacky, but losing to the Rams 9-3 and tying the Cardinals 6-6 is something else. They have just two wins by more than one score, “only” a 10 point victory despite getting three turnovers against the hapless Jets, and 19 point win over the completely inept 49ers. Everything else has been a close game, because the Seahawks have been all over the place. They looked mostly terrible against the Dolphins, probably got away with one against the Falcons and looked good against the Patriots. But all were wins, and all were close. They can’t find any consistency running the ball and the offensive line is still an issue. If the lousy version of the 2016 Seahawks shows up on Sunday, and they’ve done it enough this year to not count it out, it should be a good game.

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