Morten Andersen, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer who played 25 seasons including 2004 with the Vikings, joined five other former players and a contributor in being chosen for enshrinement during the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 8-hour, 49-minute selection meeting earlier today.
The seven-member class had one notable absence: former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who fell short once again. But this was the first time he was denied as a member of the recently-created contributors category, where he wasn’t going head to head with modern-era players and coaches for one of the final five finalists spots.
Andersen, meanwhile, becomes only the second player in NFL history to reach the Hall of Fame playing at kicker only. Jan Stenerud, who spent the 1984-85 seasons with the Vikings, was enshrined in 1991. Hall of Famers George Blanda and Lou Groza were kickers who also played quarterback and offensive tackle, respectively.
Forty-eight selectors, which included Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and James Lofton as voting members for the first time, also chose two first-year eligible players in Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor; as well as former Broncos running back Terrell Davis; former Rams and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner; Senior Committee nominee and former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley; and, from the contributors category, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Eliminated as finalists were receivers Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce; safeties Brian Dawkins and John Lynch; offensive linemen Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae, Alan Faneca and Joe Jacoby; cornerback Ty Law and coach Don Coryell.
The meeting began at 7:30 a.m. at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. I am one of the selectors. Details of the conversations in the room are confidential.
Easley, a first-year finalist despite being eligible since 1992, was discussed and voted on first. Easley, whose short career kept him from serious consideration when he was a modern-era candidate, is only the eighth pure safety to be inducted and the first since former Viking Paul Krause was chosen in 1998.
Next up for discussion and voting were Jones and Tagliabue. Jones was rewarded for being a visionary that grew the game financially. The Tagliabue discussion took 63 minutes and was divided, as has been the case in past years when there wasn’t a contributors category.
Favorable views such as Tagliabue’s 17 seasons without a labor stoppage clashed with discussions as to whether the former commissioner did enough to address the league’s concussion issue earlier.
The 15 modern-era finalists were discussed by position in alphabetical order. The first cut was to 10. Eliminated were Owens, who ranks second in receiving yards (15,934) and third in receiving touchdowns (153) in NFL history; Faneca, a six-time first-team All-Pro; Jacoby, a tackle on the famed “Hogs” line that drove Washington to three Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and early ’90s; Coryell, whose offensive innovations couldn’t overcome a 3-6 postseason record; and Bruce, who has 62 fewer touchdowns than Owens.
By random selection earlier, Owens ended up being the final discussion of the day. A 34-minute discussion resulted in him falling short for the second consecutive year in part because of his well-documented struggles with teammates and coaches during stints with five teams.
Eliminated in the cut to five were Mawae, who played 241 games over 16 seasons; Boselli, who played only 91 games while missing 21 during a career that was brilliant but ultimately considered too short to make it this time around; Dawkins, a versatile strong safety with four All-Pro selections; Lynch, a two-time All-Pro who played 15 seasons; and Law, the play-making corner who was a key part in the early part of the Patriots dynasty.
Tomlinson, the 2006 MVP and the NFL’s fifth-leading career rusher, was unanimously considered the only no-brainer. His discussion took only four minutes and could have been shorter.
Davis was a bit of a surprise because knee injuries limited his career to 78 games over seven seasons. But the explosiveness of his first four seasons — including seasons of 1,750 and 2,008 yards on Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowl-winning teams in 1997-98 — swayed the vote this year. So did his league MVP, Super Bowl MVP and NFL-record average of 142.5 yards rushing in seven playoff games.
Taylor ranks seventh in career sacks (139.5) and has more forced fumbles (48), touchdown returns (nine), interceptions (eight), passes defensed (99) and fumble recoveries (29) than any of the five Hall of Famers ahead of him on the career sack list.
Warner, one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in sports history, had to wait until his third year of eligibility. Injuries created a five-year lull in the middle of his career, but in the seven years he was healthy, Warner won two league MVPs, a Super Bowl MVP, one Super Bowl and participated in three Super Bowls. He elevated two of the league laughingstock franchises — St. Louis and Arizona — to the Super Bowl.
Andersen was in his fifth year of eligibility. During a 25-minute discussion, it was clear that the league’s all-time leading scorer (2,544) was not going to be dismissed again. The seven-time Pro Bowl kicker is one of only five players in NFL history on two all-decade teams. The others are Hall of Famers Dick Butkus, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Reggie White.
In 2004, the Vikings needed a kicker. Andersen came in and made all 45 extra points and 18 of 22 field goal attempts with a long of 48.
Next year’s class will be discussed in Minneapolis on the eve of Super Bowl LII. Among the players who will be eligible for the first time are former Vikings Randy Moss and Steve Hutchinson. Others include Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.