Former Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson will have to wait at least another year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But there is some good news for Hutch and his fans.
Unlike last year, the 48-member selection committee did chip away at the four-person logjam at offensive line by choosing former Seahawks, Jets and Titans center Kevin Mawae as one of the eight members of the Class of 2019. Hutchinson and fellow guard Alan Faneca made the modern-era cut from 15 to 10 while left tackle Tony Boselli did not.
Other modern-era players joining Mawae in the Class of 2019 are cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Ty Law, safety Ed Reed and tight end Tony Gonzalez. Bailey, Reed and Gonzalez were selected in their first year of eligibility. Law was in his fifth year of eligibility and is the first member of the Patriots dynasty to be selected. He won three Super Bowls with New England.
Former Chiefs safety Johnny Robinson, who had an interception in Kansas City’s Super Bowl IV win over the Vikings, made it as the senior finalist. Former Cowoboys executive Gil Brandt and Broncos owner Pat Bowlen made it as finalists in the contributors category.
The entire 48-member committee, including yours truly, voted yes or no on those eight candidates. Thirty-nine yes votes were needed to make it in.
Eliminated in the cut from 15 to 10 modern-era finalists were Boselli, Raiders coach Tom Flores, Rams receiver Isaac Bruce, Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour and Bucs and Broncos safety John Lynch.
Eliminated in the cut from 10 to five were Hutchinson, Faneca, Broncos safety Steve Atwater, Colts and Cardinals running back Edgerrin James and Cardinals and Chargers coach Don Coryell.
The committee spent 10 minutes, 42 seconds on Robinson, 19:29 on Bowlen and a meeting-high 34:05 on Brandt.
The offensive linemen were discussed next in alphabetical order. A total of 74 minutes, 10 seconds were spent trying to say something that would break up the field in a year when two finalists — Gonzalez and Reed — were considered locks with Bailey not far behind.
The committee spent 26:11 on Boselli, 24:24 on Mawae, 13:03 on Hutchinson and 10:32 on Faneca.
The extra long discussion on Boselli couldn’t sway enough selectors who acknowledge Boselli’s greatness but still believe a 91-game career falls short of Canton at this point.
The sense is Faneca, a 6-time All-Pro, and Hutchinson, a 5-time All-Pro, split the votes at guard, opening the door for the somewhat surprising pick of Mawae as only the fourth center selected in the past 50 years. He had fewer All-Pro honors (three), but played in more games, 241, while blocking for as many 100-yard rushers (91) as Boselli had games played.
In his second-year of eligibility, Hutchinson was praised for his toughness and intelligence but ultimately fell victim to the committee’s decision to unclog the five-member defensive back field by taking both Bailey and Law when it appeared it might be either or.
Reed, the final player discussed, required the least amount of discussion at 2:28. Gonzalez was next at 6:28 followed by Bruce at 8:16.
Hutchinson and Faneca will no doubt reach the final 15 again next year. Boselli could be back as well.
Among next year’s first-year eligible players are Steelers safety Troy Palomalu, Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.