NFL Analysis


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2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame Survey: Who Deserves a Spot in Canton?

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates
Baltimore, MD, USA; Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (85) hands his gloves to a fan in the stands after the Chargers' game against the Baltimore Ravens in a AFC Wild Card playoff football game at M&T Bank Stadium. The Chargers won 23-17. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Since becoming a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector in 2013, I annually survey hundreds of coaches, executives and/or former NFL players about the 15 Modern Era finalists. This year, 390 people answered my survey, including 23 Hall of Famers, 11 current NFL head coaches and 13 general managers.

This is a breakdown of the survey results for the Class of 2024. On Jan. 30-31, the selectors will gather for the annual selection meeting. 

*Asterisk denotes first-year eligible candidate.

Hall of Fame Survey Results

PlayerVotesPercentage Support
Antonio Gates*26166.6 percent
Julius Peppers*25765.6 percent
Dwight Freeney22356.9 percent
Devin Hester15940.6 percent
Andre Johnson12732.4 percent
Patrick Willis12231.1 percent
Torry Holt11629.6 percent
Jared Allen10426.5 percent
Reggie Wayne10125.8 percent
Darren Woodson10125.8 percent
Willie Anderson9023.0 percent
Fred Taylor7318.6 percent
Rodney Harrison6416.3 percent
Eric Allen6215.8 percent
Jahri Evans256.4 percent

Growing Problems

Before I get into the fun of my annual Pro Football Hall of Fame survey, there’s a troubling trend among a segment of Hall of Famers.

They’re become super snobs.

Here’s the story: At least two Hall of Famers declined to respond to my annual request to name their top five candidates among the 15 Modern Era Finalists. These are two retired greats who have consistently responded over the years.

And my survey is entirely confidential.

The reason? They no longer want to endorse anyone or get involved in giving opinions on the Hall of Fame candidates because of all the grief they get from other Hall of Famers. Specifically, one Hall of Famer publicly endorsed a candidate last year. After doing that, he received a call from another Hall of Famer who said, “Why did you recommend that guy? He’s not one of us!”

Frankly, that attitude is distasteful. There is a difference between upholding standards of greatness and dogging someone who put his body on the line for years in pursuit of team accomplishment. It’s like when Deion Sanders argues that the Hall of Fame should have the highest standards. That’s OK. But when Deion starts saying there should be a separate wing for first-ballot Hall of Famers, he crosses over into putting down fellow greats by creating a class system.

Take the Good With the Bad

Determining who does or doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame is no easy task. At the same time, it’s a significant task I’ve been honored to be part of since 2003. It’s also filled with heartache. In the next month, a maximum of five players from the list of 15 will be elected and honored for eternity in Canton, Ohio. It’s a remarkable achievement that reduces even the toughest competitors to tears.

It was amazing to see Zach Thomas’ reaction to getting in last year, considering I had the privilege of covering most of his career. Same with Jason Taylor, Terrell Davis and many of the other players I’ve been able to see up close over the years.

At the same time, the Hall of Fame selection process is awful. There are 10 guys on that list who are not going to make it this year or perhaps ever. While some people like to joke that the Hall of Fame is morphing into the Hall of Very Good (and yes, even I wonder about that occasionally), the reality is that every player on the list of 15 has a football resume that deserves tremendous respect.

That is why hearing about some Hall of Famers looking down upon some players makes me uneasy.

You Can't Please Everyone

It also speaks to the entire selection process. Fans complain every year when their favorite player doesn’t get in. They call selectors such as me idiots or biased — or both. That’s fine. That comes with the job.

But when I ask those fans what is a better process, they don’t have a good answer. They argue that only people who have worked in football, such as coaches, scouts, executives and former players, should have a say.

Well, the survey I did this year includes 390 of those people. Of that group, 23 are Hall of Famers, and 30 are current or former head coaches. It’s a collection of young, old, and everyone from star quarterbacks to experienced scouts who live in anonymity.

And if that survey means anything, fans of Jared Allen, Reggie Wayne, Fred Taylor and the other seven guys below the top five will be ticked off.

Likewise, fans would be surprised at how few players get in if you left the voting to only living Hall of Famers. Terrell Owens would never have gotten into the Hall of Fame if his now-fellow Hall of Famers had a say. Many of them hate him that much.

Fans would also be surprised to find out how many Hall of Famers don’t watch the game that closely. Even those working in media are not entirely tuned into the game. They don’t take real time to break down the subtle differences between guys like wide receivers like Wayne, Andre Johnson, and Torry Holt, let alone measure what they have done against the value of a star linebacker like Patrick Willis, who had an injury-shortened career.

All Comes Down to Taste

In short, there is no perfect system. As good friend and former Hall of Fame selector Len Pasquarelli once said, the process is more of a “smell test.” Did the candidate do enough of a combination of things, from statistical performance to pure dominance to winning?

To put it another way, do you like Monet or Picasso? How about Springsteen vs. Pearl Jam? Or maybe Parliament Funkadelic vs. Prince? It’s all a matter of taste among the truly great.

It would just be nice if the people at the top of the rung didn’t try to turn this into some version of Mean Girls.

Final Thoughts

Crowded at the Top

I was slightly surprised Antonio Gates and Julius Peppers did better in this year’s survey than their counterparts Darrelle Revis and Joe Thomas. Revis and Thomas were at 60 and 59 percent a year ago. What’s especially impressive is that Gates did that despite Dwight Freeney being over 50 percent this year. Last year, no one aside from Revis and Thomas tallied more than 50 percent, meaning that votes were much more spread out.

The Real Voting Process

Some people ask me how I use this survey. For instance, do I simply vote for the top vote-getters? Not exactly, and that’s because the voting process doesn’t precisely mirror this system. In the actual vote, the field of candidates is narrowed first from 15 to 10, with selectors voting for their top 10 the first time around. The field is then reduced to five through a similar process.

The final vote is usually a straight up or down on each of the final five candidates, although the Hall has occasionally changed that format. Part of this is about sorting players within positions, testing my view of who the top candidates are and trying to get a feel for how players are viewed over time.

Last year, for instance, I was surprised when wide receiver Andre Johnson was behind Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne. This year that has flipped with Johnson at the top, although not by much. Likewise, both Freeney and Hester have more support than they had a year ago.

Teammate Testimonials

A big part of the nomination process is the testimonials from many ex-teammates, coaches, and executives about the individual candidates. Those testimonials used to be exciting and different. They are becoming a bit tiresome unless they talk about specific and tangible moments in a player’s career.

The Real Game-Changers

Along those lines, I almost always roll my eyes when I hear that some player has “changed the game.” I’m not saying that it can’t happen or that athletes are coming up who stretch the imagination. But generally, it’s just not the case. Yes, Lamar Jackson is a great running quarterback. Is he better than Michael Vick or a host of others as a runner? Not really. Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen are excellent throwers with the ability to run, but if you look at enough John Elway highlights, you’ll see the same thing. Only a handful of players have “changed the game,” including Sid Luckman, Jim Brown, Anthony Munoz and Jerry Rice.

Senior Nominees

In addition to the 15 Modern Era finalists, the board of selectors will also consider former coach Buddy Parker as the Contributor Candidate this year. There will also be three Senior nominees: Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell.