The Pro Football Hall of Fame is out with its list of preliminary nominees for the class of 2012, and it looks like a class that won’t have many — if any — players getting in on the first ballot.
The best of the bunch is former Chiefs guard Will Shields. As I wrote last month in my look ahead at future Hall of Fame classes, Shields never missed a game in 14 seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl 12 times, so if he doesn’t get in, the selection committee might as well just say guards can’t get in on their first try.
After Shields, the list of first-year eligible players features a lot of good but not great guys, like quarterback Drew Bledsoe and wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson. Running back Tiki Barber will also be eligible for the Class of 2012, as long as his attempted comeback continues to fail.
Three coaches are now eligible after five years out of coaching: Bill Cowher, Bill Parcells and Marty Schottenheimer. Parcells and Schottenheimer have both previously been eligible and both been voted down. Cowher’s enshrinement could come down to the question of whether he’s really retired.
Overall, a relative lack of great first-year nominees means this will probably be a good year for candidates who have come up short in the past, including Willie Roaf, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Charles Haley, Jerome Bettis, Curtis Martin, Andre Reed, Tim Brown and Cris Carter.
The Hall of Fame selection committee will vote by mail to reduce the current list of 103 nominees to 25 semifinalists, then vote again to get down to 15 modern-era finalists, who will be voted on the day before the Super Bowl, along with the two senior nominees, former Steelers defensive back Jack Butler and former Lions guard Dick Stanfel.
The full list of 71 players, 14 coaches and 18 contributors up for enshrinement this year is here.