Barely a week after eight new busts went into the Hall of Fame, the folks responsible for determining the next finalists from the Seniors Committee and Contributors Committee will, as a practical matter, pick the first three busts of the Class of 2017.
As explained by Peter King of TheMMQB.com, a Seniors Committee finalist will be picked on Monday, and a pair of Contributors Committee finalists will be selected on Tuesday. It’s part of a rotation that began in 2015, with two contributors and one senior player (i.e., someone the Hall of Fame overlooked when eligible along with his peers) named finalists one year and two seniors and one contributor the next.
By the time the two committees do their work, it’s basically a formality for the finalists. After all, for the full group of selectors to not turn these finalists into enshrinees would be to reject the work of the committees. Which means that, if it happens only once, the committee who made the recommendation should be replaced.
Barring a major upset and/or a dramatic miscalculation by the two committees, the three finalists picked the next two days will get in. This year, the Contributors Committee will identify two from the following 10: Bobby Beathard, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt, Jerry Jones, Bucko Kilroy, Art McNally, Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue, John Wooten, and George Young.
Quietly, the development of the Contributors Committee represents one of the most dramatic changes to the Hall of Fame selection process in recent years, carving out a separate path for non-players and non-coaches to get in without having to compete with players and coaches. Case in point: It took years for NFL Films founder Ed Sabol to emerge from the annual morass of men who played the game. For Steve, the journey toward the spot he deserves in Canton becomes much easier to obtain because a separate path has been created.
So far, the Contributors Committee has helped Bill Polian, Ron Wolf, and Eddie DeBartolo obtain recognition they likely otherwise never would have gotten. For current and future General Managers, owners, scouts, and other contributors, this new avenue that averages 1.5 of them getting in per year will give non-players and non-coaches a much greater presence in the Hall of Fame — at the direct expense of Seniors Committee representatives, who used to be essentially guaranteed two spots per year.