Cantonmetrics: The Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Snub Team

Who are the best players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

The following chart contains the top 20 players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, any other players on the “All-Snub Team” based on the top non-Hall players at each position, and any senior candidates that would fill spots on the All-Snub Team currently filled by modern-era players to form the All-Senior Candidate team. Note that this is based on Pro Football Reference’s Hall of Fame Monitor metric only, so it does not necessarily reflect my opinion about who the best or most deserving players are, and even to the extent that it does, it doesn’t necessarily mean these players should be in the Hall of Fame, especially the players closer to the bottom, nor does it mean I would object to any player not on this list being inducted. It also means the list does not include any players who played the bulk of their career before 1950, as the Hall of Fame Monitor doesn’t include such players.

Note also that players who were modern-era finalists in the most recent cycle are generally not considered snubs unless they are new finalists in their last five years of eligibility. Most players who became finalists before their last five years of eligibility, all but a handful who got there before their last eight, and to my knowledge, every player since 2002 who got there before their last ten, eventually made the Hall of Fame. Since 2002, Bob Kuechenberg is the only player who was a finalist for at least the last four years of his eligibility who did not get inducted before his eligibility ran out, and since the introduction of the two-tier cutdown of finalists in 2005, the only player to make the cut to the final 10 before his last three years of eligibility not to be inducted. This explains why I’m rolling this out right after the announcement of the finalists rather than waiting to see who gets inducted. 

Read moreCantonmetrics: The Pro Football Hall of Fame All-Snub Team

Predictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selections are performed by a panel of 46 leading NFL media members including representatives of all 32 NFL teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America, and 13 at-large writers.

The panel has selected a list of 15 finalists from the modern era, defined as playing all or part of their careers within the last 25 years. A player must have spent 5 years out of the league before they can be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Players that last played in the 2017 season will be eligible for induction in 2023.

Before Super Bowl LVII, the panel will meet virtually and narrow down the list of modern-era finalists down to five. Those five will be considered alongside three senior candidates and one coach or contributor, each selected by nine-member subpanels of the larger panel last August, for a total of eight. From this list, at least four and no more than nine people will be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My prediction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 is:

Darrelle Revis
Joe Thomas
Zach Thomas
Torry Holt
Andre Johnson
Chuck Howley
Joe Klecko
Ken Riley
Don Coryell

Hall of Fame Game: Dolphins v. Rams

After the jump, the chart of notable honors for the finalists as well as the semifinalists that failed to make it to the final 15. 

Read morePredictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023

Cantonmetrics: 2023 Semifinalists

Each November, the Pro Football Hall of Fame names at least 25 modern-era players (more if there’s a tie for the last spot), narrowed down from the nominees named in September, who played at least part of their careers in the past 25 years and have been retired at least 5, as semifinalists for induction to the Hall of Fame. No more than five modern-era players are inducted each year, so most of the players listed below won’t be inducted this year and some won’t necessarily be inducted at all, but it’s still important to see what players the Hall of Fame voters consider most worthy of induction into the Hall among the currently-eligible players, and we can look at their relevant honors and argue over which players are worthy of induction. 

Read moreCantonmetrics: 2023 Semifinalists

Cantonmetrics: 2023 Preliminary Nominees

Each September, the Pro Football Hall of Fame typically names around 95-125 modern-era players, who played at least part of their careers in the past 25 years and have been retired at least 5, as nominees for induction to the Hall of Fame. No more than five modern-era players are inducted each year, so the vast majority of players listed below won’t be inducted this year and most probably won’t be inducted at all. Still, it’s useful to have a baseline to look at them, show their relevant stats and honors, and argue over which players are worthy of induction.

Players are generally sorted according to their performance on past ballots, with those players that have advanced the furthest listed above those that haven’t advanced as far, and those that have advanced more recently listed above those that haven’t advanced as far as recently. Generally, the order in which players are listed only changes to arrange players based on the stage reached in the most recent year, and each new player to become eligible is listed at the top of their applicable category; during the selection process first-year eligible players are listed at the top of whatever category seems appropriate based on their Hall of Fame Monitor number from Pro Football Reference (not the stage I necessarily think they’ll reach). The stages are abbreviated and color-coded in the “Last 5 Years” columns based on a system I shamelessly stole from another blog post a decade or so ago I probably couldn’t find if I looked for it today: “UNL” if a candidate wasn’t even among the nominees that year, “PRE” if they only reached the nominees stage (this one), “Semi” if they were among the 25 semifinalists (announced in November), and “T15” or “T10” if they were among the finalists announced in January and were eliminated at the first or second stage, respectively, of deliberation (historically held during Super Bowl weekend and still announced then, but deliberations seem to have been held earlier, in mid-to-late January, each of the past two years).

To the right of the “Last 5 Years” columns are the various stats and honors that go into the Hall of Fame Monitor, along with the Monitor itself, which is color-coded with the background moving from red to green as the number climbs from 40 to 80. To the left of the Monitor are those awards that apply regardless of position: All-Decade team membership, MVPs (but not Defensive Player of the Year awards even though PFR treats them as equivalent to MVPs), first-team All-Pro selections, and Pro Bowl selections. There are two different columns for All-Pro team selections, with the one on the right counting only the most commonly cited selections by the Associated Press, while the one on the left counts each year a player was selected All-Pro by any of the three organizations recognized by the NFL’s official record books, generally the AP, Pro Football Writers Association, and Sporting News. Even though PFR’s own Approximate Value calculation can make up close to half of each player’s Monitor number, I haven’t listed it here. To the right of the Monitor are those statistical categories that feed into the Monitor at each position: yards and touchdowns for offensive skill positions (and kick returners in the latter case), sacks and interceptions for various defensive positions, field goals for kickers, plus specific positions if multiple positions have been merged into a single table. These right-side columns will be removed in latter stages of deliberation when all players are listed on a single table.

Finally, the “Notables Not Listed” section displays selected non-nominees, including any player that was on the nominees list the previous year (and most other players recently nominated), any first-year eligible player with a Monitor score over 40 (as well as any over 35 that are the highest-rated non-selected players at their position), any player I deem noteworthy (generally those previously nominated or that have particularly high Monitor scores) that just lost their last chance not to fall into the senior pool, and the non-selected player still on the ballot with the highest Monitor score if they don’t fit either of the first two categories (as well as any other high scores I deem worth including). These players are included purely for reference and interest and shouldn’t imply anything about how “deserving” they are of being nominated (much less inducted). It’s worth noting, though, that players can be and have jumped from not being nominated at all to eventually making the Hall of Fame, with Sam Mills last year joining Rickey Jackson as players that made the Hall of Fame in the last 15 years as modern-era players despite not necessarily being on the list of nominees every year of their eligibility, while Everson Walls and Willie Anderson have made the finals within the last five years despite being off the list of nominees not long before.

Without further ado, here are the 129 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023: 

Read moreCantonmetrics: 2023 Preliminary Nominees

Cantonmetrics: Introduction

The Baseball Hall of Fame may be the oldest, most prestigious, and iconic of all of sports’ halls of fame, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame might be the most fun to speculate about. The Baseball Hall places all of its eligible players that haven’t fallen below a certain voting threshold on a single ballot and then asks its voters to choose no more than ten, resulting in massive backlogs that only get worse with time; the Football Hall, by contrast, iteratively narrows down its candidates down to 15 finalists and then further narrows that down to five, usually inducting all five at once. Moreover, the 15 finalists are themselves iteratively cut down to ten and then five, and while which players were cut at which stage isn’t always made clear by the Hall itself (especially since the announcement of each year’s class was made part of the NFL Honors show), nonetheless it does provide a template for seeing which players the selection committee is favoring and allows one to predict what the following year’s class will look like. Football is also, somewhat counterintuitively, one of the easier, or at least more fun, sports to fairly compare players’ Hall of Fame credentials, in large part because unlike in other sports, All-Star selections are made at the end of the season and so can incorporate the entire season, rather than giving an unfair boost to players who have strong early seasons but peter out down the stretch, and unlike in baseball, the Pro Bowl doesn’t enforce quotas requiring at least one player be selected from each team, resulting in the best player on crappy teams having their All-Star count inflated.

What makes this somewhat counterintuitive is that, more than in perhaps any other sport (popular with Americans at least), the importance of various players in football varies widely. The quarterback is significantly more prominent than any other position, while special teams players can seem largely anonymous unless what they do is truly special, and then there’s the offensive line, arguably more anonymous than special teams despite being surprisingly important to team success, because they almost never touch the ball and because statistics are generally pretty poor-to-nonexistent at capturing their performance and value. On the topic of statistics, which statistics are relevant can vary widely across positions; quarterbacks and other offensive players that touch the ball can usually be measured by yards and touchdowns, but for passing plays it’s not always clear how much of that can be attributed to the QB and how much to the receiver, and running backs can also have their numbers inflated by a good offensive line. On defense, sacks are all-important to defensive linemen but completely irrelevant to defensive backs, while interceptions are the reverse, and linebackers end up somewhere in the middle; meanwhile, neither of those stats captures players’ ability to stop the run. And more than in most other sports, the meaning of those stats has changed over time as passing has become a more important part of the modern game.

So there aren’t any easy statistical yardsticks to compare players of different positions, or in some cases players in the same positions in different eras, and when it comes to offensive linemen only those that truly obsessively study the film can really tease out whether one player is better than another. And yet in some ways, that’s part of the appeal to me: using what standards we do have to compare players at different positions, to see how a Tom Brady stacks up against a J.J. Watt or a Von Miller against a Julio Jones. Even then those standards are usually applied differently across positions – it takes a lot more for an offensive lineman to get into the Hall than a quarterback – and figuring out how to calibrate those thresholds is part of the fun.

My interest in this area started in 2010, after seeing the NFL Network’s “Top 10” series cover the best players not to make the Hall of Fame, some of which had only been on the ballot one or two years, and coupled with a pair of no-brainer first-ballot picks appearing on the ballot that year in Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, plus the aforementioned ability to tease out the committee’s thinking on the finalists based on last year’s vote, it allowed me to offer my first prediction for that year’s Hall of Fame class, something I’ve done every January since. Later that year NFL Network ran a multi-week series counting down the top 100 players in NFL history, effectively giving me a whole list of players for me to keep an eye on as they became eligible for induction. (Notably, every eligible player on the list was in the Hall of Fame even though some of the “snubs” on NFLN’s earlier list might have been deserving of spots, especially those that just hadn’t managed to break through into the top five in their limited time on the ballot.) Eventually I found the discussion of players’ Hall of Fame credentials on the Zoneblitz.com website, which introduced me to the notion of All-Decade, first-team All-Pro, and Pro Bowl selections as the primary if not sole predictors of making the Hall of Fame; that led to my Top 50 Active Resumes posts, allowing me to see which players were getting close to the Hall, which ones were already in, and which ones were set to go in first-ballot, in near-real time, but which I eventually abandoned upon realizing I didn’t really have any basis for how I valued the various postseason honors across positions.

Eventually I actually put in the work to determine thresholds for when players would become Hall of Famers or first-ballot selections, and planned to post a link here to a spreadsheet tracking and predicting players’ chances based on that information that I’d update every year, but never did. I may yet do so, but part of what made me lose interest in the spreadsheet was Pro Football Reference coming up with their own Hall of Fame Monitor metric in 2019. Initially I didn’t intend to pay too much attention to it, at most considering it a supplement to determine what players to look at (though I did once use it as an easy way to compare a recently-retired player to others at their position), largely because it was primarily designed around a score of 100 representing the average Hall of Famer at each position, even though the cutoff for getting into the Hall at all was what was probably more important and interesting, and because PFR didn’t offer a way to directly compare Monitor numbers across positions, it left me wondering whether the Monitor was comparable across positions. PFR’s own page explaining the Monitor does seem to treat it as comparable across positions, though, considering 80 as marking the “strongest of the borderline candidates” and 40 as the bare minimum for eventual induction, so part of the purpose of this new section of the site is to make it easier to make such comparisons and use it as a shorthand and at least an initial basis of discussion.

The last twist that shaped this section came over the summer. Previously the Hall of Fame’s senior-committee selections, as well as the selection of coach and contributor candidates as those were moved to separate committees, were essentially black boxes, with the committees simply naming candidates to move directly to the final stage of the larger selection committee’s deliberations at the start of the process, and none of the process that went into selecting those nominees would officially be made public. This year, though, concurrent to moving to three senior selections and one combined coach/contributor selection, the Hall released lists of candidates at each stage of both the senior and coach/contributor processes, including not only lists of finalists, but of semifinalists as well, and even what candidates were eliminated at each stage of considering the finalists, something the Hall has neglected when it comes to the modern-era finalists in recent years. It’s now possible to get nearly as much of a sense of what the senior committee is thinking as it is to get a sense of the committee as a whole. Moreover, it was the clarification of the coach/contributor situation that put the final nail in the coffin of the spreadsheet as being the most important element for the launch of this section; none of the benchmarks used to compare players apply to contributors or even coaches, tipping the balance away from determining people’s Hall of Fame credentials or likelihood of being selected by the committees, and more towards looking at what the committees actually think about them. In other words, while tracking players’ postseason honors and how they translate to Hall of Fame status is still important, so is the history of how far retired players made it through the process each year.

I’m still using the “Cantonmetrics” name I came up with for this section when I still intended to base it around the spreadsheet, even though the metrics are less important than I originally had in mind for it. I’ve populated the new category with my previous prediction and Top 50 Active Resumes posts, as well as other posts relating to the Hall of Fame I’ve written over the years, including my posts on the 2010s All-Decade Team from 2019-20. Going forward I’ll have posts with tables of players selected, and not selected, at each stage of the Hall of Fame process, including their performance in the most important and objective cross-position areas used in the Hall of Fame Monitor metric as well as the metric itself, and the stage each player reached in each of the last five years, starting with the recently-announced list of preliminary nominees sometime in the next 24 hours, serving as a way to provide context and a starting point for discussion, which will likely serve as an overhaul/replacement for my existing prediction posts following the announcement of the finalists. Following the Super Bowl will be a season wrap-up post that will contain a revived and revised version of the Top 50 Active Resumes list with predictions based on the benchmarks I came up with for the spreadsheet, a look at the unselected finalists and strongest first-year candidates for the purpose of looking at next year (including potentially moving each year’s predictions to that point), and other such things. At some point, possibly soon, I’ll put up a page to serve as a larger introduction to this section and the Hall of Fame process more generally, but I probably need to spend a year figuring out exactly how this new system will work and how useful it actually is. This is going to feel surprisingly new for me considering the groundwork that I’ve been laying for it over the course of over a decade, but in many ways that just makes it all the more exciting.

Predictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selections are performed by a panel of 46 leading NFL media members including representatives of all 32 NFL teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America, and 13 at-large writers.

The panel has selected a list of 15 finalists from the modern era, defined as playing all or part of their careers within the last 25 years. A player must have spent 5 years out of the league before they can be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Players that last played in the 2016 season will be eligible for induction in 2022.

On January 18, the panel will meet virtually and narrow down the list of modern-era finalists down to five. Those five will be considered alongside one senior candidate, one contributor, and one coach, each selected by nine-member subpanels of the larger panel last August, for a total of eight. From this list, at least four and no more than eight people will be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My prediction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 is:

Tony Boselli
Richard Seymour
Zach Thomas
LeRoy Butler
Torry Holt
Cliff Branch
Dick Vermeil
Art McNally

Predictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selections are performed by a panel of 46 leading NFL media members including representatives of all 32 NFL teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America, and 13 at-large writers.

The panel has selected a list of 15 finalists from the modern era, defined as playing all or part of their careers within the last 25 years. A player must have spent 5 years out of the league before they can be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Players that last played in the 2015 season will be eligible for induction in 2021.

On January 19, the panel will meet virtually and narrow down the list of modern-era finalists down to five. Those five will be considered alongside one senior candidate, one contributor, and one coach, each selected by nine-member subpanels of the larger panel last August, for a total of eight. From this list, at least four and no more than eight people will be selected for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My prediction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021 is:

Peyton Manning
Charles Woodson
Tony Boselli
Alan Faneca
Richard Seymour
Drew Pearson
Bill Nunn
Tom Flores

Predicting the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

Back in September, I created a post sizing up players’ chances to make the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2010s and what it might mean for their Hall of Fame chances. With the last regular season of the decade in the books and the Super Bowl matchup set, I would expect the team to be named sometime in the next couple of weeks (assuming they’re doing it at all in the face of all the 100th Anniversary celebrations and not saving it for later in the summer and fall for the actual 100th Anniversary; last decade’s team was announced at the Pro Bowl), so it’s a good time to take one last look at the class and make final predictions for who’s likely to make the team in light of my previous post, and who might muscle their way in that I might not expect. Semicolons separate the first team from the second team, and names in italics are considered locks to me.

Read morePredicting the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

Predictions for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s selections are performed by a panel of 46 leading NFL media members including representatives of all 32 NFL teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America, and 13 at-large writers.

The panel has selected a list of 15 finalists from the modern era, defined as playing all or part of their careers within the last 25 years. A player must have spent 5 years out of the league before they can be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame. Players that last played in the 2014 season will be eligible for induction in 2020.

During Super Bowl Weekend, the panel will meet and narrow down the list of modern-era finalists down to five. This year, those five will be part of a special centennial class of 20, including ten senior candidates to be inducted in a special Centennial Celebration to honor the NFL’s 100th birthday in September, and three contributors and two coaches, to be inducted with the modern-era candidates in August. The senior candidates, contributors, and coaches will be chosen by a special blue-ribbon panel later this month, and will be voted on as a group by the full Hall of Fame panel during Super Bowl weekend, for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My prediction for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 (modern-era candidates and coaches only) is:

Troy Polamalu
Edgerrin James
Isaac Bruce
Alan Faneca
Tony Boselli
Don Coryell
Jimmy Johnson

Hall of Fame Game: Rams v. Steelers

Sizing Up the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

With the injuries to Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, and with Eli Manning being benched for someone that was considered a massive reach when the Giants took him sixth overall and pretty much everyone being fine with it even before Daniel Jones’ star-making performance in his first start, many have spent this past week wondering whether we’re seeing a changing of the guard in the NFL.

As in culture more generally, the 2010s have felt more like a weird extension of the 2000s than a decade in their own right, certainly at the quarterback position. Many of the biggest names at quarterback played large chunks of the previous decade. Of the six quarterbacks with five or more Pro Bowl selections, only two, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, entered the league after the 2004 draft that boasted Roethlisberger, Manning, and Philip Rivers. Tom Brady has been so timeless he’s likely going to become the first quarterback to be on two different All-Decade teams – and not only that, make the first team on both. Part of this has been the result of the reduction in practices after the 2011 CBA, and part of it is simply because quarterback is a position where it’s easier for a player to stay in the game for a decade or more, but it definitely feels like the game has been in stasis for the past decade.

Besides marking the 100th season of the NFL, 2019 marks the end of the decade of the 2010s, and with it will come the selection of the All-Decade Team of the 2010s. Selection to the All-Decade Team can mean more than bragging rights; the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame also selects the members of the All-Decade Team, and Hall voters seem to tend to favor All-Decade players when possible. Below I’ve attempted to figure out what players are likely to make the All-Decade team and what it could mean for their Hall of Fame chances (or at least provide a starting point for the latter), based primarily on first-team All-Pro selections and Pro Bowl selections from 2010-2019 only, which along with the All-Decade teams (and to a much lesser extent excellence in Super Bowls) seem to be the currency by which Hall of Fame players are assessed, especially when comparing players from different eras where statistical comparisons can be misleading. Pro Bowl selections refer to initial selections only, not later selections to replace players that did not play in the actual game due to injury, Super Bowl participation, or otherwise being unable or unwilling to play for any other reason. All-Pro selections are also divided in the tables below between selections by the AP, which are the most widely reported All-Pro teams and the ones you’ll see in the Pro Football Reference pages linked, and total years selected All-Pro by the AP, Pro Football Writers Association, and Sporting News, all of which name their own All-Pro teams that may have at least limited currency with Hall voters. I’ve also listed points racked up in NFL Network’s “Top 100 Players” lists (where being ranked #1 is worth 100 points and #100 is worth 1) determined by polls of fellow players, but this is only used to help break ties for comparison purposes, in conjunction with statistical comparisons for positions where that applies. Even so, I reserve the right to be way off on any of these by not incorporating whatever other factors the voters might look at.

In terms of how many players are selected at each position, I’ve mostly gone off of the structure of the last All-Decade team, checked by looking at the most recent set of All-Pro teams. The 2000s All-Decade team, for example, named two running backs, a fullback, two wide receivers, a tight end, and two players each at tackle and guard without separating into specific positions on each of the first and second teams. This mirrors what the 2010 AP All-Pro team did, but the 2018 All-Pro team replaced one of the running back spots with a flex selection (possibly partly inspired by fantasy football), with the first-team flex pick also getting a second-team selection at their main position, did not name a fullback, and named individual All-Pro players at each of the five offensive line spots. The PFWA and Sporting News still name their All-Pro teams the same way they did at the start of the decade (both of them already went without a fullback); the PFWA named only one running back but that may have been because they had a tie for the second wide receiver. On defense the All-Decade team was selected consistent with the 4-3 defense while the 2010 AP All-Pro team named two players at each of both the two defensive line and two linebacker spots; the 2018 team lumped all linebackers together and named three on each team, but named two each of “edge rushers” and “interior linemen” and had a fifth spot for defensive backs the others didn’t that did not appear on the second team at their normal position. The Hall’s treatment of the defense matches that that the PFWA had that year, so I’m assuming the All-Decade Team will have the same structure as last decade, but without a fullback and leaving open the possibility of a flex position being introduced in place of one of the running back spots. On special teams I’m not looking at kick and punt returners because Pro Football Reference doesn’t break them out and this is running late enough already; I was originally hoping to get this out before the Week 3 games.

The thin black line separates first-team and second-team selections; the thick one separates All-Decade selections from non-selections. Names in bold are considered at least probable to make the All-Decade team; anyone else could make it or not depending on how they or others do in the current season. Names in italics are retired.

Read moreSizing Up the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team