As the Hall of Fame welcomes nine new busts, it’s a reminder that the Hall of Fame has too many busts.
That’s something Deion Sanders said last year, arguing for an “upper room.” Since the Hall of Fame will likely never make one, we’ll take a crack at identifying the folks who would, or should, gain entry.
Ultimately, it would be up to the folks who belong in the upper room. They’d have a clear interest in not playing politics or taking care of friends. The inclusion of anyone who doesn’t belong would undermine the upper room.
So who made our list? It’s a visceral, know-it-when-you-see-it response, based on the dominance witnessed during their careers.
For the men who played before NFL Films and/or the Super Bowl, it’s driven more by legend and reputation, along with career achievements.
The goal is to keep it exclusive, but to include everyone who truly deserves to be in what should be an upper room at the Hall of Fame.
Here’s the list, by position. (And, obviously, to get to the upper room, the person must already be in the Hall of Fame.)
Quarterback: Sammy Baugh, John Elway, Brett Favre, Otto Graham, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas.
Running back: Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Marion Motley, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith.
Receiver: Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Harrison, Don Hutson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Jerry Rice.
Tight end: Mike Ditka, Tony Gonzalez, John Mackey, Kellen Winslow.
Tackle: Walter Jones, Anthony Muñoz, Jonathan Ogden, Art Shell, Joe Thomas.
Guard: Larry Allen, Randall McDaniel, Gene Upshaw.
Center: Jim Otto, Mike Webster.
Defensive end: Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Jack Youngblood.
Defensive tackle: Joe Greene, Bob Lilly, Alan Page, John Randle, Randy White.
Outside linebacker: Chuck Bednarick, Bobby Bell, Derrick Brooks, Jack Ham, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas.
Middle linebacker: Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Willie Lanier, Ray Lewis, Junior Seau.
Cornerback: Mel Blount, Willie Brown, Darrell Green, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Darrelle Revis, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson.
Safety: Ken Houston, Ronnie Lott, Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed.
Kicker: Jan Stenerud.
Punter: Ray Guy.
Coach: Paul Brown, Tom Landry, Vince Lombardi, Chuck Noll, Don Shula, Bill Walsh.
Owner: Al Davis, George Halas, Lamar Hunt, Art Rooney Sr.
Again, that’s just our crack at it. It would be up to the upper-roomers to figure out who does and doesn’t get in. Start with a handful of clear-cut, no-brainers (Deion Sanders, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, for example) and go from there.