The NFL announced the shortlist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2020, and in honor of the league's centennial, this class is poised to be the largest one yet. While the Class of 2019 included eight members, next year's class may include as many as 20. There are some interesting entries on the list, including people who have surprisingly never come all that close to induction before despite their considerable achievements in the NFL. With that said, here's our own shortlist for a typical-sized Hall of Fame class.
WR - Philadelphia Eagles (1971-1983), Dallas Cowboys (1984)
For most people who have heard of Harold Carmichael, the first word that comes to mind is "tall." Carmichael is still the tallest man (6-foot-8) ever to play in the NFL, which may overshadow (no pun intended) how great a receiver he actually was. Over the period of 1973-1983, no player caught more passes (549) for more yards (8,414) or more touchdowns (77) than Carmichael, and he helped the Eagles reach their very first Super Bowl in 1980. Despite still holding the Eagles' all-time records in all three statistics, Carmichael has never reached the status of Hall of Fame finalist until this year.
Coach - Philadelphia Eagles (1976-1982), St. Louis Rams (1997-1999), Kansas City Chiefs (2001-2005)
Carmichael's coach in that Super Bowl season of 1980 was Dick Vermeil, a man who made an immediate impact in every city in which he landed. The direct antithesis to the "old-school tough-guy" approach personified by Vince Lombardi and Tom Coughlin, Vermeil was probably the nicest guy ever to coach a football team and do it well. Every team he led reached the playoffs by his third season at the helm, and his "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams gave him a well-deserved Super Bowl ring in 1999.
Coach - Pittsburgh Steelers (1992-2006)
In 1992, former Browns assistant Bill Cowher assumed the role once held by the legendary Chuck Noll and made it his own, bringing a youthful enthusiasm to a flagging Steelers squad and reviving the team for the 1990s. Pittsburgh was a solid Super Bowl contender for the majority of Cowher's time in charge, minus a couple of down years in the late 90s. Though his teams had a bad habit of losing AFC Championship games at home to teams they probably could have beaten - four times, in fact - the Steelers finally broke through in 2005 by winning Super Bowl XL as a sixth-seed, cementing Cowher's legacy.
WR - Dallas Cowboys (1973-1983)
Pearson is as synonymous with the golden years of "America's Team" as Roger Staubauch, Tony Dorsett, and the "Doomsday" Defense. Staubach's favorite passing target was critical to the Cowboys' success in the mid-1970s, factoring in some of the team's greatest moments. The most famous - and controversial - was the "Hail Mary" in the 1975 playoffs against Minnesota, which he may have pushed off defensive back Nate Wright and gotten away with it. Pearson finished as the Cowboys' all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, and would have played longer if not for liver injuries sustained in a car accident in 1984.
WR - Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (1972-1986)
Yes, this is looking like a pretty receiver-heavy list. Just bear with us. Branch came into the NFL with world-class speed, and had already set an NCAA championship track meet record in the 100-meter event by the time he reached the Raiders. In a time when the passing game was stifled, Branch was one of the dominant receivers in the league, and few players in NFL history could perform in the playoffs like him. In 20 playoff games - a ridiculously fortunate number for any player - Branch caught 73 passes for 1,289 yards, both records that stood until Jerry Rice came along. Sadly, this would be a posthumous induction, as Branch died this August at the age of 71.
President of NFL Films (1962-2012)
This is definitely the outsider on this list, but were it not for Steve Sabol and his father, Ed (who himself was inducted into Canton in 2011), the NFL would look very, very different. As the league incessantly celebrates its 100th anniversary, think of what makes it such a powerful pop cultural force, even among people who have no taste whatsoever for sports. Part of the league's image is in its boldness, the "power and the glory" characterized by slow-motion takes of spiraling passes and bone-crunching hits, cinematic music, and John Facenda (or soundalike) voiceover. We have Steve Sabol and his filmmaker's eye to thank for all of that. What Roone Arledge did for sports on television, Steve Sabol did for sports as an artistic medium.