On the night before the Super Bowl, the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced. After falling short in previous seasons, will former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca make the cut, and be enshrined to NFL immortality?
Faneca is most certainly deserving of a bust in Canton, as are all of the finalists on the list. In fact, it's those finalists that voters must be convinced of which Faneca is more deserving.
Headlining this year's list are the following:
- Troy Polamalu, S -- 2003-2014 Pittsburgh Steelers
- Edgerrin James, RB -- 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks
- Zach Thomas, LB -- 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys
- Bryant Young, DT -- 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers
- Richard Seymour, DE/DT -- 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders
- John Lynch, FS -- 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos
- Steve Atwater, S -- 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets
- LeRoy Butler, S -- 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers
- Reggie Wayne, WR -- 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts
- Torry Holt, WR -- 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars
- Isaac Bruce, WR -- 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers
- Sam Mills, LB -- 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers
- Tony Boselli, T -- 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve)
- Alan Faneca, G -- 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals
- Steve Hutchinson, G -- 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans
As with any list of football greats, it’s hard to discredit anyone from making this list. However, a minimum of four players must be selected, with a maximum of eight being picked to wear the gold jacket in August.
Among those 15 names are 2 linemen other than Faneca: Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli and Seahawks/Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson. I felt that last year may have been Faneca's year and that he was more deserving than former Jets guard Kevin Mawae, but if there's any year for Faneca to get the nod, it's 2020. With the Centennial class inducting former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and former Steelers safety Donnie Shell, the modern-era list is headlined by first-time eligible former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
That's a lot of Black and Gold, but it makes perfect sense to center the ceremony, as well as the accompanying Hall of Fame Game, around a Pittsburgh fan base within a short drive from the Hall's location in Canton, Ohio,
While all of the above players are well deserving of being Hall of Fame finalists, it's Faneca who stands head and shoulders above his offensive line peers. His 9 Pro-Bowl selections are the most of this group. His 8 All-Pro selections (7 first-team) are 1 less than Mawae (in both categories). He has a Super Bowl ring (the others never won one) and was named not once, but twice, NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year (2004, 2008).
In addition, Faneca was also named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, and the Steelers 75th Anniversary Team.
During his first 10 years in the league he played with the Steelers, before rounding out his final three years with the Jets (2008, 2009) and Cardinals (2010). While in Pittsburgh, Faneca paved the way for Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, Willie Parker (who has a Super Bowl record-holding longest run) as well as long forgotten names such as Amos Zereoue and Najeh Davenport.
Considering his achievements, the only thing that could hold him out another year is if no lineman is selected at all... which could certainly happen: no linemen were inducted in 2017. Packers great Jerry Kramer was inducted as a senior member in 2018, meaning no modern-era offensive lineman has been inducted in two years.
Furthermore, Redskins great Joe Jacoby failed to make the finalists list again this year (as well as in 2019) after getting close previously. (Jacoby is widely considered the greatest Redskins player who is not currently inducted into the Hall of Fame.) That's a shame, as the honor is long overdue for all of the players on this list.
Mawae was great for the Jets, and finally got his nod, but Fancea, Boselli, and Hutchinson continue to wait.
Boselli was the face of a new franchise with then expansion team Jacksonville. Hutchinson was great not only with one team, but two. And Faneca's best days were obviously with Pittsburgh but he also had Pro Bowl caliber years with the Jets.
Will a lineman be chosen this year? And if so, will it be Alan Faneca?
I believe the committee has to finally draw the straw of one of these linemen, and for Faneca to continually be a finalist since becoming eligible for induction, his time is coming: and if Polamalu is selected, I have no reason to believe Faneca wouldn't join him in the 2020 class.
I know that offfensive linemen are never "sexy" picks: whether it's entering the league and getting chosen for the Hall of Fame, there are no gaudy stats to point to in order to support their success. That's a shame too, because Faneca had in fact been a dominant player during his career. He paved the way for Ben Roethlisberger's early start, and Jerome Bettis' classic end: a true benchmark of his greatness, aside from the various accolades he acquired throughout the years.
Seeing how long many greats wait out for their names to be added to the immortal halls of Canton, Ohio, we have come to expect Faneca to wait a little while longer. Offensive lineman do "make it" but usually it's a short list with only one getting selected with each class.
However, this season appears to be as good as any. With the Steel City flavor added already, Faneca's selection would be the icing on the cake. His accolades are rivaled by no other lineman in this class and the only reason he would have to wait longer is if, in my opinion, the committee passed on picking an offensive lineman altogether.
That doesn't seem likely, at least under the given circumstances. Therefore, 2020 should be the year we hear that Alan Faneca will be immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.