By Clark Judge
|Ken Anderson (L) and Ken Riley (R)|
Score two for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Former Bengals’ cornerback Ken Riley and quarterback Ken Anderson are two of the 12 senior finalists revealed Wednesday for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s Class of 2023, and, yes, that’s a big deal. The reason: Only one player, former tackle Anthony Munoz, represents the Bengals in Canton.
Now that number may be doubled. That’s because unlike previous years, the Hall will propose three candidates for induction in each of the next three years. The past two years it was one per annum.
Of the two Bengals, Riley seems the more attractive candidate for two reasons: 1) He was a senior runner-up two years ago when Drew Pearson was elected, and 2) he ranks fifth in all-time interceptions, tying him with Charles Woodson. Woodson was a first-ballot enshrinee in 2021.
Furthermore, of the top seven NFL leaders in career interceptions, only one has not been inducted. Ken Riley, come on down.
Of course, Riley will have competition … and not just from Anderson. Take a look at the 12 senior finalists, and tell me who doesn’t belong:
- QB Ken Anderson, (1971-86).
- LB Maxie Baughan, (1960-70, 1974).
- LB Randy Gradishar, (1974-83).
- LB Chuck Howley, (1958-59, 1961-73).
- TB/DB/HB, P Cecil Isbell, (1938-42).
- DT Joe Klecko, (1977-88).
- OL Bob Kuechenberg, (1970-83).
- S Eddie Meador (1959-70).
- LB Tommy Nobis (1966-76).
- CB Ken Riley, (1969-83)
- WR Sterling Sharpe, (1988-94).
- CB Everson Walls, (1981-93).
Now, a handful of observations:
Eight candidates, or three-quarters of the field, come from that side of the ball, with linebacker (four) the most popular position. The competition there will be stiff, with Maxie Baughan, Chuck Howley, Randy Gradishar and Tommy Nobis the choices.
Only one finalist, former Packers’ star Cecil Isbell, played all or most of his career before 1960. Isbell was one of two pre-‘60s’ finalists among the 25 semifinalists named earlier this month. Former Packers’ end Lavvie Dilweg, a first-team All-Pro his first five seasons, was the other. He didn’t make the next cut.
SURPRISE AT WIDE RECIEVER
Sterling Sharpe is one of the 12, and while that might not seem like an upset, this marks his first appearance as a Hall finalist. Sharpe has the resume for Canton (five Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pro designations and 18 TDs in one season), but a short career (seven years) and no championships may have contributed to voters’ previous disinterest. Not anymore. He was the only one of six receiver candidates chosen, outlasting Dilweg, Stanley Morgan, Otis Taylor, Mark Clayton and Billy “White Shoes” Johnson (also a return specialist).
WHERE ARE THE OFEENSIVE LINEMEN?
There’s one: Miami’s Bob Kuechenberg. So what happened to Joe Jacoby, Mike Kenn, George Kuhn and Chris Hinton? Nothing, that’s what. All didn’t make the cut, yet all are Hall-of-Fame worthy. In fact, Jacoby was a three-time modern-era finalist (2016-18) and a Top 10 finisher in 2016. But he couldn’t crack this group. Kuechenberg did, and hallelujah. The guy was an eight-time modern-era finalist and should’ve been elected to Canton years ago.
NO LOVE FOR CENTENNIAL CLASS FINALISTS
There were 20 named to the Centennial Class of 2020, with 10 inducted. That meant 10 were not. Of that group, five – or half—aren’t among the Class of 2023 finalists. They are Dilweg, running back Roger Craig, offensive lineman/linebacker Ox Emerson, halfback Verne Lewellen and offensive and defensive lineman Al Wistert. Lewellen, Wistert and Emerson didn’t even make the first cut.
The seniors committee will meet virtually on Aug. 16 to consider all 12 candidates, with three chosen for the Class of 2023. That doesn’t mean they’ve been elected. It simply means they will be presented to the Hall’s 49-member board of selectors when it convenes in early 2023.