First-year eligible candidates Tony Gonzalez, Champ Bailey and Ed Reed led the way among 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the group was announced Thursday.
All three players, who combined for 35 Pro Bowls and 14 first-team All-Pro nods during their careers, last played in 2013, making this their first year of eligibility for induction. All three of last year’s first-ballot finalists — Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher — were ultimately chosen when the 2018 class was announced in February.
Joining the trio as 2019 finalists are safety Steve Atwater, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, coach Don Coryell, guard Alan Faneca, coach Tom Flores, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James, cornerback Ty Law, safety John Lynch, center Kevin Mawae and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
Flores and Seymour are the other first-time finalists from the group. All but two others (Atwater and Hutchinson) have been finalists at least three times.
Boselli, Bruce, Faneca, Hutchinson, James, Law, Lynch and Mawae were finalists in 2018. Boselli, Bruce and Mawae have been finalists in three consecutive years, while Faneca has been among the group of 15 in four straight years and Lynch in six straight.
Five of the 15 modern-era finalists will be chosen for induction when the selection committee meets on “Selection Saturday” in Atlanta, the day before Super Bowl LIII. The committee will also vote on the senior finalist (safety Johnny Robinson) and contributor finalists (owner Pat Bowlen, personnel executive Gil Brandt), who need to be approved by 80 percent to be inducted.
Of the 18 collective finalists, five are former Denver Broncos — Bowlen and four defensive backs in Bailey, Lynch, Atwater and Law (who spent just one season in Denver).
There are also five former New York Jets in the group, though only Mawae (eight) spent more than two seasons with the club. Four (Flores, Hutchinson, Mawae and James) are former Seattle Seahawks, and three (Gonzalez, Robinson, Law) are former Kansas City Chiefs.
The New England Patriots are also well represented with Law and Seymour, who were each part of the team’s three Super Bowl champions in 2001, 2003 and 2004. While Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be shoo-ins someday, no members of those championship teams have been inducted in the Hall.
—Field Level Media