When the 45 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors get together later today, they will consider a list of 15 names for five spots in this year's enshrinement class. They will also hear arguments for two senior nominees, but neither of them have ties to the Buffalo Bills. Andre Reed's name is on the final list of 15 nominees, and this year is his best chance yet to finally be enshrined in Canton.
The main problem for Reed the last several years has been his direct competition at wide receiver. But Reed has overcome the hurdle of Cris Carter and Tim Brown the last two years by advancing past both receivers to the final ten. That's not to say that won't change this year, but it seems logical that the Hall voters - all of which return from a year ago - will continue to support Reed over Carter and Brown. (For the record, Carter made the Top 10 in 2008 over Reed, but has not made it since.)
"That’s the problem," Hall of Fame voter (and Reed's presenter) Mark Gaughan told WIVB this week. "That's why Andre is in his sixth year now, hopefully he is getting closer, and hopefully he'll get in. But when you have numerous good candidates at a position, the worry is that they split the vote, and kinda knock each other out."
Reed was fighting an uphill battle in 2011, and not just at wide receiver. Included on the first-year eligible list were two likely selections (and eventual enshrinees) in Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders. This time around, the only candidates new to the list in their first year of eligibility are Bill Parcells - who was not selected in his previous time as a finalist before taking the Cowboys head coaching job - and tackle Will Shields. Both are far from locks.
The five who made the semi-final cut last year, but failed to make the final five, were: Reed, Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, and Willie Roaf. If the voters hold to last year's selections, this will likely make up a large portion of the 2012 Hall class. But if both Shields and Parcells can make their way ahead of that group, or there is a sentimental shift in the voting room, there could still be some long-time finalists left out in the cold. Nobody expected Bills owner Ralph Wilson to be selected in 2009, for instance, but a sentimental shift in the voting room allowed him to be enshrined that year.
Other returning finalists Jerome Bettis, Brown (who out-ranks Reed in every receiving category), Carter, Chris Doleman, and Charles Haley also present strong cases, and could leap over last year's Top 10 on close votes.
"I think his chances are getting better, and I am guardedly optimistic," said Gaughan of Reed. "You want me to put a number on it? I would say they have improved to the fifty-fifty range."
To his credit, Reed is saying all the right things this time around.
"I just sit back and let the chips fall where they may, man," Reed told WIVB . "I'm not gonna go jump off a bridge or do something crazy if it doesn't happen. I'd be disappointed, but you're only disappointed because of the way it went - you're not disappointed because you have no control over what they do."
The Hall of Fame Committee consists of one media representative from each pro football city, with two from New York City. An additional member is a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America (of which Gaughan is the sitting President), and there are 11 at-large delegates.
The 2012 Hall of Fame induction class will be announced on the NFL Network at 5:30PM today.