The Pro Football Hall of Fame this week pared its field of nominees for 2017 induction from 94 to 26 semifinalists. The only sure-thing lock to get in probably is running back LaDainian Tomlinson, one of four first-time eligibles. But four men with strong South Florida ties made the cut. We analyze, alphabetically, their chances of making it into Canton:
▪ WR Isaac Bruce (1994-2009) — SoFla tie: Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, starred at Dillard High. Third-time semifinalist. The basics: Fifth all-time with 15,208 receiving yards and 12th in receptions (1,024) and TD catches (91). Chances: 60 percent. He’s 0 for 2 on Canton so far and only made a modest four Pro Bowls. But how do you keep out fifth in career yards?
▪ RB Edgerrin James (1999-2009) — SoFla tie: Miami Hurricanes star from 1996-98. Third-time semifinalist. The basics: He’s 12th in career rushing yards (12,246) and 19th with 80 TD runs. Chances: 55 percent. Everybody ahead of him in yards has made it except Tomlinson, who’s newly eligible and will sail in, and fellow ex-Cane Frank Gore, who’s still active but will likely get in someday. But 0 for 2 so far with only four Pro Bowls in his holster gives us pause.
▪ Coach Jimmy Johnson (1989-99) — SoFla tie: Coached UM Hurricanes 1984-88, Dolphins 1996-99. Fourth-time finalist. The basics: Career NFL record of 80-64 (.556), but a two-time Super Bowl champion with Cowboys. Chances: 20 percent. Jimmy was a great recruiter and succeeded at both pro and college levels. But his 80 NFL career wins are only tied for 58th.
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▪ DE Jason Taylor (1997-2011) — SoFla tie: Miami Dolphins star from 1997-2007 and again in 2009 and ’11. First-time eligible. The basics: Tied for sixth in career sacks with 139 1/2. Chances: 90 percent. Everyone ahead of Taylor in all-time sacks is in Canton. History might not see him on that top tier with Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor, but he absolutely should get in. It might even be as a first-time eligible, his candicacy enhanced by the fact he’s the only end/sacker among the 26 semfinalists.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Super Bowl betting favorite is now a virtual tossup between Patriots (at 9-4 odds) and Cowboys (11-2), via Bovada, with Seahawks next at 6-1. Nobody else is close. Dolphins are up to 75-1, ranked 21st.
▪ Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott is now betting favorite for league MVP at 5-4 odds, nudging ahead of Pats QB Tom Brady at 11-4. Elliott became third back ever to surpass 1,000 yards in first nine career games, joining Eric Dickerson and Adrian Peterson.
▪ Titans RB DeMarco Murray became first non-QB with a 75-yard scoring run and a TD pass in same game since John Henry Johnson in 1960.
▪ Bucs' Jameis Winston (22 years ,312 days) became youngest QB to 40 career TD passes, beating Drew Bledsoe's mark by one day.