When the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee convenes on February 6, several former Colts will have their chance for immortal enshrinements.
Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison and coach Tony Dungy may have made it as finalist and are all deserving of enshrinement in their own right, but which current Colts player(s) have a shot at Canton when it’s all said and done?
The “Unlikely” Choice
Adam Vinatieri – K
While kickers don’t get into the “hall” that often—there are only three designated place kickers enshrined—if there were ever a kicker who could buck the trend, it’d be Vinatieri.
It’s not just his 503 field goals made (good for third all time) or his 84% field goal conversion. It’s that inevitable feeling you get that when Vinatieri lines up for a kick, it’s splitting the uprights.
In 20 seasons, Vinatieri has been more than an integral piece in four Super Bowl championships—three with New England and one in Indianapolis. That includes this game-winner in Super Bowl 38:
He won’t receive first-ballot attention (he’s a kicker after all) but he shouldn’t have to wait as long as his contemporaries for a gold jacket. Not after an undeniable Hall of Fame career.
The Unfairly Underrated
Andre Johnson – WR
Receivers have a difficult time getting into the Hall too (Marvin Harrison has been eligible for three years). That shouldn’t stop voters from Andre Johnson getting a bronze bust. Johnson will undoubtedly wait a couple of years to get in, and while 99% of his damage was done in Houston, the damage was devastating considering his quarterbacks.
Johnson was never gifted with a great passer (or even a good one) until he joined Andrew Luck in Indy in the twilight of his career. That didn’t stop him from being eighth all time in receptions (1,053), ninth in receiving yards (14,100) and tied for 41st with 68 touchdown receptions. If you’ve ever guessed Johnson’s career, Chris Trapasso of CBS sports put things into perspective:
"There aren’t many who would list Johnson as the greatest wide receiver ever, but on a game-by-game basis, the numbers, well, just take a look.Among those who played at least 120 games in their professional careers, Johnson is the only wideout in NFL history reach an average of 80 yards receiving per game."
The same thing that will keep Johnson waiting for his call will be the same reason for him deserving one: lack of scoring opportunities. Had Johnson been given a better quarterback in his prime, the appreciation for Johnson’s career would be through the roof. Alas…Matt Schaub.
The Long Shots
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Frank Gore – RB
While Gore currently ranks No. 15 in career rushing yards, can you say with absolute certainty that at any point in his career that he was a considered the running back?
Sure, Frank Gore has been the model for consistency, as evidence by his eight 1,000-yard seasons in his 11-year career (he fell 33 yards short of nine in 2015) and has been a valuable receiving option. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean a Hall of Fame call is in Gore’s future—not on first, second or even third consideration, at least.
Gore hasn’t produced a season in his career that made you think, Wow, this guy is all-time great. Having produced one double-digit touchdown season (10 in 2009), consider that Marshawn Lynch has four and Corey Dillon and Shaun Alexander have five such seasons. Alexander had 27 rushing TD’s in his MVP season, and he’s been waiting since 2012.
I’m not saying he’s not a Hall of Fame candidate, but I am saying it’ll take quite some time for him to make it.
Robert Mathis – OLB/DE
Mathis will likely succumb to the same pitfalls that Gore will—a consistent career mired by a lack of “wow.” Even his league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2013 won’t be enough for voters to place him in the same class as Michael Strahan or even the likes of Julius Peppers or Jared Allen, who were feared pass-rushers but weren’t just pass rush specialists.
Amassing a ton of sacks just isn’t enough to garner Hall of Fame attention when you haven’t done much else. Had Mathis produced top-5 or even top-10 numbers, the case would be clear. Alas, ranking 20th all-time and being 34-years-old means the door for Mathis has long been shut.
Fret not, as the Colts all-time sack leader will be inducted into the Ring of Honor when he hangs up his cleats.
Too Early to Tell
Andrew Luck – QB
What potential Hall of Fame list would be complete without including Andrew Luck projections?
I get that he’s been in the NFL for four, short seasons, but they’ve been four fun seasons. All arrows point to “Class of 2032” but Luck has a long way to go. At his current pace and playing for another 14 seasons, Luck will have amassed over 70,000 yards and 500 touchdowns. Yeah, you can put your eyes back in their sockets now.
As long as Luck remains healthy and the Colts continue to surround him with viable playmakers, there’s no reason to doubt Luck reaching his full potential.