The 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced Saturday evening in New Orleans. It consists of a pair of iconic offensive linemen, a two-time Super Bowl champion head coach, plus a pair of former stars (a wide receiver and defensive lineman) who are seen on televisions every Sunday during the NFL season as network broadcasters.
That fivesome -- Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, plus Cris Carter and Warren Sapp -- along with senior nominees Curly Culp and Dave Robinson will have their busts revealed and yellow jackets presented at the Hall's annual induction ceremony in August.
Cris Carter was both gracious and emotional after hearing the Hall of Fame news on Saturday, reportedly crying for 10 minutes straight upon getting word he made the Hall. Despite career statistics (1,101 receptions, 13,899 yards, 130 touchdown catches, eight straight 1,000-yard seasons) that can rival anyone in NFL history not named Jerry Rice, Carter was shut out from enshrinement in each of his first five years on the ballot -- all as a finalist.
But Carter's moment has finally come.
"Those years I didn't make it, I took 2-3 hours to cry and mourn. Then I went back to work," Carter said on Saturday. "This year I believed I was going to get in the Hall. With these receivers, eventually one of us had to get in.
"I'm forever humbled," Carter said, holding back tears. "For me to end up right here . . . I mean, this is the happiest day of my life."
Carter's induction could expedite the logjam at wide receiver in the Hall. Now that he's Canton-bound, it opens doors for the countless younger receivers who will (or already have) eclipsed his dazzling receiving statistics.
The Carter and Sapp inductions also put to bed the absurd notion that the way a player treated the media during his career factors in when voters consider the individual's Hall of Fame candidacy. Though neither player may have been the easiest players to cover for a reporter, both Carter and Sapp made it.
Guess what? They were both Hall of Fame-worthy players. That -- not how a player acted or behaved off the field -- is what matters most. They were rightfully rewarded for their contributions to the game.
Sapp's induction is certainly unquestionable when it comes to on-field impact. Before he arrived, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the NFL's version of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers (pre-Blake Griffin) -- having lost 10 or more games in 12 straight seasons. But Sapp helped lead a Bucs renaissance that started in 1997, with Tampa reaching the playoffs in five of the next six seasons and culminating in a Super Bowl XXXVII win over the Oakland Raiders.
He also had the stats and honors (seven Pro Bowls, four All-Pro teams) to back up his brash, physical style, with 96.5 career sacks from the interior defensive line -- a staggering number.
"This is a proud day for the Buccaneers organization and Bucs fans everywhere," Tampa Bay co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a release. "Warren played the game with incredible ability and passion. He was a leader on one of the best defenses in NFL history and helped to redefine the defensive tackle position. It is a fitting honor that he will be recognized as one of the greatest to ever play, and we could not be happier for him."
Also earning well-deserved induction were Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, two franchise cornerstones. Ogden was a 6-foot-9, 345-pound anchor for the Baltimore Ravens offensive line.
"It was one of the highlights of my professional career to be allowed to work with J.O.," said former Ravens coach and current NFL on FOX analyst Brian Billick. "Preparing for the pass rush on the left side was never an issue, and it didn't take any meeting time."
"I am so proud that Jonathan is the Ravens' first Hall of Famer," said Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti in a statement. "My pride also extends to Ozzie [Newsome], because his first-ever draft pick became our first-ever Hall of Famer."
Allen, a longtime Dallas Cowboys guard-tackle, was known as one of the most feared players of his generation.
"When you hear other players on former teams, and other teams, say that a couple defensive linemen and defensive ends caught the 'Allen Flu' the week we played the Cowboys, that means, 'I'm not getting in front of Larry Allen this week. I'm going to sit out this week,' " ex-teammate and Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith said on FOX Sports Radio in New Orleans earlier this week. "That says a lot about the player they were about to go up against."
"Larry is one of the greatest players in Cowboys history, and arguably the very best guard to ever play the game," Jerry Jones said after the announcement. "He was obviously a special talent, but the fierceness and tenacity that he brought to the field separated him from the rest of the pack. I have never been more proud of anyone who has reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Larry Allen represents the best of the very best."
Parcells makes it to Canton in his second straight year as a finalist.
"It's unbelievable. It's exhilarating to join an elite group," Parcells said from his Jupiter, Fla., home. "I'm just grateful for those ahead of me.
"It was a little less stressful than last year. Last year was the first time I was up. I knew I was going up against Curtis Martin (former Patriots and Jets tailback, one of Parcells' former players). I was kind of hoping we'd get in together. It didn't work out.
"That being said, I'm happy to get in now."
Bill Belichick, Parcells' longtime defensive coordinator with the Giants, released a statement on Saturday, noting, "Bill Parcells has been thought of as one of the all-time greats for a long time, so it is with great pride that we can officially refer to him as a Hall of Famer. He deserves all the recognition he is getting and for his career to be celebrated in Canton forever."
Former New York Giants defensive end and current FOX NFL Sunday analyst Michael Strahan, eligible for the first time this year, did not make the final cut.
Strahan's omission, in a year when another first-year-eligible defensive lineman (Sapp) earned the ultimate honor, is the biggest surprise from this year's vote. The silver lining, of course, is that Strahan -- who holds the NFL's all-time single-season sack record wth 22 1/2 in 2001 -- could get in next year, when the Super Bowl (and Pro Football Hall of Fame vote) will be held in New York. Strahan played 15 seasons for the Giants and currently hosts "Live with Kelly and Michael" five days a week in New York City.
"Congratulations to the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. Parcells, Ogden, Allen, Carter and Sapp. Enjoy the well-deserved honor," Strahan tweeted from New Orleans on Saturday.
"Thanks for the HOF tweets. I Love you all and I hope I eventually make it in. I look at it as a delayed blessing and I have many now."
While the selection of Sapp over Strahan is one debate that could simmer, it's also worth noting that Sapp also made it over longtime finalist Charles Haley. This weekend would have been especially sweet for Haley, a five-time Super Bowl champion and two-time winner with the 49ers, with San Francisco playing in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday.
"To see a Charles Haley and a Michael Strahan not make it tells you the strength of this class," said Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin, who is a Hall of Fame voter, on NFL Network after the class was revealed. "We left behind five people that could be next year's Hall of Fame class, that's how tough this process is."
"In my mind, I voted Charles Haley first simply because he's been waiting so long and that does not mean I don't believe Michael Strahan is a Hall of Famer, because I do," said Sports Illustrated senior writer Jim Trotter, another Hall of Fame voter. "You have to have some sort of something to try and separate and figure out this process."
Strahan isn't the only prominent player who will have to wait another year. Andre Reed, the legendary Buffalo Bills wideout, missed the final cut for the seventh straight year. With receivers Torry Holt, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce and tight end Tony Gonzalez set to become finalists in the next five to six years, Reed's odds of making the Hall will not get any better as time goes on.
It takes 80 percent of the committee's final vote to make the Hall of Fame.
The first five to be trimmed in the cut from 15 to 10 names were wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end Kevin Greene, guard Will Shields and former owners Eddie DeBartolo and Art Modell. All had been finalists previously.
Running back Jerome Bettis, defensive back Aeneas Williams, Haley, Reed, and Strahan were in the final 10, but were eliminated just shy of Canton.
Strahan in particular has an excellent chance to be voted in next February, but when it comes to this year's magnificant seven, there is no dishonor is waiting until then.