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02 Feb, 2019

Defense dominated the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019, a day before two of the NFL’s most high-powered offenses will face each other to decide Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Four defensive backs — Ed Reed, Champ Bailey, Ty Law and seniors finalist Johnny Robinson — were among the eight selected for enshrinement by the Hall’s Board of Selectors on Saturday at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez and center Kevin Mawae as well as Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and longtime personnel executive Gil Brandt were also selected Saturday for enshrinement.

Members of Bowlen’s family, on hearing of his selection, video chatted with Bowlen, who remained in Colorado. Bowlen suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and stepped away from day-to-day operations in 2014.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held Aug. 3, in Canton, Ohio.

For the second consecutive year, the Hall of Fame class included three players in their first years of eligibility in Bailey, Reed and Gonzalez. Those three players combined for 35 Pro Bowl selections as well as 14 first-team All-Pro nods. A year ago, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher were named to the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 in their first years of eligibility.

The run of first-time eligible players getting fitted for the Hall’s signature gold jacket might not be slowed in the next two years, when former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, former Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis are among the first-time-eligible players.

In 2021, however, it becomes even more of a star-studded field as former Colts and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, former Packers and Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson and former Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson will be among the first-time-eligible players.

The Board of Selectors met for 7½ hours Saturday ahead of Super Bowl LIII, which pits the New England Patriots against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.

This year’s finalists included five defensive backs among the 15 modern-era finalists — former Broncos safety Steve Atwater, who made the cutdown from 15 finalists to 10 earlier Saturday morning, and John Lynch were the others. Four offensive linemen — Mawae, Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli — were among the 15 finalists.

But Saturday’s class marks a general departure from the usual Hall voting, given that offensive players make up roughly 60 percent of those currently enshrined to 40 percent for defensive players.

Both contributor finalists — Bowlen and Brandt — were lauded for their long, distinguished careers and contributions to the league. Bowlen’s Broncos have had as many Super Bowl appearances as losing seasons — seven — since Bowlen purchased the team in 1984.

Brandt’s long tenure with the Dallas Cowboys included 20 consecutive winning seasons marked by innovation and the establishment of the roots of the structure most teams now use in evaluating personnel.


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