On Tuesday the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the nomination of 129 Modern Era candidates for the 2023 Hall of Fame class. Seven Giants have been nominated: Defensive end Justin Tuck, guard Chris Snee, running back Tiki Barber, linebacker Jessie Armstead, punters Jeff Feagles and Sean Landeta, and offensive tackle Lomas Brown. Do any of the Giants’ nominees have a good chance of being elected?
The HOF has a fairly complicated process for electing members. Each year a 49-person selection committee is chosen. This committee consists of 32 media members representing the city that each NFL team plays in, plus 16 at-large members selected from the media or connected to football in other ways, plus a representative from the Pro Football Writers of America. Any fan can nominate a candidate. The Selection Committee can add candidates who have not been nominated but are deemed worthy of consideration by any Committee member. This year’s list consists of 129 nominees, including every 2022 Finalist who was not selected for the Hall of Fame.
The 129 candidates will be reduced to 25 Semi-Finalists, and then to a list of 15 Modern Era Finalists, plus four other candidates recommended by a Coach/Contributor Committee and Senior Committee. After each candidate is thoroughly discussed, a series of votes whittles the list to 10, and then 5 Modern Era players who are voted up or down individually, along with the 4 candidates from the Coach/Contributor and Senior Committee lists. A candidate must get 80 percent of the vote to be elected. The HOF seeks to admit four to 9nine new members overall each year.
Do any of the Giants’ nominees stand a chance? The obstacles are substantial. 2022 Finalists who are still up for election this year include prominent names such as Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Willie Anderson, Jared Allen, Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, and Ronde Barber. First time nominees include Chris Johnson, Jahri Evans, Joe Thomas, Dwight Freeney, NaVorro Bowman, James Harrison, Kam Chancellor, Darrelle Revis, and Shane Lechler. A few of these are almost certain to be selected.
Pro Football Reference has a metric called the Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFm) that attempts to predict how likely it is for players at different positions to be elected to the HOF given past history. It is not a measure of who deserves to be in the HOF. It simply uses a series of qualifications that have been good predictors in the past, including its own Weighted Approximate Value (wAV, a measure of how good a player was cumulatively over his career), various awards (e.g., MVP, All-Pro or Pro Bowl selection), and Super Bowls and Championships. wAV is important because players voted into the Hall tend to have long careers of sustained excellence, which wAV tries to quantify.
Applying the HOFm to the returning 2022 finalists and 2023 first-year nominees, it’s a decent bet that Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt, 11th and 12th in all-time HOFm for wide receivers and trailing only current HOFers plus HOF-to-be Larry Fitzgerald, will get in. Joe Thomas, fifth in all-time HOFm behind four HOFers at guard, should get the call. Dwight Freeney, who also trails only current and future HOFers, is a good bet too. DeMarcus Ware, seventh on the all-time HOF list for outside LBs behind only HOFers, is worthy. The same goes for Zach Thomas and Patrick Willis at inside LB. Darrelle Revis, 8th in HOFm among defensive backs and ahead of 33 other HOFers, has to get in on his first try. Jahri Evans, ninth among guards behind only HOFers, should get in too.
You see the problem. Only four to nine players can be inducted in any year, but there are many more worthy candidates than there is room for them, so some clearly qualified players will not get the call this year. Let’s look at the Giants’ candidates through this lens.
The HOF does not like punters. Ray Guy, arguably the greatest punter ever, is the only one ever selected. Lechler, the only punter to have an HOFm higher than Guy, has a chance this year. Sean Landeta, a great punter whose early and best seasons were spent with the Giants, including their first two Super Bowl Championships, is third behind Lechler and Guy. That means he has no chance this year and is a long shot going forward. Jeff Feagles was a very good punter for the 2007 season Giants Super Bowl team but is unlikely to ever garner much support for the HOF.
Lomas Brown was a top-flight OT, mostly for the Detroit Lions, for about six seasons, but spent a couple of years at the end of his career as a Giant, including the 2000 Super Bowl team. His HOFm is too low for him to expect to ever get in. Chris Snee was a great member of the offensive line that protected Eli Manning and allowed the Giants to pull off two Super Bowl upsets. Like Brown, though, his period of excellence only spanned about five years, and he retired prematurely after hip surgery. He is also unlikely to be elected. Jessie Armstead was the heart and soul of the Giants’ 2000 season Super Bowl defense and for a few years before that, the latest in a long line of great Giants linebackers. That defense was unfortunately overshadowed by the all-time great defense of the Baltimore Ravens. All three of these players are unlikely to ever make the Hall because their period of elite play was only a few years long and their HOFm scores reflect that, being lower than all or most inductees at their positions.
Justin Tuck was, in my mind, the heir to Michael Strahan as a leader of the great Giants defensive lines of the Eli Manning Super Bowl era. He was a fierce, relentless pass rusher with quickness as well. After injuries early in his career, he burst out in 2007 with 10 sacks (despite starting only two games) serving as the bookend to Strahan or Osi Umenyiora, and sometimes moving inside to defensive tackle to create an often unblockable DL. He terrorized Tom Brady with two sacks each in the Giants’ two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots, and were it not for the bias toward offense in award voting, he could have plausibly been the MVP of the first of those games.
Tuck really broke out the year after Strahan’s retirement, being selected All-Pro and making the Pro Bowl. In 2009 another injury derailed him and he had a subpar season. He bounced back in 2010 and once again made All-Pro and Pro Bowl. In 2011 he was once again limited by injuries but bounced back in the playoffs, getting two more sacks of Brady in the Giants’ second consecutive takedown of the GOAT and being deserving once again of Super Bowl MVP only to be overlooked in favor of Eli. Tuck’s multiple-sack performance in two Super Bowls was the first time it had ever been done. The only other player to do it is Von Miller, who got his second last year as a Los Angeles Ram. Tuck had one more great season as a Giant (2013), but left to join the Oakland Raiders in 2014 after a contract dispute.
Justin Tuck was a HOF-caliber player and is beloved by Giants fans. Had it not been for injuries he’d have a serious chance to be admitted. The reality, though, is that the HOF honors sustained excellence over a decade or more of work. Tuck just doesn’t have that in his record because of the health problems he experienced. His HOFm number is about half that of Dwight Freeney, the highest-ranked eligible DE who is not in the HOF. Tuck’s story is really the story of the Eli Manning-era New York Giants: A team that won two Super Bowls and could have won more were it able to keep more of its core together.
Tiki Barber is not as beloved by Giants fans, but it is not because of anything he did or did not do on the field. Barber was not the Giants’ featured running back when he first entered the NFL, and in his early years he had a fumbling problem. He finally became the bellcow in his fourth season and everything changed.
Starting in 2000, when he and quarterback Kerry Collins led the Giants to the Super Bowl against Baltimore, Tiki was one of the best running backs in the NFL. He had great speed, vision and change of direction, reminiscent of 2018-vintage Saquon Barkley. But unlike Barkley, Barber always hit the hole quickly, and he defied attempts to bring him down because he was so difficult to lay hands on.
In his final three seasons, Tiki exceeded 2,000 total yards from scrimmage three consecutive times, culminating in his remarkable 2005 season in which he accumulated 2,390 total yards, fourth highest in NFL history. The top 10 seasons in history include years by Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson, Barry Sanders, and Marcus Allen, all of them Hall of Famers.
Unfortunately, Barber decided to retire after the 2006 season, only 10 years into his career and only seven after he became the Giants’ lead back. As a result, his HOFm number is somewhat below that of other RBs who have been elected to the HOF, even though his career wAV (103) is comparable to HOFers Tony Dorsett (107), Curtis Martin (102), Marcus Allen (104), and Thurman Thomas (110). He was in their class as an impact player.
Barber now says he retired in part because his body was beat up and in part because he had other interests he wished to pursue. But he was not shy about discussing his dissatisfaction with the authoritarian approach of Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin, and he had critical things to say about a young Eli Manning also. This did not endear him to some teammates and fans, and as a result some people forget what a great football player he was. By retiring when he did, he missed the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl season, something that would have enhanced his HOF credentials. As a result, he falls a little short compared to RBs already in the HOF. The odds that he will ever be admitted are not good, even though he was a HOF-caliber player.
Imagine an alternate history in which Chris Snee and Justin Tuck never get injured and Tiki Barber plays three more years. The Giants might have been a perennial playoff team with three or four rings to show from the 2007-2013 period, when Eli was performing at his highest level. The fact that this didn’t happen means that we are not likely to hear the names of any Giants called when the 2023 Hall of Fame class is announced next January.