St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt made it to the list of 15 modern-era finalists for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2021. This is Holt’s second time as a finalist. He made it this far in 2020. Holt belongs on this list. 

But will Torry get through to Canton this time? 

I don’t believe in spreading fake optimism. The last thing I want to do here is to deceive you over Holt’s prospects. Nothing is gained from that. 

I’m optimistic that Holt will take his place among the enshrined greats — but honestly I’d be surprised if this is the year. I hope I’ve misjudged that. 

Holt has the career numbers to qualify for entry into the Hall  … but the problem is another set of numbers: the ballot math. 

First of all, a maximum of five modern-era players can be selected. That’s important to remember, and too many people forget about the limitation. Most years it’s extremely difficult to choose only five, tops, from a group of 15. Especially when most of the 15 are absolutely worthy of Hall of Fame status. But with only five spots … man, it ain’t easy to make these choices.

Now, let’s talk about this year. 

Two of the spots will absolutely go to first-time eligibles: QB Peyton Manning (you may have heard of him) and cornerback Charles Woodson. Another first-timer could reach the Hall on his first appearance: retired Lions wide receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. 

For now, let’s make Johnson an undecided case, and assume that Manning and Woodson are in. That leaves only three spots for 13 finalists. 

There’s strong sentiment for Steelers guard Alan Faneca; the dude was voted first team All-NFL eight times, picked for nine Pro Bowls, and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade team (2000s). It would be a huge upset for Faneca to get bypassed again. In the voting he’s survived the cut from 15 to 10 in each of the past three years. It’s his turn. 

If Faneca gets in, that leaves two spots for 12 players. There will be a big push for safety John Lynch (now in his eighth consecutive year as a finalist), offensive tackle Tony Boselli (fifth time as a finalist.) And campaigning is intensifying for defensive lineman Richard Seymour. There appears to be considerable support for safety LeRoy Butler — an All-Decade pick, four-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All-Pro. This is Butler’s 15th year of eligibility. (The limit is 20 years.) 

Linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. — who played 19 NFL seasons! — made it to the finalists group for the first time. But this is also his final year of eligibility. (After the expiration date, players who don’t make it through the standard voting process are reexamined by the Senior Committee. Anyway, with the clock running fast on Matthews, he could be a surprise selection. We’ll see.

The selection committee usually gets tangled when discussing wide receivers, and Holt is one of three WRs in this year’s group of 15. (Holt, Johnson and Reggie Wayne.)

 It’s a bumpy path for Holt, but as long as he continues to rise to the level of a final-15 platform, he’ll make it eventually. A player that becomes a finalist — especially more than once — obviously has significant support. 

As crazy as it sounds, and this is NOT my view, but Holt’s teammate Isaac Bruce will be inducted this year, and I think that hurts Torry’s chances. Bruce and other members of the 2020 class had to wait a year; the 2020 induction ceremony was postponed because of Covid, and the Hall of Fame is putting the ‘20 and ‘21 classes in together this summer. 

It’s possible for Holt to slide through this time. 

Holt would need the voters to put him ahead of Megatron. Holt’s been waiting longer, and if Johnson comes in a year later, it’s hardly a human-rights violation. (The logic: these receivers all will make it to Canton, so put them through, one at a time, and keep the line moving. If not, the same wide receivers will cancel each other out in the voting for years and years, and that’s idiotic.) In recent years, extra consideration has been given to receivers that have endured the most number of years on the ballot. Holt fits that category.)

But I don’t know if voters will look past Calvin Johnson. That’s a big key for Holt. And if Johnson isn’t put to the side for a year, then forget about Holt in 2021. There’s no chance of the committee giving two of the five spots to wide receivers. 

Holt would probably need Boselli and Faneca to bump each other out in the voting; For Holt to make it, his chances improve if only one of the two linemen make it. If the voters put both linemen in, then Holt faces long odds.  

Holt would be unlikely to survive a surprise choice — Matthews for example. 

I could go on … but you get the point.

Five spots. Many worthy players.

I’m no longer on the selection committee. But in exchanging notes with current voters I just get the sense that there’s more urgent support for a few candidates other than Holt. (Once you get past Manning and Woodson.) 

Holt has a strong case. The major points: 

  • He amassed the most receiving yards by a player in his first five NFL seasons. He made history with that. 
  • No player in the NFL can claim a streak of six consecutive seasons of more than 1,300-yard seasons. That’s the longest such streak in league history. 
  • As of the fall of 2019, only Jerry Rice had more consecutive 1,100-yard seasons than Holt. (Rice nine, Holt eight). 
  • Holt was one of four wide receivers named to the 2000s All-Decade Team. The other three receivers have been inducted. Holt is still on the outside. That doesn’t seem right. 
  • Holt has not only been a finalist for two years in a row, he’s gotten to the list of semifinalists for the last seven years. 
  • Super Bowl champion. Caught a TD pass in that Super Bowl, when the Rams defeated the Titans. 
  • A vital part of the venerated “Greatest Show” offense. 
  • Seven Pro Bowls in 11 seasons. Two All-Pro teams. Twice led the NFL in receiving yards. 
  • My goodness: Over an entire decade (2000-2009) Holt led all receivers in catches and receiving yards and was fifth in TD receptions. 

C’mon now … if you lead a pass-happy league in catches and receiving yards for an entire decade, shouldn’t that make you a Hall of Famer? 

I’m not here to ding Holt’s candidacy. But his career was cut short by knee injuries. The knee problems cost him longevity and reduced his peak phase. He didn’t get the chance to pile up larger career numbers. 

As it stands, Holt ranks 21st in league history in receptions, 16th in receiving yards, and 38th in touchdown catches. Nothing wrong with those numbers, but a more extensive career would have lifted Holt higher in the all-time rankings for receivers. I also wonder if some voters look at the “Greatest Show” Rams that already have been voted in — Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce — and think “that’s enough.”

That would be wrong, of course. But it’s possible. The Hall of Fame voting process is complicated, frustrating and frequently perplexing, Torry Holt knows all about that. But he’ll make it. I hope the voters soon will take Holt out of the waiting room and into Canton. 

Thanks for reading … 


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