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Wide receiver Hall of Fame waiting list grows

The finalists for the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class has been announced and there's one name on the list that is creating a lot of discussion.

Some of the Hall of Fame’s voters tried last year to justify picking receiver Marvin Harrison over receiver Terrell Owens by trashing Owens.

And, this year, Owens most likely will get in.

The truth is that there’s a waiting list among receivers, and that the question isn’t whether one is better than the other but whether one has been waiting longer than the other. It’s one of the unspoken realities of the effort to orderly sift through a list of Hall of Fame finalists that routinely snubs 66.6 percent of them.

Without a broader sensitivity to the progression of the players from finalist to inductee, some finalists may fall through the cracks -- especially when the process selects five winners from a collection of players of every different position, shape, and size. It’s an understandable part of the process, and the process would have more integrity with the fans and the members of the media who aren’t in the room for the debate if they’d admit that there’s a degree of necessary coordination about who gets in this year, who gets in next year, and so on.

In 2009, for example, Randall McDaniel didn’t make it because he was one of the five best eligible candidates. He got in because, as one voter explained it at the time, there was a concern that if he didn’t make it then, he’d continue to be overlooked indefinitely.

This year, with Owens and Isaac Bruce among the 15 finalists, Owens will get in and Bruce will wait. Then, when Randy Moss becomes one the 15 finalists, he’ll wait behind Bruce. And so on, with one receiver after another making it not because he’s better than the other receiver who is on the list of 15 but because he has been waiting longer.

It’s unclear where Hines Ward fits within this formula. The two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XL MVP, and 1,000-catch wideout didn’t make it to the list of 15. In comparison to some of the other current finalists, however, Ward is more deserving.

Also not among the final 15 was receiver Torry Holt. At some point, he’ll potentially migrate to the list of 15 -- and then potentially get in.

The problem is that, with only five getting in every year, there will always be a crop of first-time candidates that will complicate the analysis. Eventually, Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson and Calvin Johnson and Steve Smith and Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin will be added to the equation. Eventually, someone will be waiting a very long time to get a bronze bust, or won’t get one at all.