The NFL on Wednesday released the 26 modern era semifinalists for the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction class. Included on the list are former Miami Dolphins head coach Jimmy Johnson and the team’s legendary defensive end Jason Taylor. The list will be cut to 15 finalists in January, with the 2017 inductees announced on February 4, the Saturday before Super Bowl LI.
Johnson coached the Dolphins from 1996 to 1999, tallying a 36-28 record in the regular season and a 2-3 record in the Playoffs. Prior to joining the Dolphins, Johnson coached the Dallas Cowboys from 1989 to 1993. With Dallas, he recorded a 44-36 regular season record and a 7-1 playoff record, including wins in Super Bowls XLVII and XLVIII.
Taylor, who is in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame, is sixth all time in the NFL with a career total of 139.5 sacks and was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time First-Team All-Pro selection. He was drafted by the Dolphins in the third round of the 1997 NFL Draft out of Akron. He played for the team from 1997 to 2007, 2009, and 2011; he spent the 2008 season with the Washington Redskins and the 2010 season with the New York Jets. He was the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the 2007 Walter Peyton Man of the Year. He holds the NFL record for fumble returns for touchdowns with six and he has the most total touchdowns for a defensive lineman with nine. His 131.0 sacks as a member of the Dolphins ins the most in team history and he was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2012.
Other than Taylor, the top eight players in sacks have all been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Both Johnson and Taylor could one day find their way into the Hall of Fame, though it might not be this year. Taylor had an amazing career and, as a Dolphins fan, I think it is completely worthy of him being a first-year inductee, but most other fans - and more importantly, actual voters - probably do not feel the same. First-ballot enshrinements are typically seen as, not just greats of the game, but the elite-level greatest players to ever play the game. It is a great sign that Taylor is a semifinalist as a first-year eligible player, but he may end up having to wait a year or two before he receives that phone call that leads to Canton.
The original list of nominees included 94 eligible players and coaches. Other Dolphins who were on that list, but did not advance to the semifinalist level were linebacker Zach Thomas, linebacker Joey Porter, defensive back Troy Vincent, and wide receiver Chad Johnson.
Hopefully, Taylor and Jimmy Johnson are able continue to advance toward enshrinement this year.