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Brian Urlacher leads four former Bears nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018 [UPDATE ON KREUTZ]

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First-time modern-era nominee Urlacher joins fellow retired Bears Ruben Brown, Jay Hilgenberg, and Wilber Marshall on the list of 108 possible Hall of Famers.

Lions v Bears X

An all-time great Chicago Bear is one step closer to Canton.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of nominees for its Class of 2018 yesterday, and Bears legend Brian Urlacher (2000-2012) was among 11 first-timers. The total list of 108 nominees — both players and coaches — included three other former Chicago Bears: Ruben Brown (2004-2007), Jay Hilgenberg (1981-1991) and Wilber Marshall (1984-1987).

The 2018 nominees will be whittled down in three rounds of voting: around 25 semifinalists will be announced in November, followed by around 15 finalists in January, followed by the Class of 2018 announcement at the NFL Honors show on Feb. 3, 2018, the day before Super Bowl LII. The committee will select four to eight new Hall of Famers for 2018.

The 11 first-time nominees are:

  • Donald Driver, wide receiver — Packers
  • Randy Moss, wide receiver — Vikings, Raiders, Patriots, Titans, 49ers
  • Steve Smith, wide receiver — Giants, Eagles, Rams (Yes, that Steve Smith. h/t WCG reader Matthiew Balsley.)
  • Matt Birk, center — Vikings, Ravens
  • Steve Hutchinson, guard — Seahawks, Vikings, Titans
  • Jeff Saturday, center — Colts, Packers
  • Richard Seymour, defensive lineman — Patriots, Raiders
  • Kyle Vanden Bosch, defensive end — Cardinals, Titans, Lions
  • Ray Lewis, middle/inside linebacker — Ravens
  • Brian Urlacher, middle linebacker — Bears
  • Ronde Barber, cornerback — Buccaneers

Not surprisingly, Urlacher’s former teammates are taking to Twitter to congratulate him.

Bears fans, of course, have two questions:

  1. Which Bears will get in at some point?
  2. Will Urlacher be first ballot?

Whether this year or next, Urlacher is a lock to make it. The movement to get Hilgenberg in has raged for a while, but the competition just got stiffer with the addition this year of Birk and Saturday. I think Hilgenberg should be in already, and definitely should be in ahead of those two, but you never know how recency bias will impact voters.

I think Ruben Brown should be in, but the challenge for Brown is the same as that for Hilgenberg — while many offensive linemen make the Hall, the induction of any given o-line position is rare compared to the offensive “skill” positions.

Incidentally, Brown’s former teammate Patrick Mannelly also thinks Brown should be in:

That leaves Marshall, who despite a strong case (and his own passionate argument), faces a tough, unfair narrative as one of the “other” defensive players on the 1980s Bears — a bogus claim considering he was an All Pro in 1986, and considering he was a starter on the 1991 Washington team that also won a Super Bowl.

As for question number two — Will Urlacher be first ballot? — my guess is that yes, Urlacher will be in the Class of 2018, along with Lewis, Moss, and Terrell Owens for sure.

I’ll write a full breakdown of my reasoning next week, along with my ideal Class of 2018 (which, yes, will include special teamers).

If voters continue to ignore Hilgenberg and Marshall, they have another path to the Hall via the senior committee. Players are eligible for senior election 25 years after the end of their careers. That makes Hilgenberg eligible in 2019 (his last season was 1993, and the count starts the following season) and Marshall in 2021.

One final note: 2017 nominee Olin Kreutz is not on this year’s list. Neither he nor fellow 2017 nominee Hilgenberg were among last year’s 26 semifinalists.

*** UPDATE ON KREUTZ, Sept. 14, 2017 ***

I reached out to the Pro Football Hall of Fame yesterday to inquire about Kreutz’s absence from this year’s list. After doing so, our own Jeff Berckes pointed out to me via email that Kreutz was not a semifinalist last year, meaning he was not an automatic nominee this year.

Today, Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Director Joe Horrigan reached out to me and explained in further detail what Jeff noted. Chicago Tribune reporter Brad Biggs had emailed Horrigan the same question, and Horrigan sent me the response he sent to Biggs.

As a result of the emails from Biggs and myself, Kreutz will be a HOF nominee for the Class of 2019.

I am now adding a poll for Kreutz’s Hall of Fame credentials. Here is the full email from Horrigan:

In answer to your question regarding Olin Kreutz, although last year, as a first-year eligible candidate he received a nomination and was on the initial list of nominees for consideration, he did not receive sufficient selector support (at least 4 votes in the reduction to 25 semifinalist) to automatically return to this year’s list of nominees. Also, as required, he did not receive a nomination by anyone to place him on the list of nominees for this year.

In order to be on the annual nomination list, a candidate has to either be nominated or had sufficient selector support — as described above — from the previous year. Your email nomination for next year has been recorded and as such he will return to the list of nominees for consideration for the Class of 2019.

Thanks for taking the time to contact me with your concern and I hope my response answers your question.

Joe

Bears fans! How do you vote?

Poll

Should Brian Urlacher be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Yes, in 2018 (first ballot with this year’s class)
    (369 votes)
  • 10%
    Yes, after 2018
    (45 votes)
  • 0%
    Yes, via the senior committee (eligible 2038)
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    No
    (6 votes)
421 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Should Jay Hilgenberg be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Yes, in 2018 (this year’s class)
    (112 votes)
  • 53%
    Yes, via senior committee (eligible in 2019)
    (161 votes)
  • 9%
    No
    (29 votes)
302 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Should Wilber Marshall be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Yes, in 2018 (this year’s class)
    (83 votes)
  • 18%
    Yes, after 2018
    (58 votes)
  • 31%
    Yes, via senior committee (eligible in 2021)
    (95 votes)
  • 22%
    No
    (70 votes)
306 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Should Ruben Brown be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Yes, in 2018 (this year’s class)
    (28 votes)
  • 28%
    Yes, after 2018
    (76 votes)
  • 21%
    Yes, via senior committee (eligible in 2033)
    (58 votes)
  • 40%
    No
    (109 votes)
271 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Should Olin Kreutz be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Yes, in 2019 (next year’s class)
    (24 votes)
  • 49%
    Yes, after 2019
    (31 votes)
  • 6%
    Yes, via senior committee (eligible in 2037)
    (4 votes)
  • 6%
    No
    (4 votes)
63 votes total Vote Now