(EDITOR’S NOTE: To access the Champ Bailey interview, please fast-forward to 24:10 of the above attachment)
Now that he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, former cornerback Champ Bailey has one request of the Hall’s 48 selectors: Don’t wait on Edgerrin James.
In fact, put him in next.
Bailey would. He said as much on a recent Talk of Fame Network broadcast when asked which individual not in Canton he would induct if given the chance. He didn’t have to think long.
“I got to go with Edgerrin James,” Bailey said. “The reason being: He’s a Class of ’99 mate of him, and the dude came out ballin,’ Year One. Rookie of the Year. NFL leading rusher. I mean, the dude did it all. And to do it at a high level for as long as he did, the dude should be in already.”
But he’s not.
In five years of eligibility, James has been a finalist three times. But in two of those three instances, he failed to make it past the first cut from 15 to 10 finalists. That’s the bad news. Now for the good: He finally broke through this month when he graduated to the on-deck circle for Canton, otherwise known as the Top 10.
OK, so he didn’t make the final cut. There were three first-ballot Hall of Famers in there, so James was one of five who missed on two spots, and, yes, that’s encouraging. Because now it means he has a chance … and a good chance … to move forward in 2020.
It’s not just that the Class of 2020 has no first-ballot cinches among candidates in their first years of eligibility; it’s that Edgerrin James is one of the most qualified. As Bailey said, he was a Rookie of the Year. Twice he led the league in rushing. He was named to four Pro Bowls. He was named to four All-Pro teams, and he was a first-team all-decade choice.
Now for the clincher: He’s the only one of the NFL’s top 16 career rushing leaders (he’s 13th) eligible for Canton that isn’t already in the Hall.
“If he’s not in the Hall of Fame,” Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay said on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast in January, “then no one is … To me, this is an open-and-closed case.”
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