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ESPN’s John Clayton: Getting Kurt Warner into Hall of Fame is ‘about salesmanship’

(AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
LISTEN: John Clayton, ESPN NFL insider

Will the third time be the charm?

For the third straight year, former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This appears to be Warner’s best chance to finally earn a gold jacket.

Many players don’t get in during their first year of eligibility, which was the case for Warner in 2015. Last year was rare in that two quarterbacks — Brett Favre and Ken Stabler — were inducted. Making a case for a third would have been difficult.

Prior to 2016, the last time any quarterbacks were inducted was 2006, when Troy Aikman and Warren Moon both got the nod.

This year, however, conditions might be perfect. Warner is the only quarterback on the list of 15 finalists.

ESPN’s John Clayton, who will be in the debate room next weekend as the Class of 2017 is shaped, said Warner’s career trajectory will factor into the discussion.

“The middle of his career certainly does not help his case,” Clayton told Doug and Wolf Friday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “He was a backup with the Giants and a backup at the start with the Cardinals.

“But going to the three Super Bowls, and having the success and the numbers that he’s had, what is sometimes held against him can be minimized you’ve got a couple other candidates that didn’t have the full 15-year career.”

Clayton mentioned former Broncos running back Terrell Davis, who helped Denver to back-to-back Super Bowl titles in the 90s and had an incredibly productive four-year stretch. But Davis only played seven seasons, three of which were dotted by injuries that allowed him to play in only 16 games.

Another finalist, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, was a five-time Pro Bowler with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 1996 to 2000, but only played seven seasons.

Despite not playing in his first NFL game until he was 27, Warner still had a long, 12-year career that featured him winning two league MVP awards and making three Super Bowl appearances, winning one.

Clayton said it’s a challenge to build a case for any player during the deliberations.

“It comes down to salesmanship,” he said. “The challenge in the room is that you have so many people who are so qualified — you’ve got Hall-of-Famers. But again, in a particular year, you can’t get them all in, you can only get five of the 15 in.

“You start there and then you go through the process. You want information. The key is trying to get those nuggets of information that say ‘I’m going to use this to put Kurt over this player in this time’ and so that gets him over the top. It’s a fascinating process.”

The 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will be announced Saturday, Feb. 4.

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