The Patriots Hall of Fame nomination committee is set to meet on Thursday to discuss this year's class. Unlike in the recent past when sure-fire picks likeDrew Bledsoe(2011), Troy Brown (2012) andTy Law (2014) were nominated and eventually selected by fans, this year's crop doesn't seem to have one clear-cut candidate.
There are two first-year eligible candidates worthy of consideration in safety Lawyer Milloy and linebacker Mike Vrabel. They join the likes of linebacker Willie McGinest and safety Rodney Harrison, as well as several individuals who've been among the finalists in the past – most notably cornerback Raymond Clayborn, tackle Leon Gray and former coaches Bill Parcellsand Chuck Fairbanks.
It's a solid group but one that is lacking in pure star power, which should make the meeting more lively than the norm. The 22-member committee meets annually to discuss potential candidates, debating the merits of those nominated before each offers a list of his top three selections.
The votes are then tabulated and the three finalists will be announced April 16 on Patriots.com, where fans will then get the opportunity to vote in the next member of the Patriots Hall of Fame.
Personally this year represents the most difficult choice I've faced. Parcells has been a finalist three separate times (2011-12, 14), as has old-timer Houston Antwine(2009-11). Clayborn (2014), Gray (2013) and Fairbanks (2013) also have been nominated in the past.
The argument for Parcells, and one that I have been a strong advocate of, is his impact on the franchise. While he ultimately finished as just a .500 coach in New England and failed to win a Super Bowl, he inherited the worst franchise in sports when he took over in 1993 and immediately changed the team's image and fortunes. Two years later the Patriots were in the playoffs and four years in they went to the Super Bowl.
Although he left in controversial fashion at that point, the Patriots have been a solid franchise ever since and he's a huge part of that.
McGinest and Harrison are similar candidates in my view. McGinest gets an edge based on longevity but Harrison made a bigger impact on the field during his time in New England. The committee's views on those two, plus the Parcells image factor, should go a long way in determining how the nominations go.
I like to try to keep an open mind before attending the meeting so as not to stubbornly miss pertinent information on a candidate, but at this point that trio will likely make the cut as my nominees for the 2015 class.
I will offer an update Thursday afternoon with some of the flavor from the meeting and my final choices.