MINNEAPOLIS -- Saturday marked my ninth year as a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here are some thoughts after safety Brian Dawkins, linebacker Ray Lewis, receiver Randy Moss, receiver Terrell Owens and linebacker Brian Urlacher emerged as the five modern-era choices:
1. Owens' time arrived
I've been an Owens supporter based on his production and the leading role he played in the successes of his teams, highlighted by his courageous performance for Philadelphia on a broken ankle in the 2005 Super Bowl against New England.
No one could question Owens' effort, toughness or production. I've made the point that Owens' teams and their quarterbacks enjoyed some of their finest seasons with Owens as a centerpiece. It took a couple of years, but these very measurable contributions prevailed over less measurable concerns that Owens' immature behavior hurt his teams.
2. Owens held key for the OL
There were five offensive linemen on the ballot of 15 modern-era finalists. All but Joe Jacoby made the initial reduction to 10 candidates. Once four linemen advanced to the final 10, I felt as though Owens would have to miss the final five for any offensive lineman to make it this year.
Lewis and Moss seemed like locks. Urlacher was not far behind. Dawkins was a strong candidate running unopposed at his position once John Lynch failed to make the final 10.
With Lewis, Moss, Urlacher and Dawkins in prime position to earn spots in the final five, the question became whether Owens would gain enough support to join them. If Owens failed, then the fifth member of the 2018 class would be cornerback Ty Law or one of the remaining offensive linemen, which included Steve Hutchinson, Tony Boselli, Kevin Mawae and Alan Faneca.
Once Owens made the reduction to five, he still had to win 80 percent approval on a separate yes-no vote. Ten "no" votes would have eliminated him, and there was some feeling that this could happen. Owens hadn't even made the final 10 last year, after all.
3. O-linemen face challenges in 2019
Safety Ed Reed, tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Champ Bailey become newly eligible for enshrinement next year. They combined for 35 Pro Bowl and 17 first-team All-Pro selections. All three were all-decade selections as well.
Those three could be first-ballot Hall of Famers, which would leave open only two modern-era spots for a pool that figures to again include Law, Hutchinson, Boselli, Mawae, Faneca, Isaac Bruce, Edgerrin James and John Lynch.
These acclaimed offensive linemen are now in the same position prominent wide receivers faced when Cris Carter, Andre Reed, Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison were in the mix. Carter made it in 2013, Reed followed in 2014 and Brown's turn came in 2015, resolving a logjam that was threatening to complicate matters for Harrison, who made it in 2016.
4. Not a bad day for Isaac Bruce
Bruce's numbers are almost identical to those of Owens and Moss, except that he scored far fewer touchdowns, in part because Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk took away scoring opportunities from him. Bruce lost out to Owens and Moss on Saturday, which means those two will not overshadow him in the future. That is good for Bruce's prospects.
5. Another battle looms for Lynch
Reed's eligibility as a first-time safety candidate in 2019 figures to replicate the dynamic for Lynch next year. Voters sometimes talk about picking the best five players regardless of position, but when little separates candidates in voters' minds, there can be a tendency for individual voters to pick one player from a position group.
Finalists tend to earn enshrinement eventually. Lynch will continue to have elite company among safeties on future ballots with Reed eligible in 2019, Troy Polamalu eligible in 2020 and Charles Woodson eligible in 2021.