FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Randy Moss is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, but is he a New England Patriots Hall of Famer?
It was a question that produced some of my favorite discussion in Thursday's meeting of the Patriots Hall of Fame selection committee, in part because it sparked those in the room to consider what a Patriots Hall of Famer means to them. Not everyone sees it the same way.
For me, I place the highest value on the following criteria:
Length of tenure
Representing the franchise in a positive way
Moss so decisively checks off the top box that it led me to nominate him for discussion in the room. He did things in practice, and in games, that I've never seen before. He is tied for third on the franchise all-time list for touchdown catches (50) with Patriots Hall of Famer Ben Coates, a remarkable feat considering he did it in just three seasons (plus an additional four games in 2010).
But therein lies one of the main things that is holding Moss back: Are three seasons enough to be a Patriots Hall of Famer?
And that doesn't address the circumstances regarding his departure -- a trade that was a result of him no longer being fully on board, in part because of displeasure with his contract.
This type of discussion hits at the essence of what takes place in the Patriots Hall of Fame selection committee meeting, as a group of 23 people with a long Patriots history debate the merits of many deserving candidates. I thought this was one of our best meetings, as the discussion was passionate, respectful and insightful, with Moss the last of 13 nominees to cap off the day.
One of my top concerns was the possibility that defensive lineman Richard Seymour (2001-2008) is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame before the Patriots Hall of Fame. Seymour was a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist this year for the first time, making it to the final 10 players. Since Seymour has been eligible for the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2017, I've had him on my ballot each time, and that continued this year. Coach Bill Belichick's letter to the Pro Football Hall of Fame committee, in which he said Seymour and Vince Wilfork are the best two defensive linemen he's coached, has significant weight to me.
I also put linebacker Mike Vrabel (2001-2008) on my ballot. He has been a three-time finalist and represents everything I think a Patriots Hall of Famer should be. So tough. Versatile. Top-end production. Three-time Super Bowl champion. Played some of his best football in the biggest games. Vrabel is an easy choice for me.
Seymour and Vrabel were the top two candidates to be nominated by committee members. After their candidacies were discussed, other deserving possibilities were brought up, a group that included defensive linemen Julius Adams (1971-85, 1987) and Larry Eisenhauer (1961-69); head coaches Bill Parcells (1993-1996) and Chuck Fairbanks (1973-1978); safeties Rodney Harrison (2003-2008), Fred Marion (1982-1991), Tim Fox (1976-1981) and Lawyer Milloy (1996-2002); running back Mosi Tatupu (1978-1990); tight end Russ Francis (1975-1980; 1987-88); and Moss.
This hits at something owner Robert Kraft sometimes calls a "high-class problem," which in this case is too much excellence for limited spots. There was strong dialogue among the committee across the board, and I believe some of the aforementioned names will be inducted in the future, starting with Harrison.
As for this year, I've written previously about how I'm a supporter of Parcells' candidacy, even though it's annually one of the most polarizing topics and he admittedly doesn't check off all the boxes of my own criteria for a Patriots Hall of Famer. Still, Parcells remained on my ballot this year.
I view it as a privilege to be part of the committee, and as has been mentioned in the discussion over the years, part of what makes being a Patriots Hall of Famer special is that entry is challenging.
This year's finalists should be announced within the next couple of weeks, then it will go to a fan vote.