HOUSTON — Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who enjoyed a spectacular career with the Chargers and helped the Jets reach the AFC Championship Game after the 2010 season, became a first-ballot Hall of Famer Saturday night, headlining a 2017 class that includes two-time Super Bowl champion running back Terrell Davis, Super Bowl-winning quarterback and former NFL MVP Kurt Warner, pass rusher Jason Taylor and kicker Morten Andersen.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who purchased the franchise in 1989 and turned his team into a Super Bowl champion, along with helping the league’s popularity and business model flourish with his innovative ideas, was selected in the contributor’s category. Safety Kenny Easley, who starred for mostly losing teams in the 1980s, was the seniors committee selection.
There were two notable absences from this year’s class: former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who helped achieve labor peace with a landmark collective-bargaining agreement in 1993 that set the stage for an unprecedented run of labor peace, and former receiver Terrell Owens, who finished with some of the most remarkable statistics in NFL history but whose volatile temper led to his ouster from the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys.
Also missing the cut: longtime Washington offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, a member of the legendary line nicknamed “The Hogs,” Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli, former Seahawks, Jets and Titans center Kevin Mawae, and former Buccaneers and Broncos safety John Lynch, a previous finalist.
Tomlinson came into this year’s voting with the most solid credentials, having scored at least 10 rushing touchdowns in each of his nine seasons with the Chargers. He set an NFL record with 31 touchdowns in 2006 and won NFL MVP honors that year. Tomlinson is fifth all-time with 13,684 rushing yards and second all-time with 145 rushing touchdowns.
Warner was one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in pro sports, making it to the NFL after a stint in the Arena Football League and winning a Super Bowl with the Rams in his first year as a starter. Injuries eventually led to his ouster in St. Louis and he was the Giants’ starter for the first half of the 2004 season before coach Tom Coughlin decided to go with Eli Manning.
Warner eventually landed in Arizona, where he led the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl berth, narrowly losing to the Steelers in one of the greatest Super Bowl finishes of all time.
Davis was a 2,000-yard rusher and NFL MVP in 1998, helping the Broncos to a second straight Super Bowl win in quarterback John Elway’s final season. The year before, Davis won Super Bowl MVP honors in leading Denver to its first NFL title.
Injuries cut short Davis’ career and he wound up playing in only 78 games. He suffered a knee injury in 1999 while trying to tackle Jets safety Victor Green to prevent him from scoring a touchdown off an interception. He had only four touchdowns in 17 games after the injury.
Taylor was a six-time Pro Bowl selection in 15 NFL seasons. He played 13 years with the Dolphins and one each with Washington and the Jets. Taylor finished with 139½ career sacks, seventh best in NFL history, and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2006.
Andersen became only the second pure kicker in the Hall of Fame, joining Jan Stenerud. He played until he was 47 years of age mostly with the Saints (and one season with the Giants) from 1982-2007. He is first in NFL history with 2,544 points, 382 games played and 565 field goals.
Jones quickly made his mark with the Cowboys, firing future Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry and replacing him with Jimmy Johnson, who won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1993 and ’94. After they parted ways, Jones won only one more, in ’96 with Barry Switzer at the helm, but Jones also was the driving force in a dramatic rise in television revenues and stadium construction.
Tagliabue didn’t secure the requisite 80 percent of Hall of Fame votes to be selected. While his work in forging a collective- bargaining agreement in 1993 led to labor peace after a decade in which the NFL lived through two strikes, Tagliabue’s handling of a growing concussion crisis may have played a role in his being passed over for enshrinement.
Owens finished with 15,934 receiving yards, second most all-time, and 153 receiving touchdowns, third best in history. But his frequent blowups with coaches and quarterbacks throughout his days with the 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys contributed to his failure to reach the final 10 in this year’s class. Owens also was omitted from the final 10 last year in his first season of eligibility.
THE CLASS OF 2017
K I Saints, Falcons, Giants, Chiefs, Vikings, Falcons
RB I BRONCOS
SS I Seahawks
Owner I Cowboys
DE/LB I Dolphins, Redskins, Jets
RB I Chargers, Jets
QB I Rams, Giants, Cardinals