Sometime on Saturday, Kevin Mawae, a long-time fixture at center for the Jets, will learn whether he’s finally been selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’ll be tough, since there are three other offensive linemen on the list of 15 finalists. But if he does get the call, the honor would be overdue.
He’s not the only former Jet or Giant for whom that honor is overdue, of course. Nor is he the only one who figures to be enshrined someday soon.
Here’s a look at five New York football icons who deserve their spot in Canton, and the chances of whether they’ll ever actually get their bust:
Kevin Mawae, Jets center, 1998-2005 – For most of his 16-year career he was acknowledged as one of the best centers in football. He went to the Pro Bowl eight times and was named a first-team All-Pro six times. He was also selected to the all-decade team of the 2000s. This marks his third year as a finalist. His biggest issue, though, is three other linemen are finalists too – Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca and Steve Hutchinson. The vote appears to be split among them, and given the rest of the class it’s unlikely more than one will get in at a time. Historically, when that happens it could take a few years for voters to clear the logjam. Eventually they do, though, so Mawae will get in – it just might take a while.
George Young, Giants GM, 1979-97 – He had a three-year run as a finalist from 2003-05 but was snubbed each time. That, quite frankly, is an embarrassment for the Hall considering how Young helped save the Giants, one of the league’s flagship franchises, and all that he had done in the NFL in general. His path to Canton is theoretically easier now, since the Hall separated “contributors” from the general voting back in 2015. Five contributors have been selected since, though, plus two more are on deck this year — but not Young. That needs to change in 2020.
Joe Klecko, Jets defensive lineman, 1977-87 – He undoubtedly is one of the greatest players in Jets history, but he didn’t have much support during his years on the Hall of Fame ballot, never even reaching the round of 15 finalists. He’s now in the hands of the senior committee, which selects one or two players on a yearly, rotating basis. So far there’s no indication that the committee has strongly considered Klecko. They’ve instead focused on players from an era before him. But Klecko, a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time, first-team All-Pro deserves another look. He was one of the best and most versatile defensive linemen in the league at his peak, winning the AFC Defensive Player of the Year back in 1981.
Tom Coughlin, Giants head coach, 2004-2015 – The road to Canton hasn’t always been easy for head coaches. Bill Parcells, who many consider the greatest coach in Giants history, wasn’t selected until his fourth year as a finalist. Since coaches are lumped in with the players, they can get bumped as voters try to squeeze in players who have been waiting a while. So don’t expect Coughlin to cruise in when first eligible in 2021. But he deserves a spot eventually. Two of the most impressive Super Bowl championships ever could be enough on their own, but remember he also built the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise from scratch and turned them into an AFC power from 1997-99.
Chris Snee, Giants guard, 2004-13 – He is perhaps the most underrated player of the Giants’ most recent Super Bowl era, but he’s also one of the greatest interior linemen they’ve ever had. He’s first eligible for induction in 2020 and he figures to at least be a semifinalist in his first year. His problem, though, is going to be the same as Mawae’s problem – the logjam currently among offensive linemen. And since it’s not a star-driven position, there won’t be a big rush to get them all in. Also, linemen are among the toughest for the voters to judge, and Snee’s four Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro selection won’t distinguish him for the others. He may have to do a long stint as a semifinalist and finalist first.