CANTON – After several hours of deliberation and long discussions, the Hall of Fame Contributors Committee nominated Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue for election to the 2017 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That follows by one day the nomination of safety Kenny Easley by the Seniors Committee.
The vote of the full 48-person selection committee will take place on Feb. 4, one day before Super Bowl LI in Houston.
To be elected, provided all 48 members of the committee are present, the candidates, along with the 15 modern-day finalists to be elected in January, must receive at least 80 percent, or 39 yes votes, to be enshrined.
The Contributors Committee narrowed down a list of 10 finalists to the final two. Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former New York Giants general manager George Young, were in the final four before Bowlen made it to the final three along with Jones and Tagliabue.
When reached by Hall president David Baker with the committee present, Jones said, “Oh man. Man, man, man. I forgive you all for anything bad you’ve ever written about me … You’re going into my will.”
He added, “I can’t tell how humbled and gratified I am. I’ll never forget the makeup of this group.”
Tagliabue, reached in the backyard of his vacation home in Maine, said, in his usual low-key way, “I’m deeply appreciative of the vote of confidence from the committee. I’m absolutely thrilled.”
Jones was acknowledged for the aggressive business approach he has taken since becoming owner of the Cowboys in April, 1989. Coincidentally, 1989 was also the year Tagliabue was voted commissioner to replace Pete Rozelle. The selection of Tagliabue on Oct. 26 in Cleveland, instead of then-New Orleans Saints vice president and general manager Jim Finks, the favorite of many old-school owners, signaled a shift in the changing world of the NFL exemplified by Jones and his new ways of thinking.
The election of Tagliabue spanned three owners meetings in three cities, 50 hours of debates and took 11 ballots. The number 11 was significant because Jones was part of the so-called Chicago 11 that derailed the expected ascension of Finks.
Several months later, as a member of the league’s television committee, Jones disagreed with the sentiment to allow a reduction in rights fees from the networks in the next round of negotiations. Three years later, Fox took the NFC games away from CBS and that has led to the continuing skyrocketing of income for the league.
Tagliabue served as commissioner until Sept. 1, 2006.