Could this be the best class in the history of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
It's tempting to look at Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, the game's leading all-time receiver and rusher, respectively, and say that it's true without a doubt. But it's the amount of statistical freight Rice, Smith and their classmates carry that really awes.
Between Rice (208 touchdowns), Smith (175), Broncos great Floyd Little (54), Dick LeBeau (four defensive scores), and John Randle (one fumble return) the class of 2010 scored 442 touchdowns. That's an enormous number, and it might go unchallenged, though the three closest players on the career touchdown list to Rice and Smith—LaDainian Tomlinson, Randy Moss, and Terrell Owens—have 449 touchdowns between them, and could all retire in the same year and end up in the same class.
A hypothetical future class that could rival this one likely won't have four players at separate positions as accomplished as Rice, Smith, Russ Grimm and Randle, though. Grimm played in four Super Bowls, winning three, while anchoring the "Hogs" that opened so many holes for Redskins running backs in the 1980s. Randle is perhaps the greatest defensive tackle in NFL history; his 137.5 career sacks leads all tackles. Combined, the six members of the class—Rice, Smith, LeBeau, Randle, Little, and Rickey Jackson—have 12 Super Bowl rings, and ten as players. (LeBeau's two have come as a coach.) An average of two rings per inductee is going to be hard to top.
So is the class' two Dancing With The Stars titles, but it's doubtful that either Rice or Smith will be touting that in their speeches.
The only class that seems clearly superior to 2010's is the seventeen-member charter class of 1963, which boasts Sammy Baugh, Red Grange, George Halas, and Don Hutson among its members. Talented duos crop up every so often in Hall classes, as with Dan Marino and Steve Young in 2005, and Barry Sanders and John Elway in 2004, and eye-popping trios exist, like 1985's threesome of Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, and Roger Staubach and the coach-heavy 1993 class that included Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Walter Payton.
At the very least, the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2010 is in the argument about the best Hall class of all time. And in Rice and Smith, the two most productive players of all time, the twosome at the top will definitely surpass every other class' comparable duo statistically.