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2020 allows 1st-time eligibility for Patrick Willis, Justin Smith

If they could make the first ballot is another question.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced on the eve of the Super Bowl, and 49ers fans may be disappointed. John Lynch did not get in, again (his sixth time) and Isaac Bruce also did not make it in. Both do not have tight connections with the 49ers. Bruce played the final two seasons of his career, having spent the rest of it with the then-St. Louis Rams (his rookie year they were in Los Angeles, in case you’re keeping track). John Lynch spent his playing career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos before becoming the general manager of the 49ers in 2017.

2020 brings with it some more eligibility for familiar and tenured 49ers ... Carlos Rogers!

Ok, that’s a cut-and-paste job from Fooch’s joke this time last year, but really what we’re bringing up is Patrick Willis. The argument we’ll be hearing is how his career was short. Short or not, the 49ers were a different team when he was on the field. In the locker room, Willis was the consummate professional and he was very active in the community off the field. And yes, the selection committee does look at this when deciding on selection—look at the delays to let Terrell Owens in. Despite the praise, ability, and pedigree, the Hall will most likely keep him out. At least for his first couple of years. Longevity can’t be ignored and Willis’ brief career is what is going keep him on the outside looking in. If he got a Super Bowl ring that may have swung a different direction, but he has none.

Then there’s Justin Smith, a player that is also deserving and has a better chance of making it in. Cowboy, as some people called him was fearless, durable, and the backbone of the 49ers’ defensive line during the Jim Harbaugh years. Smith demanded double teams on every play or the opposing team’s quarterback would pay dearly for it. When Aldon Smith was drafted, Justin’s double teams allowed Aldon ample opportunity to run around the edge. When they were healthy, this made a filthy defensive line that was downright unfair. When teams tried to double-team Aldon in response of his productivity, Justin would just bullrush the single offensive linemen into the quarterback and take them both down at times. Justin Smith might not be a first-ballot hall of famer, but he has a much better chance of getting in at some point.

That class also has Maurice Jones-Drew, Reggie Wayne, and Troy Polamalu. Of those three I think Polamalu has the best chance of getting in on the first ballot. Polamalu has two Super Bowl rings on the first page of a book of stats so thick, it’d put an address book to shame.

When do you see Patrick Willis or Justin Smith getting in?