BEREA, Ohio — The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of 122 modern-era nominees for the Class of 2020 Thursday, and several former Cleveland Browns and players with Central and Northeast Ohio ties were included.
Linebackers Clay Matthews II, Chris Spielman and Carl Banks, wide receiver/kick returner/punt returner Eric Metcalf, running back Earnest Byner, quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia, hybrid defensive end/linebacker Willie McGinest, offensive lineman Lomas Brown and return specialist Joshua Cribbs will be considered for enshrinement.
In addition to the former Browns among the nominees, former Ohio State University running back Eddie George and John Carroll University alum London Fletcher are eligible for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Here is a look at the Browns’ top candidates on the nominees’ list.
A first-round pick of the Browns in the 1978 NFL Draft, Matthews spent 16 years in Cleveland, where in 232 games, 216 of which were starts, he registered 76.5 quarterback sacks, 1,430 total tackles, 14 interceptions, 24 forced fumbles and 13 recoveries.
A four-time Pro Bowler in Cleveland, Matthews ranks first in Browns history in sacks, games played and most consecutive seasons, as well as second in total years of service to the organization.
Despite playing a physical position where making violent plays was not just a goal, but often, a standard set by Matthews, the veteran defender proved remarkably durable over his 19-year career.
Matthews played in 278 games, making the start in 248 contests, and was on the field for 12 or more games in all but one of his 19 seasons in the NFL.
Metcalf played in 88 games with the Browns over six seasons, where he was a Jack-of-All-Trades athlete, helping in the running, passing and return games.
Metcalf rushed for 2,229 yards and 11 touchdowns, caught 297 passes for 2,732 yards and 15 scores. Additionally, Metcalf returned 127 punts for 1,341 yards and five touchdowns, as well as 139 kickoffs for 2,806 yards and two scores.
Metcalf remains the franchise leader with the most punt-return touchdowns in a career (five) and is tied for the most in a single-season (two in both 1993 and 1994). Metcalf remains the only player ever to have two punt-return touchdowns in a single game, a 28-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on October 24, 1993.
Metcalf twice earned Pro Bowl status with the Browns and was a First-Team All-Pro in 1993. Also, Metcalf earned Pro Bowl/All-Pro status with the San Diego Chargers in 1997.
In 99 regular-season games, including 54 starts, over seven years with the Browns, Byner rushed for 3,364 yards and 27 touchdowns. Additionally, Byner caught 276 passes, which he turned into 2,630 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Following his time with the Browns, Byner was a two-time Pro Bowl rusher with Washington.
George started his professional career with the Houston Oilers and remained with the franchise for the next seven years, when they relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, and later, became the Titans before ending his nine-year NFL tenure with the Dallas Cowboys.
A four-time Pro Bowl player and First-Team All-Pro in 2000, George rushed for 10,441 yards and 68 touchdowns and caught 268 passes for 2,227 yards and 10 scores in 141 career games.
Undersized and overlooked out of Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Fletcher played college ball at John Carroll and did enough to attract attention from professional scouts.
Fletcher took tremendous care of his body and used a tenacious motor to become one of the league’s most consistent and productive linebackers during his 16 NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams, Bills and Washington football team.
A four-time Pro Bowler (2009-2012), Fletcher played in all 256 career games over his 16 NFL seasons, where he registered 1,796 tackles, including 1,197 solo stops and 599 assists with 39.0 quarterback sacks, two safeties, 75 passes defended and 23 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Additionally, Fletcher forced 19 fumbles and recovered 12 turnovers.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of nearby Kent State University, Cribbs returned 195 punts for the Browns from 2005-2012 and turned those into a franchise record 2,154 yards and three touchdowns. His 11.00 yards-per-return average is the third-highest in franchise history.
Additionally, Cribbs accounted for 10,015 yards and eight touchdowns on 387 kickoff returns. He had 269 returns of at least 20 yards and another 34 that went for 40 or more yards. Over his first six years in the NFL, Cribbs had at least one return that went for a 90-yard touchdown, including a career-best 103-yard scamper during the 2009 season.
The list of nominees will be trimmed down to 25 semifinalists in November with the 15 finalists being chosen in early January.
From there, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet in Miami, Florida, the day before Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium to choose the players, coaches and/or contributors that will make up the Class of 2020.
Although the Class of 2020 will feature 20 members in recognition of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, only five modern-era finalists will be selected for enshrinement.