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Cleveland Browns legend Clay Matthews Jr., former owner Art Modell named semifinalists for Pro Football Hall of Fame

The pair are being considered by the Seniors and Coach/Contributor Committees, respectively. Former head coach Marty Schottenheimer is also a candidate.

CANTON, Ohio — Could Canton finally be calling for Clay Matthews Jr.?

The legendary Browns linebacker was announced Thursday as one of 54 seniors, coaches and contributors named as semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2023. Matthews, who spent 16 of his 19 seasons in Cleveland, is joined by 24 other senior candidates, including four-time Pro Bowl quarterback Ken Anderson and do-it-all running back Roger Craig.

A first-round draft pick in 1978 out of USC, Matthews was himself a four-time Pro Bowler who remains the Browns' official all-time leader with 62 sacks (75 unofficially). He helped the team make seven playoff appearances and three AFC Championship Games and also spent time with the Atlanta Falcons, finishing his career with 82 1/2 estimated sacks (the NFL did not officially track the statistic until 1982).

Matthews was a semifinalist multiple times on the modern-era ballot before being named a finalist in 2021, his final year of eligibility. He eventually fell short of election, meaning his only remaining avenue to do so will be through the seniors ballot (players whose careers ended at least 25 years ago).

Credit: AP
Former Cleveland Browns' Clay Matthews speaks during halftime of an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Cleveland. Matthews was inducted into the Browns' Ring of Honor. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

In the coach/contributor category, Matthews' former boss Marty Schottenheimer is up for consideration. Schottenheimer, who died last year at the age of 77, won 205 games across 21 seasons with four different teams, including 46 with Cleveland from 1984-88. Unfortunately, he never once made it to a Super Bowl.

However, there is a more controversial figure the committee will also look at: former owner Art Modell. While he controlled the Browns for 34 years and was at the helm for their last championship in 1964, he forever became a reviled figure in the city when he moved the franchise to Baltimore, where he won a Super Bowl ring in 2000. Modell died in 2012, and has been a Hall of Fame finalist—only to come up short—multiple times since.

Credit: Mark Duncan/AP
Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell answering questions about the NFL strike, during a news conference in Cleveland on September 21, 1982.

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In addition to Modell and Schottenheimer, former Browns offensive guard John Wooten is also a semifinalist for his accomplishments as a front office executive. Wooten was a two-time Pro Bowler in Cleveland and member of the 1964 team before winning three Super Bowls while working for Baltimore and the Dallas Cowboys.

Former Browns President Mike Holmgren is once again a semifinalist for his coaching work. The 74-year-old won 58.8% of his games along with three NFC titles and a Super Bowl while leading the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, although his tenure in Cleveland was not nearly as successful, with a paltry record of just 14-34 from 2010-12.

Credit: Mark Duncan/AP
FILE - In this June 5, 2012 file photo, Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren walks off the field following an off-season practice at the NFL football team's headquarters in Berea, Ohio.

Two Ohio State legends are also on the seniors ballot: Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar (also a Warren native) and Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall. Marshall actually tallied 2 1/2 sacks for the Browns in 1960 before being dealt to Minneapolis along with fellow D-lineman Paul Dickson. It is still viewed as one of the worst trades in Browns history.

Finally, former cornerback Everson Walls is also a semifinalist. He was a three-time All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys and helped the New York Giants win a Super Bowl before finishing his career in Cleveland, where he picked off two passes and recorded 1 1/2 sacks across 17 games from 1992-93.

The respective selection committees will vote to send 12 seniors and 12 coach/contributors to the finalists stage. The results will be announced July 27.

The remaining list of players: linebackers Maxie Baughan, Tommy Nobis and Chuck Howley; wide receivers Otis Taylor, Sterling Sharpe, Mark Clayton and Stanley Morgan; end LaVern Dilweg; offensive linemen Chris Hinton and Bob Kuechenberg; two-way player Cecil Isbell; offensive tackles Joe Jacoby, George Kunz and Mike Kenn; defensive lineman Joe Klecko; cornerbacks Lester Hayes, Eddie Meador, and Ken Riley; return specialist Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.

Each semifinalist played his last game in professional football no later than the 1996 season.

The remaining list of coaches/contributors: former Oilers/Titans owner K.S. "Bud" Adams Jr.; television executive and producer Roone Arledge; longtime Oilers/Titans scout C.O. Brocato; coach Don Coryell; athletic trainer Otho Davis; former Canton Bulldogs owner Ralph Hay; front-office executives Amy Trask, John McVay, Carl Peterson and Frank "Bucko" Kilroy; scout Eddie Kotal; Patriots owner Robert Kraft; general manager Rich McKay; former Browns/Ravens owner Art Modell, Cowboys founder Clint Murchison Jr.; coach Buddy Parker; coach Dan Reeves; journalist Lee Remmel; Steelers vice president Art Rooney Jr.; coach Mike Shanahan; officials Jim Tunney and Jerry Seeman; coach Clark Shaughnessy; Elias Sports Bureau owner Seymour Siwoff; scouts Jack Vainisi and Lloyd Wells.

The Seniors Committee will meet Aug. 16 to select up to three seniors for final consideration as members of the Class of 2023. Expansion of the seniors pool for election to the Hall was approved earlier this year for the Classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025.

Coach/Contributor Committee members will meet Aug. 23 to select one coach or contributor for final consideration for the Class of 2023.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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