INDIANAPOLIS — It was 30 years ago this Super Bowl and now that Cris Collinsworth is in the NBC booth instead of everyone's 22-year-old rookie of the year playing for the Bengals against the 49ers, he realizes the enormity of the loss in Super Bowl XVI.
He just has to look at the curious case of his quarterback that day in Detroit. The Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors sat down for their annual meeting here Saturday morning and with an announcement set for 5:30 p.m., it will begin another year of Ken Anderson's supporters making his case.
"That's the thing I feel the worst about," said Collinsworth, whose fumble was one of four Cincinnati turnovers. "The way we played in that game, he already would have been in the Hall of Fame if we didn't screw it up."
Collinsworth has been one of Anderson's most ardent supporters and has been a key figure in Cincinnatian David Kubicki's effort to get Anderson elected via the senior selection process. Their first shot on the senior ballot fell short this past August, but his new-look candidacy gained a lot of momentum among voters and the football world.
"When does he run out of chances? Collinsworth asked.
That's the beauty of the senior process. There is no 25-year limit like there is for the non-senior players. But only two seniors are nominated annually by a sub-committee of the 44 selectors that decided the fate Saturday of the 17 finalists.
"The upside is he could, in theory, come back 10 times, although that doesn't happen," said The Boston Herald's Ron Borges, a member of the nine-man committee that picks the two senior finalists.
"The downside is he'll have to wait awhile. We're about done with the guys from the '50s. Although there's no rule about it, we try to do it with some chronology in the theory everyone has had 25 years worth of opportunities in the regular process. If they start jumping the line, then it gets insane."
Lions guard Dick Stanfel and Steelers cornerback Jack Butler, this year's two senior candidates, didn't take a snap after 1959. Anderson, the only man to win back-to-back NFL passing titles in two different decades, rose to prominence during the mid '70s and early '80s.
"I'd be stunned if Anderson doesn't get in the room (for debate) from the seniors standpoint, but I'd be surprised if it's in the next couple of years because there are so many people," Borges said.
Borges, in his fifth decade covering the NFL, has taken note of Kubicki's campaign.
"A lot of people deserve credit for coming up with information that made people say, 'Hey, let's take a look at this guy,' '' Borges said. "I'm the patron saint of lost cause and losing players. He's one of those guys that didn't win the championship. Especially as a quarterback or coach, while it's not held against you, it's a big demerit."
MORE HALL: One of the longshots Saturday is a guy that Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis broke into the NFL when he was the Steelers linebackers coach in the early 1990s. Kevin Greene had his best days when he left Pittsburgh, but Lewis thought enough of him to jump-start his coaching career when he invited Greene to the 2005 Bengals training camp.
The idea was that Greene, now the Packers linebackers coach, would work with first-round pick David Pollack as he began his transition from college end to NFL linebacker. But Pollack's three-week holdout scuttled the plan.
"What Kevin did as a rusher not many people have done it because he did it from the left side," Lewis said. "All those sacks and he averaged 10 sacks a year and a lot of them from the left side. That's a big accomplishment. A fine football player and everything about it. Deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."
The Cincinnati selector, The Enquirer's Joe Reedy, feared that the meeting would go past the 5:30 p.m. announcement. Borges, a voter for 10 years, has seen the selection process slowed but helped with more intense research.
"One guy went back and looked at every sack of Charles Haley's career," Borges said of one of Saturday's finalists. "The thinking was he got a lot of his sacks in the fourth quarter when his team had the lead. It turns out only a quarter of them came in the fourth quarter. But the guy had to a lot of research to come up with that. They weren't doing that in the '70s." The Bengals are hoping to get some end-of-year recognition Saturday for play in 2012 when the NFL airs its first Honors show at 9 p.m. on Cincinnati's Channel 5.