Over the last 26 years, one safety has been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Paul Krause, who played for the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings in the 1960s-1970’s, was elected in 1998. It’s very hard. Another way to look at this is that no pure safety that has played an NFL game within the last 35 years is in the Hall of Fame. And to be clear, Rod Woodson & Ronnie Lott both played cornerback as well safety, so they are excluded.
With the recent retirement of Steelers S Troy Polamalu, there has been the continuing discussion of if Troy is a first ballot Hall of Famer, but the discussion should really be is Troy a Hall of Fame player at all. During an interview on ProFootballTalk Live, Mike Florio asked Hall of Fame voter Darin Gantt “Why he thinks more safeties don’t get in the Hall of Fame?”.His response:
“it’s hard to quantify what they do. We put some pass rushers in the Hall of Fame in the last couple years, I think some more are going in soon. And they have sacks, it’s easy to count sacks. Wide receivers have receiving yards, touchdowns.It’s easy to quantify, to label, to stack those things up and compare them to other people. I think where the safety argument gets interesting and where it’s going to become more interesting in the future is we’re really talking about guys who do different things. I mean Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu were both safeties, their job descriptions could hardly be more different.I mean, they played two completely different games.And, again, they have two different sets of stats. Ed Reed’s got 64 interceptions to Troy Polamalu’s 32. But Troy Polamalu wasn’t asked to play that deep centerfield.”
Although Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu won’t be eligible for the draft until 2019 and 2020, the debate doesn’t begin nor end with them. John Lynch has been waiting for a while and another great safety in Brian Dawkins will be eligible in 2017. But it’s not like their was a gap in talent at the safety position all these years. Guys like Darren Woodson, Kenny Easley, LeRoy Butler, Rodney Harrison and a few others have all deserved consideration, but apparently their cases haven’t been heard.
Only 5 members are elected into the Hall of Fame each year so of course there isn’t equal representation. There are only 7 safeties in the NFL. Different schemes call for different things from each safety so (as Darin Gantt said before) there is no quantitative date to hold as a standard to compare all these guys to. And this is where my beef with the Hall of Fame voting process comes in. The committee uses only the media to vote which is stupid. You have one member of the voting committee publicly saying him and the other voters can’t figure out what exactly a safety’s job is…which is embarrassing to me. You have almost 300 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and not one of the players get a vote? That’s ridiculous and flat-out stupid.
I grew up watching Troy Polamalu redefine the safety position. In his prime, there wasn’t a better safety than him in the history of this league. For guys that grew up watching football in my generation, we look at Troy, Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins were the best at their position for over decade. It’ll be interesting to see who gets in first. John Lynch might not ever get in sadly, and he was just as important to that 02 Bucs defense as Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
Get it together Hall of Fame voters. Let Lynch in ’16, Dawkins in ’18. Reed in ’19. Polamalu in ’20.