As I check around the blogosphere for any positive NFL news a question kept arising about one of our most beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Ronde Barber. The conversations surround whether or not he is a Hall of Famer.
When sportswriters talk about future HOF players for the Bucs the names of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks are almost always started off with “future Hall of Famer.” Not once have I read or heard that about Barber. Before I chime in with my take, let’s see what some of the sportswriters have to say about this.
Pat Kirwin, who was a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer area scout and is now a Senior Analyst for the NFL.Com, believes that Barber will come up short on the balloting. Kirwin states that Barber has made five Pro Bowls in his 13-year career, in which he has 37 interceptions, 104 passes defended and 11 forced fumbles. Kirwin believes that it’s been a fine career for Barber, but it might not be enough.
Kirwin, however, does not mention Barber’s 25 sacks, which is a huge accomplishment for a cornerback. On the flip side, Kirwin mentions Charles Woodson as being “close” to the Hall of Fame with 11.5 sacks. The difference of Woodson being “close” and Barber being “distant” is Woodson’s Defensive Player of the Year award which would give him a slight edge over Barber.
Pat Yasinskas of ESPN had an interesting take on the subject: “ This may not be the answer Tampa Bay fans want to hear, but I don’t think Ronde Barber is a future Hall of Famer. Just my honest opinion. I think he’s been a very good player for a very long time. But I don’t think he’s ever been a dominant player."
"Also, I think Barber was fortunate to have Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch around him for much of his career and they made all the players around them look better. I think Brooks and Sapp is automatic Hall of Famers and I think Lynch has a chance to join them. I think Barber’s been a very good player, but not a Hall of Famer.”
Peter King of Sports Illustrated has said on numerous occasions that he’d vote for both Brooks and Sapp. King states that “Barber has good stats, but I don’t think he has the national respect for his talent."
"Sapp has gotten a lot of national media attention so that’s never going to harm him, and Brooks has done some really ridiculous things: Defensive Player of the Year, 11 Pro Bowls, 6 first-team All-Pros, 3 second-team All-Pros, and he made the all-decade team. The All-Pros and the All-Decade team are decided by the media, including the people who vote for the Hall of Fame. Sapp’s media recognition is extremely similar.”
From a statistical standpoint, Barber has 25 sacks and 37 interceptions in his career. He has made a ton of big plays and won a Super Bowl. His interception return in the conference title game against Philadelphia was a fantastic moment and he also has a 10-interception season. Yet, when you think of Barber, do you think of a dominant or Hall of Fame player? Let’s take a look at a couple of defensive back/safeties in the HOF and see how Barber stacks up against them.
Dick LeBeau - In 1960, started a string of 12 straight seasons with three or more interceptions
Rod Woodson - Intercepted 71 passes in his career. . . Is NFL’s all-time leader in interception return yardage (1,483). . .Six-time first-team All-Pro choice. . .Earned All-Pro honors as cornerback, kick returner, safety. . .Named to 11 Pro Bowls.
Ronnie Lott – Was the 49ers No. 1 pick in 1981, went on to intercept 63 passes in his career
Dick “Night Train” Lane, Ken Houston, Herb Adderly, Lem Barney, Mel Blount, Willie Brown. Ronde Barber?
As Pat Yasinskas points out in his piece, it took Barber a few seasons to make a real impact. He then went into a very productive stretch that forms the basis of his argument to be a Hall of Fame candidate.
The problem Pat and I see was that the Bucs won only one championship and a lot of people view Barber as a system player, who benefited from playing “Tampa Two” in Monte Kiffin’s scheme with Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp and John Lynch there to help him look good. Yasinskas states that he respects Barber’s durability, "but after last years’ 3-13 season with no interceptions, this isn’t the best way to put the final touches on your résumé."
Some may argue that it’s not all about statistics. My dispute is that I grew up watching two corners for the Oakland Raiders, "Stick Em'" Lester Hayes and the “Assassin”, Jack Tatum. Two defensive backs that deserve to be inducted into the Hall of Fame but are not. Maybe the HOF is all about what voters perceive as important in the defensive back/safety position.
High single and double digit interceptions are typically held in higher esteem. Sacks, FFs, batted down balls and tackles are a defensive linemens dream. These stats are not as important to a defensive back as the interception. A defensive back with interceptions and sacks are rare indeed. Sometimes the HOF voters and sportswriters just feel like a guy will or won’t make it. If Hayes and Tatum didn’t make it, I would be hard pressed to believe that Barber will.