Over at the ESPN NFC South blog, Pat Yasinskas posted an in-depth review of Darren Sharper's and Ronde Barber's Hall of Fame chances. Now I'm not particularly interested in Sharper's chances, but Ronde Barber is one of my favorite Buccaneers and would love to see him in the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Yasinskas doesn't like Ronde's chances. He points to the fact that two other players from the same defense are locks to make the Hall of Fame (Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks), and Hall of Fame voters will see Ronde Barber as secondary to the team's success. In addition, the fact that Ronde Barber was never a shutdown cornerback will hurt him.
While that's all true, I also think it's missing the point. Ronde Barber was never a shutdown corner, but that was never his job. He was supposed to play zones, limit plays, be a good tackler and jump routes when he could. Besides that, he was also used a weapon on third down when he moved inside: he is probably the best pass-rushing cornerback in NFL history, gathering 26 sacks so far, the most ever from a cornerback. In fact, he's the only cornerback in the 20/20 club (20 sacks/20 interceptions) and the only player ever with at least 25 sacks and 40 interceptions.
His accolades don't look too shabby either: 5 Pro Bowls, 3x First-Team All-Pro selection, 2x Second-Team All-Pro Selection and a Second-Team player for the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team. He's the Bucs' all-time leader interception, he holds the record for the most consecutive starts by a cornerback in the NFL and led the NFL in interceptions in 2001. In addition he is currently third on the all-time defensive touchdown list behind Darren sharper and Rod Woodson.
But perhaps most importantly, Ronde Barber has defined a position. He is the prototype Tampa 2 cornerback: tough, quick and intelligent. His ability to jump routes and make the tackle makes him perfect as an outside cornerback in the Tampa 2, but it's his ability as a nickel cornerback that makes him really stand out. On third down Ronde Barber moves inside and turns into a real weapon. Offenses have to account for him, and that position has really defined his career, and he has (re-)defined that position.
Combine all that, and I give Ronde Barber a 50% chance of making the Hall of Fame. But if he adds a few more years of quality play, he's a lock to make it. What do you think?