As Bucs fans know, these three figures - the head coach from 1996 - 2001, the Outside Linebacker of the Bucs' most dominant defenses ever, and the Strong Safety of the Bucs' most dominant defenses ever - are part of a line-up we call "YES GODDAMMIT THEY BELONG IN THE HALL OF FAME." Sapp is one of the others on that list, and has already achieved the Hall of Fame just this past season. So this is kind of a big thing that three of the HoF list have gotten this far (out of the fifteen finalists only five will get selected for good).
Just how good are the odds?
Tony Dungy's got five good reasons to qualify for the Hall:
1) He's the coach who turned a perennial joke of a losing Bucs franchise - the 1985-1995 years - into serious playoff contenders with 4 postseason trips and one NFC championship appearance.
2) Built up a defensive unit for the Bucs that from 1997 - 2003 (even after he left) was one of the most dominant lineups in league history. The 2002 Bucs are talked about in the same way as the 2000 Ravens, the 1985 Bears, and the 1976 Steelers.
3) Coached over a roster - Sapp, Brooks, Lynch, Barber, Nickerson, Alstott, Dunn, even Dilfer for one season - that made Pro Bowl and All-Pro lineups on a regular basis. Good coaching helps good players become great.
4) Continues on a coaching "family tree" from the hallowed Steelers heritage that has branches throughout the league right now (new Bucs coach Lovie Smith a perfect example). A few head coaches and a lot of assistant coaches have ties to him.
Not to mention Dungy is still a respected figure throughout the NFL: if he says something, people pay attention and take it seriously. Even though he's clearly retired, there's still a good number of fans (both Bucs, Colts and otherwise) who keep asking if he'll ever come back to coach.
Derrick Brooks' five good reasons to make the Hall:
1) Arguably one of the top three Outside Linebackers of two decades (1990s and 2000s). And none of the others redefined the OLB position the way he did: considered too small for linebacker when drafted, Brooks proved size wasn't key, field smarts, speed and tackling skills were.
2) Practically invited to Pro Bowls out of habit. Made All-Pro lists just by doing some sit-ups. Earned a Defensive Player of the Year title the same year Bucs won it all in a Super Bowl. Made Man of the Year in 2002 and 2003.
3) Has a highlight reel of his career that would make 99 percent of the league die from envy. I am not exaggerating. Led in key statistics like tackling, forced fumbles, and/or INTs on a regular basis.
4) One of four key draft picks on defense - Sapp, Lynch and Barber are the other three - for the Bucs that forged the foundation of one of the scariest, impressive defenses in league history. Others - Nickerson and Rice for example - were free agents: but Brooks was one of the ones the team built around.
5) Co-drafted with Warren Sapp the same year, essentially tied together at the hips in terms of careers. Sapp got in on the first ballot, and that's even with the controversy with his career and off-field fights. Brooks has no controversy and a better-liked rep. If Sapp was first ballot, Brooks is first ballot.
Of course, not anything's written in stone, so Brooks might miss out. But the voters can't be that stupid or blind... usually...
John Lynch's three good reasons to make the Hall:
1) One of the most feared safeties in the league in terms of being a hard-hitting tackler vs. run plays. Every time someone made a "most feared tackler" list, Lynch's name was top ten. Of all time.
2) Made enough Pro Bowls and All-Pro lists to impress.
3) Even after the Bucs let him go in 2004, figuring his career was washed up, Lynch found his way to another team with the Broncos and continued with a few more good years, earning more Pro Bowl visits with Denver as well as being Man of the Year in 2006.
Not to mention that Lynch remains a popular and well-recognized public face for pro football as a game announcer.
Of the three finalists, Brooks is viewed as the most likely to earn the trip into the Hall. Although I can't imagine why Dungy would be kept out: HE WON A SUPER BOWL and was one of the best coaches of the game from 1997 onward. Lynch has the least impressive resume of the three, and there's a thing about safeties not getting that much love for HoF votes: however, if anyone can break the safety jinx, it's Ed Reed... uh, John Lynch.
Your thoughts, people?