The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have three players and one coac who spent a significant part of their careers with them, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We talked about current players who could end up there earlier today, but there’s another category of player: those who should be in there, but aren’t (yet). That’s what ESPN’s Kevin Seifert talked about, and one of the ten players he picked is safety John Lynch.
Only seven enshrined players spent their entire careers at safety, and all of them began their careers before the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. (Ronnie Lott, for instance, played four seasons at cornerback from 1981-84.) And it has been 18 years since any of them were elected. Paul Krause was the last, in 1998. That's the history Lynch faces despite a strong candidacy. It's true that his 26 career interceptions don't compare to Krause's 81. And some would argue that Steve Atwater, a Denver Broncos safety from 1989-98, should be ahead of Lynch in line. But more than anyone else, Lynch's blend of coverage, hard hits and run-stopping excellence defined what a modern safety could be. A decade after his retirement, the rest of the league is finally realizing the value of a multi-tool safety. Lynch made such an impact that he is a member of both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Ring of Honor and the Broncos' Ring of Fame.
The argument for Lynch is fairly strong, but he keeps missing out because, one, his peak wasn’t necessarily as dominant as some Hall of Famers and, two, he keeps coming up against very strong competition. The Hall of Fame is a pretty exclusive club, and Lynch may be a barely-missed-it guy permanently.
Lynch isn’t the only Buc who isn’t in the Hall of Fame but could be, though. Ronde Barber isn’t eligible yet, but Simeon Rice has been for years, and he hasn’t even made it to a finalist spot. That’s fairly disappointing for a player who was arguably the best pass-rusher in the league at his peak. His presence certainly pushed the Bucs defense to new levels, and he put up double-digit sacks in eight of his thirteen seasons. That might not be enough for a Hall of Fame spot, but it should at least put him into the conversation — something that’s eluded him so far.