Point/Counterpoint: How do both John Lynch and Warren Sapp make the Class of 2013?

There’s a big announcement just around the corner, and it is generating quite a bit of buzz about possible busts in the Buccaneers’ future. With Mark Dominik behind the wheel, we’re not talking about the NFL Draft, but rather the much more celebrated and sought-after type of bust: those of the bronze sort that can be found in Canton, Ohio.

Currently the field of potential Pro Football Hall of Fame 2013 inductees sits at 27, and it will shortly be chopped down to 15 semifinalists. Past Buccaneer greats John Lynch and Warren Sapp find themselves up for the honor and are widely expected to make it to the next round. Since the maximum number of modern-era selections in a single class is five, it’s time to figure out what it’s going to take for both Lynch and Sapp to make the Hall of Fame Class of 2013.

Names like Larry Allen, Charles Haley, Jonathan Ogden, Michael Strahan, Bill Parcells and a host of other greats are some of the key contenders. Since you and I are obviously pulling for both Bucs to get their busts this year, let’s not ask, “Will they make it?” Instead let’s focus on what could happen in the final closed-door voting session to make it so.

So, sir, just how do both John Lynch and Warren Sapp make the Class of 2013?

Scott Smith: You’ve framed the issue nicely, Andrew.  I could and would gladly go on at length on the reasons why I believe both Lynch and Sapp should be immediately ushered into the Hall, now that they’re eligible.  But the problem isn’t whether they’re deserving.  It’s whether or not the competition is too strong this year.

You mentioned Allen, Ogden and Strahan, all of whom are first-year-eligibles along with Lynch and Sapp, and those are usually the most worrisome contenders.  (K Morten Andersen is also on the first-year list, and while Hall voters don’t seem too keen on kickers and punters, we are talking about the NFL’s all-time leading scorer here.)  Logically, any of the other 21 finalists have already had at least one crack at it and didn’t get the necessary votes, so they wouldn’t seem like as much of a concern.  However, some of them may have just been squeezed out in particularly strong years, and others may garner support over time.  That happened last year with Chris Doleman, who finally made it in his eighth year of eligibility and second year as a finalist.  Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf also made it in as second-year eligibles in 2012.

That’s why we also have to pay attention to such candidates as Haley and Parcells, as you mentioned. I would also throw in Jerome Bettis, Will Shields, Paul Tagliabue and that three-headed receiving monster of T.C.A. BrownCarterReed.  (I guess one could also take a look at Steve Atwater, Kevin Greene, Joe Jacoby and Aeneas Williams, but I don’t see them usurping any of the above, and we have to draw the line somewhere.)

So, the task is clear: Take Allen, Ogden, Strahan, Andersen, Bettis, Shields, Tagliabue and those three receivers and eliminate all but three of them.

And here’s my take: Sorry, returning candidates, but this year’s group is just too strong for this to be the year you break through.  I think the Hall has a spot for the sixth-leading rusher in league history (Bettis), especially when you compare his numbers to Martin and add in his Super Bowl ring.  Shields, too, given his amazing 12 Pro Bowls and eight All-Pro selections.  I know many were surprised that Parcells didn’t make it last year, and I think his time is coming, but hopefully not this year.  Haley’s best number is his five Super Bowl titles, which is enough in my book.  Brown, Carter and Reed look like they will continue to split the vote for a while, but there is still hope.

But none of those guys had enough support last year to get in, and even if they’ve gained some in the interim, is it enough to blast through this year’s top-heavy class of first-year eligibles?  I don’t think so.

And that’s crucial, because I think Allen, Ogden and Strahan are locks.  Some consider Ogden the greatest left tackle of all-time, with apologies to Anthony Munoz, and there are simply no holes on his resume.  He’s got the 11 Pro Bowls and the nine All-Pro selections, he’s won a Super Bowl, he’s been the NFL’s Lineman of the Year and he had the reputation of an all-time great while he was playing.  Allen’s resume is nearly identical, and he was a member of the All-Decade Teams for both the 1990s and the 2000s.  How could that not be a Hall of Famer.  And if we think Sapp is a Hall of Famer, it’s hard to argue against Strahan, who has an almost identical list of accomplishments (Pro Bowls, All-Pros, Defensive Player of the Year, Super Bowl ring) plus the NFL’s single-season record for sacks (even if you don’t like the way he got it).

I also think Andersen will eventually find his way into the Hall of Fame.  True, there’s only three kickers or punters in Canton so far, and only one who was exclusively a kicker in Jan Stenerud (George Blanda played QB; Lou Groza played T).  But there’s going to be another one eventually, and wouldn’t you start with the all-time scoring leader?  I just don’t think it will be this year.

So there’s how the two Bucs go in together: Your final class is Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden and Michael Strahan.

(By the way, for this to work, voters have to determine that Lynch was the superior player to Atwater in the end, and it’s close.  Atwater had eight Pro Bowls to Lynch’s nine, two All-Pros to Lynch’s four, two Super Bowls to Lynch’s one.  They both had standout reputations as punishing hitters; Atwater has an all-decade team to his name but Lynch has a defensive back of the year award.  It’s close, but I think Lynch gets the nod because he was such a key figure on a defense that changed the NFL.)

Andrew Norton: As deserving as most of the players on the list of 27 are, you’ve narrowed things down quite nicely and I have to agree with you for the most part on your whittled-down list.

As much as I would love to see the NFL’s all-time leading scorer make the top five, I think it is still out of reach for the time being. With the ever-increasing value of statistics in the NFL, and the fact that the general public now recognizes the majority of kickers thanks to the prevalence of fantasy football, I do see him getting in in the near future, just not in a year as stacked as this one.

That being said, I think that when the five inductees are announced there will be massive cheering heard in Tampa Bay and Dallas. My five selections: Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells and Charles Haley.

Like you, I think that Larry Allen makes the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Already a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor (which holds 12 Hall of Famers and three past nominees), Allen is largely heralded as one of the best offensive linemen to ever play the game. In 14 years, he made 11 Pro Bowls, was an All-Pro seven times, member of two All-Decade Teams and Super Bowl Champion.

Now, the prospect of why Larry Allen makes it is my main argument as to why Jonathan Ogden does not. It’s not especially often that two people from the same position make the Hall of Fame in the same class. The last time two offensive linemen made it in one year was 2007, but only one of them was a modern-era player. The last time two modern-era offensive linemen have made it together was 2001. That said, Ogden is massively worthy of the title, but I feel that with such a deep field only one offensive lineman makes it and Allen’s credentials give him the edge.

In his place I put Bill Parcells. Last year was his first year of eligibility and I believe that many would argue that he should have made it as a first-ballot inductee. In my mind, he is a shoo-in. He won two Super Bowls and took four different teams to the playoffs. If that isn’t impressive enough, look at the teams that he turned around and made contenders. The Giants were 3-12-1 before he took them to the playoffs. It took him two years to turn around the Patriots and bring them to Super Bowl XXXI. He took over a 1-15 Jets team and got them to 9-7 a year later and 12-4 the year after that. NFL Coach of the Year two times, 183 total wins. I like him.

Finally, I will give Charles Haley the slight edge over Michael Strahan. Haley gets my pick because he has five Super Bowl rings. And its not just that he has them, it is that he was a pivotal player on each of those Championship teams. He was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year twice, five-time Pro Bowler, seamlessly transitioned from linebacker to defensive end, recorded double-digit sacks in a season six times and was a part of a division winning team in 10 of his 12 seasons.

Strahan is popular, likeable and very public, and that is before mentioning his record of sack in the season. (And since you mentioned it, no, I do not like how he got there.) Being that Charles Haley (and Kevin Greene) are both in contention as well, I think that Strahan falls short of the two.

Did I mention Haley’s five Super Bowl rings?

Scott Smith: Yes, you did.  You couldn’t have emphasized those five rings more if you had painted them colors and arranged them into the Olympics logo.  Of course, neither that stunt nor your above arguments would make me budge from Ogden and Strahan.

You mentioned the “last time” that two offensive linemen got into the Hall in the same year as 2001 (as if that is unfathomable eons ago…ooh, who can remember ALL THE WAY BACK to those murky Y2K days), but didn’t say who they were.  So I will: Mike Munchak and Ron Yary.  (Of course, it also happened just three years before that, too, with Anthony Munoz and Dwight Stephenson, but who’s counting?)  Do you think that’s maybe because…oh, I don’t know…that’s the last time that a single class had two candidates as mind-numbingly worthy as the Allen-Ogden combo.

Your two connected reasons for removing Ogden, as I see them, were that, 1) No way two OL get in at the same time (yeah, right); and, 2) Allen’s credentials are better than Ogden’s.  Of course, you didn’t bother to say WHY you chose Allen over Ogden, so I’ll just assume it’s because you prefer the player with the same number of Pro Bowl bids and Super Bowl rings but fewer All-Pro selections.  Hey, to each his own.  I tend to prefer $20 bills to 19 singles, but that’s just me.

All of that said, I would definitely agree that Parcells and Haley are the two people I most worry about busting up my plan.  I can’t find fault with any of your supporting arguments for those two, and I’m truly surprised they’re not already in.

Fortunately for me, you conveniently paired up our different choices as such: Parcells over Ogden and Haley over Strahan.  So, while I am surprised Parcells didn’t get in last year and the fact that he’s now a second-year candidate (three second-year finalists got in last year) makes him more dangerous, I think I’ve sufficiently argued for Ogden.  Can’t have Parcells if you don’t bump Ogden, so no Parcells.

So now it’s Strahan versus Haley.  And here’s the strange thing about Haley, despite all of your jewelry-based points above: He’s been available as a candidate since 2005.  He was a semifinalist in ’05 but didn’t get enough support to make the list of 15 finalists until 2010 (he has been there four straight years now).  Heck, he didn’t even make the semifinalist list in 2006 before reappearing in 2007.  That’s kinda strange, huh?  Clearly, there is something holding some of these voters back…and remember, that group of voters doesn’t turn over very rapidly.

Still, let’s compare the two pass-rushers.  Yes, Haley has him on oversized diamond rings, five to one (Strahan does have one other SB appearance).  That’s not nothing.  It’s significant.  But does it make up for the fact that Strahan has 141.5 sacks to Haley’s 100.5?  Or that Strahan was once named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, an honor that escaped Haley (but not Sapp, by the way)?  Or that Strahan holds one of the most prestigious single-season records in the history of the game (22.5 sacks)?  Or that he was considered equally dominant against the run (in fact, a 2004 Football Outsiders post called him one of the best five two-way ends EVER).  Correct me if I’m wrong (that would be a first) but I don’t believe Haley had anywhere near the same reputation as a run-stopper.

Charles Haley’s five Super Bowl rings are a unique accomplishment and, to my mind, a ticket to the Hall of Fame, when combined with his 100 sacks.  Eventually.  I just don’t agree that you can bump Strahan to make room for him, so I think you need to go back to the drawing board.  And this time, stop drawing stars all over it.

Andrew Norton: I’m a little offended. You were so civil in your first discussion, but that counterargument seems a little hostile. I do completely believe that Jonathan Ogden does have a place in the Hall of Fame, just not this class. I apologize, as it seems to have put quite a bee in your bonnet.

And since you had so much fun with my first fun fact about the number of offensive linemen per class, I feel that I should follow that up with an even more fun fact making your predictions even more unlikely. The last time that three first-ballot players made it in a single class is 2006 with Troy Aikman, Warren Moon and Reggie White. No class since 1970 has had more than three. And all five of yours, sir, are in their first year of eligibility.

And to add one more note for each of my selections:

Larry Allen played multiple positions, and he did clear holes for that Emmitt Smith character who I’ve read used to be pretty good.

Bill Parcells has more wins than 15 of the 21 coaches in the Hall of Fame and as many or more playoff wins as 17 of them.

Charles Haley has been an available candidate since 2005, but when it comes to HoF voting, he is essentially the defensive version of Art Monk who was voted in on his eighth year of eligibility. He’s overdue, and I think that if Allen makes it, they have to also put in Haley. Also, FIVE Super Bowl rings. He has been on 10.9% of all Super Bowl winning teams. As a starter and linchpin. Come on.

For the record, I do have Jonathan Ogden next on my radar, but Cris Carter and Jerome Bettis higher than Strahan.

In closing though, I think we should really bring things home and talk about who we have in common and who everyone in Tampa Bay will be pulling for: Warren Sapp and John Lynch.

Both were the foundation of the Super Bowl Championship team, one of the NFL’s best defenses in history.

Warren Sapp wasn’t just one of the dominant defensive tackles, he was the dominant defensive tackle of his era. With 96.5 total sacks, seven Pro Bowls, four first-team All-Pros, a Defensive Player of the Year award and member of two All-Decade teams, it is hard to argue that he misses out as a first-year owner of the yellow jacket. And, honestly, who could possibly give a better speech?

John Lynch made nine Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro selection four times, first-team twice. He is on nearly every list of the hardest hitters in the history of the NFL. He piled up 13 sacks, 26 interceptions, 16 forced fumbles and 740 tackles in his 191-game career and is one of the most popular players ever to play his position.

We’ll know in the week leading up to the Super Bowl which ones come out on top. Hopefully you’re in a better mood by then.

3 comments on “Point/Counterpoint: How do both John Lynch and Warren Sapp make the Class of 2013?

  1. Problem comes down to likeability. Warren, although a fantastic player and one I believe should be a first year eligible selectee, has managed to tick off a lot of reporters and potential voters. John hasn’t. I think John gets in and its Warren and Derrick next year.

  2. Regardless of the questioned posed, I believe that either or both of these great defensive players should be the Bucs’ D-line coordinator. Mr. Brooks 55 needs to be invited to retire his jersey at RayJay. The team did him wrong on so many levels, and then wonder why there’s limited success? Try and right the wrongdoings!! The fans hated that decision…….PERIOD!!

  3. George Pruett on said:

    While I can understand John Lynch not being inducted on his first year of eligibility, safety is not a glamour position. I think its preposterous he did not make the final ballot whatsoever. Why do the voters continue to ignore anyone besides QB, RB, and WR year after year. They got it right when they named it the hall of “fame”. Troy Aikman was at best the FIFTH best player at his position during his career. John Lynch was second to none. Thank God for the veteran’s committee.

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