Fastest ever to 100 sacks? It's not Simeon Rice
There's a lot of attention being drawn to false statements being made repeatedly by public figures, and the crucial role of journalists to set the record straight. Yes, I'm talking about ... former Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice claiming to be the fastest player ever to 100 career sacks.
Rice has been vocal in complaining that he hasn't been seriously considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- he's been retired for nine years now, and has never been so much as a semifinalist (final 25), let alone the cuts to 10 or ultimately, five. And Rice has some statistics that certainly put them in the conversation. He just doesn't need to embellish them as he continues to do.
For three years in a row, after the selections were announced and Rice again wasn't even an option for the selection committee, Rice has boasted on Twitter that he was "100+ sacks fastest ever to do it" (2015) and "fastest to 100 sacks in the history" (2016) and now "fastest to 100 sacks." National writers see this, retweet his claim and say it makes a compelling case for him, except it's not true. It's not an easy stat to quickly verify or dispute, so it gets incorrectly passed along as fact.
But Rice has never been close to the fastest player to 100 career sacks. Rice earned his 100th career sack on Dec. 5, 2004, in his 139th NFL game -- impressively fast, but nowhere near a record. At that point, the record was held by Reggie White, who did it in 96 games -- nearly three full seasons faster than Rice. Bruce Smith had done it in 115 games, Leslie O'Neal in 128, Richard Dent in 130, Derrick Thomas in 133. Since Rice, DeMarcus Ware did it in 113, and Jared Allen in 122.
Sacks weren't an official NFL statistic until 1982, so Lawrence Taylor officially has none as a rookie in 1981, and spotting everyone 16 games at the start of his career, he still got to 100 in 122 games. Never mind everyone that played in the NFL before 1981 doesn't show up on these lists -- by unofficial counts, Deacon Jones had 173.5 career sacks and would certainly be ahead of Rice. So even in a stat that didn't exist until 1982, Rice is the ninth-fastest player to 100 career sacks, and was never better than the seventh-fastest.
If you wonder that perhaps Rice means he was the youngest player to reach 100 career sacks, this also isn't true. Rice was 30 years, 9 months, 11 days old when he got it; five others were younger than Rice when they got to 100, some a full year younger.
Rice has compelling stats to get himself into at least the conversation for the 25 semifinalists -- he has seven sacks in his seven career playoff games, including two in the Bucs' Super Bowl win against the Raiders. This is outstanding, especially juxtaposed against 2017 Hall of Famer Jason Taylor, who played in nine playoff games and had zero sacks in those games. Kevin Greene, also inducted this year's class, played 17 career playoff games and had 8.5 sacks.
Advocates will point to Rice having 28 forced fumbles, which seems like a lot, but Taylor just got in with 46. Rice made only three Pro Bowls in his career, and was a first-team All-Pro selection just once; Taylor had six and three as a contemporary of Rice's.
It's only going to get harder for Rice, who right now can cite his 122 career sacks as the second-most by an eligible player not in the Hall (behind O'Neal). Terrell Suggs (114.5) is the only active player within 20 of him, so he'll stay in the career top 20 for another two years or more, but the problem is six other players already have more career sacks -- Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware, Allen (retired after 2015), John Abraham (retired after 2014), Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney -- and will soon be competing with him to get in. If he hasn't made the semifinal cut in his first handful of chances, he's unlikely to later as his statistical arguments grow less convincing compared to other potential Hall of Famers.