Thursday, January 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jones: Who is the next Bucs Hall of Famer?

Tony Dungy, the coach who turned around the Bucs franchise and laid the groundwork for their only Super Bowl title, will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night. He became the fourth member of the Hall to have spent a good chunk of his career in Tampa Bay, joining Lee Roy Selmon, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

Who's next is now a conversation that involves two players who were a part of the Bucs' so-called "glory days'' that started under Dungy and ended with a title under Jon Gruden. Those players: John Lynch and Ronde Barber. Lynch has been a finalist for the Hall, while Barber will be eligible starting in 2018.

Lynch's chances seem to be gaining momentum even though he played a position that hasn't gotten much respect from the Hall. Only seven pure safeties have reached the Hall. Lynch's window might be shrinking because safeties Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed likely will be first ballot Hall of Famers when eligible. Lynch needs to get in before he gets caught in a numbers game behind Polamalu and Reed.

Is Lynch a Hall of Famer? Those who covered him believe he is, and his nine Pro Bowls are certainly give him a number that carries a lot of weight. I still see Lynch as a borderline guy. A good safety. A really good safety.

An all-time great? One of very best ever? Hmm, not quite. But that's just a quick gut-reaction answer and I have no quarrel with those who think he belongs.

Meantime, Barber is the only member of the NFL's 25-40 club, meaning at least 25 sacks and 40 interceptions. Pretty cool stat, but kind of an oddball one because not many ever played in a defensive scheme to create those kind of numbers. There are a ton of those manufactured stats that can build up a player, but just because they might be members of a very exclusive club doesn't necessarily make them a Hall of Famer.

Is Barber a Hall of Famer? Again, like Lynch, he was very, very good. I just don't know he reaches the level of a Hall of Famer.

Here's the other thing. Dungy, Sapp and Brooks are already in. If you think Lynch and Barber deserve to make it, too, you're now talking about five members of a team that won only one Super Bowl. Maybe Super Bowls shouldn't be factor when determining a player's Hall status, but still, to put in five from one team, including four from a defense that produced just one championship, might more generous than the Hall is will to admit.

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