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What are Hall of Fame chances for recent Bucs?

The goal could have been to poke Michael Strahan. For Warren Sapp, a noted Strahan-poker from way back, that would be reward enough.

Maybe, and this is just guesswork, Sapp wanted to shake up the Hall of Fame voters one last time. Maybe he wanted to remind the world that Simeon Rice was a pretty good pass rusher. Maybe he wanted to point out that playing against right tackles is a little easier than playing against left ones.

And maybe, just maybe, he just wants to rehuddle the old Bucs defense in Canton, Ohio.

So Sapp argued the case of his ex-teammate, suggesting Rich was a better Hall of Fame choice than Strahan. In most cases, this would be dismissed as a matter of opinion and, in fact, the opinion of a Hall of Famer himself.

This time, the world immediately rushed to the defense of Strahan, as if Sapp had somehow violated protocol by suggesting that Strahan (gasp) might not deserve the Hall. The reaction was strong, and a little amusing, because this is what happens when Sapp expresses an opinion.

Strahan will get in, of course, because 145 sacks is 145. This, however, is what we are left with:

What about Rice?

And furthermore, what about the rest of the old Bucs? What are their chances of making the Hall?

With Sapp preparing to enter the Hall of Fame in two weeks, we talked to 10 voters about the chances of various Bucs reaching Canton. Each voter was asked to rank players on a 1-to-100 scale. The results:

Derrick Brooks

Linebacker

Grade: 87.5

It probably won't surprise anyone that Brooks, who is eligible next year, is the most likely former Buc to reach the Hall. He scored in the 90th percentile with seven voters, including two 100 percents.

"I think he redefined the linebacker position," ESPN's Sal Paolantonio said. "He played it at a level no one will ever play it again. His ability to go sideline-to-sideline and tackle people, that will never happen again."

"He's about as close to a lock as there is," said Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News. "He could do it all. There aren't a lot of guys around like that."

Ronde Barber

Cornerback.

Grade: 68.5

Barber's long career seems to wear down any resistance by the voters. He had two scores in the 90s and three in the 80s.

"Here's the problem Ronde's going to have,'' said John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. "That was a great defense, but it only won one Super Bowl. Are you going to have four players off of it (make the Hall)? Ronde deserves it, but even that great Bears defense only had three."

"I think his consistency and longevity will eventually get him in," said Bob Glauber of Newsday. "But when you have guys like Aeneas Williams who aren't in, putting Ronde in is a little premature."

Tony Dungy

Coach

Grade: 68.3

Dungy's candidacy seemed to cause the greatest disagreement among the voters. He drew three scores in the 90s, including a 100 percent. And he had four scores of less than 50 percent.

"I was on the ESPN panel that voted for the top 20 coaches, and I didn't vote for him there, either," Paolantonio said. "One (Super Bowl) is not enough for me. Tom Flores isn't in, and he won two. Jimmy Johnson isn't in."

"How could you vote against Tony Dungy?" McClain asked. "It would be like voting against your momma and daddy."

John Lynch

Safety.

Grade: 56

The biggest problem with Lynch's candidacy, the voters agree, is his position. Historically, safeties have had a difficult time getting into the Hall. Paul Krausse, for instance, had more interceptions than anyone, and it took him 19 years to get in.

"If he did what he did as a defensive lineman instead of a safety, he'd be a first-ballot slam dunk," said Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. "When the time is right, I'll push hard for him."

"If you compare him to other safeties, he should be in without a doubt," McClain said. "He was one of the fiercest hitters of his day. He was everything you want in a safety."

Simeon Rice

Defensive end

Grade: 37.5

Despite Sapp's endorsement, the voters were lukewarm when it came to Rice. He drew one score as high as 75, but he drew two others at 10 percent.

"I would vote for him," Paolantonio said, "but I think his chances are less than 50 percent."

"He was a perfect fit for that defense," said Clark Judge of cbssports.com. "He was a pure pass rusher. But I think he benefitted from the players around him."

Warrick Dunn

Running back

Grade: 26.0

Dunn had a nice career, and he's currently 19th all time in rushing yards. That doesn't sound like it impresses a lot of voters, however.

"He was a really good player," McClain said, "but I don't see him as a consistently great back."

Keyshawn Johnson

Wide receiver

Grade: 18.7

It's going to be a long, slow route for Johnson, who had four scores of less than 10 percent. For one thing, the backlog of eligible receivers is long and impressive. For another, the modern passing game has badly inflated statistics.

Then there is Keyshawn, whose career numbers simply don't stack up.

"He's not the transcendent player you see in the Hall," Glauber said.

"As part of the package, you also have to consider how the guy was in the locker room," Domowitch said.

Mike Alstott

Running back

Grade: 14.7

Alstott is one of the most admired players in Bucs history, a relentless back who starred in highlight films. But his numbers, too, fall short of what the Hall expects. He received seven scores of less than 10 percent.

"Remember, Jerome Bettis (eight 1,000-yard seasons) can't get in," said Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star.

"If you're talking about nice guys, he's a first-ballot guy," Domowitch said. "He just doesn't have the numbers."

For the voters, time will help shape the arguments. So will the other players on the ballot.

For now, however, Brooks seems like a lock. Dungy and Barber seem to have a good shot. Lynch has his defenders.

As for Canton? Well, here come the Bucs.

What are Hall of Fame chances for recent Bucs? 07/20/13 [Last modified: Saturday, July 20, 2013 10:28pm]
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