For several years now, former Buccaneers safety John Lynch’s pursuit of a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has mirrored that of his pursuit of a ball carrier during his playing days.
With each step in the process, or in this case with each passing year, Lynch moved closer to his objective as he seemingly gained more and more momentum among the more dubious members of the Hall’s voting committee.
Now there’s a feeling that objective could elude him altogether. Like a running back prepared to juke his way out of a tackle, Lynch’s chances of induction could suddenly be slipping away.
The apparent bias the committee has towards safeties is one reason. Of the 25 defensive backs who have now gained entry inside the walls of the football’s pantheon only eight were safeties and safeties only.
Then there’s the Brian Dawkins equation. Many thought Dawkins stood a better chance of gaining induction status this year than Lynch anyway but Dawkins didn’t make it either.
If that feeling that Dawkins is indeed superior to Lynch prevails Lynch may have to “wait his turn’’ as committee members sometimes put it, which could put Lynch in a very precarious situation.
The 2008 class of Hall of Fame candidates is considered one of the best in history, with notables such as linebacker Ray Lewis, wide receiver Randy Moss and linebacker Brian Urlacher leading the way.
The voting committee will also have to take up the issue of Terrell Owens again, and after snubbing Owens again this year there may be a feeling inside the committee room that it needs to right a wrong.
None of that will help Lynch, who may now be running the risk of losing his spot even among the finalists as more candidates who are considered virtual locks for eventual induction join the overall group.
One of those newcomers, of course, will be former Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber and while it may not be as strong as it is for the likes of Lewis, Moss or Urlacher there’s a feeling among some that he is a lock as well.
And rightfully so. Barber revolutionized the slot corner position. He didn’t invent it but he did invent the way it’s used in today’s game and we all know it’s being used more regularly than ever.
With the advent of three-, four- and five- receiver sets and the increased emphasis offenses have put on the passing game defenses have had to adjust, and one of the adjustments they’ve made is at slot corner.
In 4-3 defensive schemes alone the slot corner is now used more often than the strong-side linebacker, about 65-70 percent of the time, so much so that many defensive coordinators consider their slot corners starters.
That wasn’t the case before Barber came along and you have to remember that Barber usually moved inside to slot only on obvious passing downs. On early run downs he remained outside.
It’s no wonder then that Barber is considered one of the more likely candidates to gain induction into the Hall, possibly as soon as next year, and that could hurt Lynch’s chances, too.
There’s no question Lynch belongs in the Hall of Fame. The key role he played in turning the Bucs into Super Bowl champions and their defense into one of the best ever is undeniable.
Increasingly, though, he continues to be denied entry into the Hall and now it seems as if the doors of Canton could suddenly begin closing tighter on him with each passing year.