Ronde Barber and the Hall of Fame

While digging through my mailbag last night and this morning, there was a sudden rash of letters about Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber and his chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’m not sure how or why this is suddenly becoming such a hot issue, but there were about 10 notes about this. We’ll let Michael in St. Petersburg, Fla., serve as the spokesman on this one:

“You and I have 'argued' over this before, but with Ronde Barber recording his 40th interception a few weeks ago, I thought it's worth asking again. I keep hearing that Ronde is not a Hall of Famer, and I just can’t figure out how he isn’t. He’s a high-character guy, has a Super Bowl ring, is the only cornerback with 20+ (26) sacks and 40 interceptions. He’s 40 tackles short of 1,100 for his career, and has seven defensive touchdowns. So honestly, how can Ronde fall short?’’

All right, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, although I’m sure it’s not what a lot of Tampa Bay fans want to hear, but I just don’t see Barber as a Hall of Famer. I don’t mean to bash him in any way. I think he’s had a wonderful career and he, deservedly, is an icon in the Tampa Bay area. He also still is playing at a very high level.

All that said, I think Barber very much has been a system player throughout his career. He’s been a perfect fit in the Monte Kiffin Tampa Two defense and wouldn’t have had nearly the same success in a different defensive system. He also wouldn’t have had much of the success he has had if he hadn't spent much of his career playing with the likes of Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.

Yes, his interception total is very nice and so are the sacks. But does being the best pass-rushing cornerback ever get you into the Hall of Fame? I don’t think so. It’s a nice talent to have, but sacks aren’t what cornerbacks are judged on.

I have been in the voting room for several Hall of Fame selections, and I know how the system works. I’m going to be very blunt here. The Buccaneers of the late 1990s and much of the early 2000s were a very nice team, but they weren’t the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s or the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s. Those teams won multiple championships. The Bucs won one Super Bowl.

That kind of thing matters more than you can imagine in the voting room. Yet, a lot of Tampa Bay fans automatically think that Brooks, Sapp, Lynch, Barber and even Mike Alstott are all going to get into the Hall of Fame. If the Bucs had won three or four championships, they might be able to get three or four guys in from that era.

As it stands, I see Brooks easily getting in, probably on his first ballot. I think Sapp also gets in. Those were two guys who were truly dominant and changed their positions. But Barber and John Lynch weren’t at that level, and the Bucs didn’t do enough for them to really ride in on the coattails of the team’s success. Alstott, another very nice player and good guy, doesn’t even have a chance.

That’s just my opinion and voters may prove me wrong down the road. But, at this point, I don’t see Barber as a Hall of Famer. Now, if he plays a few more years, keeps adding to his stats and the Bucs somehow win another Super Bowl or two, then maybe that all changes. But as of right now my opinion hasn’t changed.