Tal of Fame Network
(All photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles)
It's no secret that the Pro Football Hall of Fame is tough on safeties. There are only seven pure safeties in Canton, with Ken Houston the last one to play.
That was 1980.
Now, we have John Lynch in the queue, soon to be joined by former Philadelphia standout Brian Dawkins. Lynch is a three-time finalist who made it to the Top 10 this year, and Dawkins is a first-time eligible who is expected to be a finalist for the Class of 2017.
So how would you separate them? Good question. We posed it … well, sort of … to Dawkins when he made an appearance on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, asking him to make the case for himself .., and while he was reluctant to respond, he had a convincing answer.
"I'm very humble when it comes to me telling you good I am," said Dawkins, now a football operations executive with the Eagles. "I like to show you more than I like to tell you how well I played.
"First of all, it’s a blessing to have an opportunity like this in the first place. Growing up in Florida, I never thought there would be a day when I would have conversation with anybody from any Hall of Fame, let alone a (Pro) Football Hall of Fame, talking about the possibilities of me getting into it.
"If I had to say anything it would be the fact that we, as football players, aren’t made equal. That’s why there is a Hall of Fame. But even the guys in the Hall of Fame do different things to give their teams advantages or help their teams win.
"What I tried to do was I tried my best to be a stat-stuffer. I didn’t want to just be good in one area. I wanted to make sure that in every area on the football field that, if I could help my team win, I was going to to do, it. If that meant getting interceptions, I would that. If that meant getting sacks, I could do that. The way the late, great Jim Johnson (former Eagles' defensive coordinator) used me, he allowed me to do even more things.
"So I consider myself to be a contact safety. That’s why my caused-fumbles counts were so high. If you look at every statistical category, I'm going to have something in it of significance, in my opinion.
"Once again, I did not want to have one weakness in my game. I wanted every part of my game to be a strength for my team to help us win ballgames. And I think I was blessed to do that for 16 years."
Dawkins knows what he's up against as a first-ballot choice. There are only five modern-era vacancies, and some guys, like Kevin Greene this year, have been waiting more than a decade. But, as he said, being considered for Canton never was something he considered until late in his career.
Now that he is, however, there's that bias against safeties for him to think about. Voters are so blind to the position that none of four all-decade safeties from the 1980s (with Ronnie Lott the exception) has been discussed, though Kenny Easley is a 2017 senior nominee .
So what are voters missing?
"What has happened," said Dawkins, "is that the safety position has been typecast (so) that the only way you can have an impact on the field is to get interceptions. And I'm here to tell you 100 percent that that is 100 percent wrong ."Especially the way that … and I believe Jim Johnson was one of the individuals (who) started off, the way he used me … because of the offenses we were presented. The safety had to be able to do more than just intercept the ball. His using me in all different ways actually presented a different weapon for offenses to try to contend with.
"He used me in so different ways. So, if I'm blitzing on one play I was getting sacks. If I'm dropping deep in coverage, I'm getting interceptions and coming up and making big hits when that’s called for ... causing fumbles. So if you're looking at the safety as someone that -- the only thing he can do is stay in the back, he's the last line of defense and he's going to pick up an interception or two and he's hopefully good in open-field tackles -- then you're missing the boast, especially with the guys in this century."