If there was ever a lock for first-ballot Hall of Famer its Ed Reed because he locked up more quarterbacks and locked down more defenses during his 13 NFL seasons than anyone in history.
A nine-time Pro Bowl and eight-time All-Pro selection, Reed may be the greatest free safety in NFL history. Certainly he was one of the game’s greatest disrupters and a force every opposing quarterback and coach knew could destroy an offense’s plans with one play.
Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick, he of the fist full of rings, has always had high praise for Reed publicly, once saying during a press conference, “He’s the best weak safety I’ve seen since I’ve been in the National Football League in my career. He’s outstanding at pretty much everything. The list goes on and on with him. It’s just a question of pretty much anything he’s out there for, he’s good at.”
It must be noted however that Belichick also publicly once called a winless Cleveland Browns team an opponent to be reckoned with to the point you thought he was talking about Otto Graham’s Browns not Tim Couch’s. So one has to take such public pronouncements before a game with a grain of salt. But what one does not have to take that way are his private words to Reed himself before a Patriots-Ravens game at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 9, 2009 that were caught on camera.
That day Belichick said to Reed, “You’re the best free safety that has ever played this game that I’ve seen. You’re awesome.”
Since many consider Belichick the best coach who ever lived and one of the game’s great defensive minds, such praise goes a long way making the Hall of Fame case for Reed. So, too, do the numbers he put up.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is about production. That does not make it a simple game of numbers however because, especially in today’s game, some numbers can be the victim of inflation. Not so Ed Reed’s.
Reed led the NFL in interceptions three times. His 64 career interceptions ranks sixth all-time, one ahead of Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. His 1,590 interception return yards are a league record, AVERAGING 24.8 yards per return. His nine post-season interceptions are also a league record (tied with Lott, Bill Simpson and Charlie Waters). He has the most multi-interception games (12) in history, was a 1st team safety on the 2000s All-Decade team and was Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 when he led the league in interceptions with nine, had the most interception return yardage in history with 358, had a then record 106-yard interception return (a record he broke by a yard several years later), deflected eight passes, forced three fumbles and had two sacks. There is no proof he also made lunch for the team each day but he did a lot.
A starter from the first game of his rookie season in 2002, Reed served notice to the league in the fourth game of his career what he was capable of doing to an opponent. That day he had four tackles, deflected a pass, had an interception and blocked a punt that set up a 13-yard Ravens’ touchdown. He didn’t single-handedly beat the Broncos 34-23 but Baltimore didn’t need too many more hands to do it by the time Reed was done destroying Denver’s game plan and quarterback Brian Griese’s confidence.
Thirteen years later, Reed would retire with not only those 64 picks and 1,590 interception return yards but the fifth most non-offensive touchdowns in history with 13 as well as 11 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries and three blocked punts. By then he had also become the first player in league history to return an interception, a blocked punt, a punt and a fumble for a touchdown.
To merely call Ed Reed a “disruptor’’ is like saying the internet caused a few changes in our lives. It is the essence of understatement.
Speaking of statements let the game’s greatest defensive mind have the final word on Ed Reed’s Hall of Fame credentials because he was his victim more than a few times during their shared moments together in both the regular season and the playoffs.
“He’s had fabulous production at whatever he’s done, including blocking kicks and returning kicks and things like that,” Belichick said. “His interceptions, his interception return yardages, his instinctiveness and his play-making ability, how consistent he’s been over time. He just does things that nobody else at that position does or I don’t know if they’ve ever done it. He’s special. He’s really special.”
Yes he was. So special he seems to be one of the FEW who rightfully deserves first ballot Hall of Fame distinction, a distinction that should come for only those rare players who need to introduction or embellishment. My idea of a first ballot Hall of Famer has always been a presentation that goes something like this, “Jim Brown. Any questions?’’ Then sit down.
Put Ed Reed in that same category. If you saw him play, nothing else need be said but this” “Ed Reed. Any questions?’’
Then sit down and give him the gold jacket.