(Photos courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)
By Clark Judge
Here we go again.
One month after Troy Polamalu announced his retirement, former Baltimore star Ed Reed announced his.
Like Polamalu, Reed will move to the top of many fans’ ballots for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with most calling him a first-ballot choice … and he may be. But you’ve heard us say it before, and you’re going to hear it again.
Reed was a terrific player, and he’s on a Hall-of-Fame track, just like Polamalu. But was he better than, say, Johnny Robinson or Eddie Meador? Was he better than, say, Donnie Shell, Kenny Easley, Steve Atwater or Brian Dawkins?
All were Pro-Bowl choices. All were all-Pro choices. All but Shell were all-decade choices. And all are not in the Hall of Fame.
Robinson and Meador have been waiting decades, and I know what you’re saying: “Yeah? Well big deal. They weren’t as good as Reed or Polamalu.” Says whom? Meador retired 45 years ago, yet he still holds the Rams’ record for interceptions (46), recovered fumbled (18) and blocked kicks (10). Robinson retired 43 years ago, yet he holds the Chiefs’ record for career interceptions (58) and is credited with redefining the role of a safety in the modern-era game.
In short, they were among the game’s best and brightest. Yet they can’t get into the Hall without a ticket. So now you’re going to tell me that Polamalu and Reed jump the queue because … well, because they’re the latest in a long string of marvelous safeties?
Maybe not, people.
Remember, safety is a position that has been all but ignored by the Hall’s board of selectors. The last pure safety to reach Canton was Kenny Houston, and he retired after the 1980 season. The last pure safety to be inducted was Paul Krause, and he was elected in 1998, bringing the list of pure safeties to … yep, seven.
You heard me. Seven.
Granted, that has to change … and it will … but don’t tell me Polamalu and Reed are first-ballot slam dunks when we can’t get Robinson or Meador in after four decades. I’m confident the Hall’s board will be more flexible … less intractable … OK, more sensible … when it comes to safeties in the future. But that doesn’t help Robinson or Meador.
Both are in the senior pool of candidates, where there is a raft of qualified candidates but no more than two elected each year. That means neither is in the way of Polamalu and Reed, but it doesn’t mean Easley isn’t. Because he is. So is Atwater. And Dawkins will be soon.
Ed Reed was a great player. He was an eight-time All-Pro. He was a Defensive Player of the Year. He was a Super Bowl champ. And he is Hall-of-Fame worthy. But don’t tell me he’s a slam-dunk first-ballot choice because, frankly, the history of his position is that few – if any – who play it are first-ballot choices. In fact, few but any, are Hall-of-Fame choices, period.
Johnny Robinson and Eddie Meador are proof.