Why John Lynch’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy may be in trouble

(John Lynch photo courtesy of Tampa Bay Bucs)

Joe Jacoby and Everson Walls weren’t the only Hall-of-Fame candidates who took a direct hit with the latest vote. So did John Lynch.

Granted, unlike Jacoby and Walls, the former star safety is still eligible for future elections as a modern-era candidate. But tell me why he’s among the favorites to make it to Canton … because he’s not. Not after this latest vote, he’s not.

Lynch not only didn’t make it in his fifth try as a finalist, but he moved backward. Where he was a Top-10 finalist the past two years, he didn’t make the cut to 10 this time — and that tells you that his candidacy has lost momentum and that voters may be ready to move on.

It happened a year ago with Jacoby, who went from a Top-10 finalist in 2016 to a guy who a year later couldn’t make the first cut as a finalist. That didn’t bode well for his 20th … and last … shot as a modern-era candidate. But there was a thought that maybe, just maybe, because this was his final attempt to reach Canton before disappearing into the senior pool he had a chance to rebound.

He didn’t. He didn’t make the cut to 10 again.

Which takes me back to Lynch. Like Jacoby the year before, he retreated this time around — failing to make the final 10 for the first time since 2015. Now, with a Class of 2019 that includes safety Ed Reed, as well as tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Champ Bailey, there could be as few as two chairs available for everyone else.

And that’s not good for Lynch.

Neither is this: In 2020 we have safety and all-decade choice Troy Polamalu coming up, with all-decade defensive back Charles Woodson joining Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson in the Class of 2021. The Hall’s board of selectors has been in such a hurry to induct first-ballot candidates — with five the past two years — it’s not a stretch to think three … or all of them … could be elected. And that’s more a problem for John Lynch than it is the raft of offensive linemen waiting in the queue.

Reason: He’s not only in line behind them; he just took several steps back.

Look, John Lynch has been in the room five times already, and there’s not much more that presenter Ira Kaufman can say other than he belongs … and he does. Kaufman made a convincing case for Lynch two weeks ago, but voters weren’t buying. The danger now is that they may have decided they’ve heard enough, tuned Kaufman out and are less inclined to induct John Lynch than ever.

“I still believe he will be fitted for a gold jacket,” Kaufman told me. “The question is: When? If you judge safeties by impact rather than statistics, Lynch deserves to join (Derrick) Brooks and (Warren) Sapp as the third critical piece in an historic defense. If Lynch returns as a finalist for the Class of 2019, I will suggest he is exactly the type of player who represents the Hall’s values and ideals.”

If Lynch returns as a finalist for the Class of 2019, it will be his sixth time there. And, “So what?,” you ask. “Wasn’t Lynn Swann inducted in his 14th try as a finalist?” He was. But Swann is the exception. Of the 318 men enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, only 28 made it in their sixth years or later as finalists — including senior candidate Jerry Kramer, elected two weeks ago in his 11th try.

That works out to 8.8 percent of the Hall’s inductees, and that’s a daunting figure for John Lynch to overcome. Nevertheless, of the 28 who made it, eight were inducted in the past 10 years and five in the last five. So, as I said, it can happen … especially with Lynch having 14 years of eligibility left.

But the odds are long. And they just got longer.

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  1. Rob
    February 15, 2018

    Clark, You mentioned that Lynch has lost momentum. Is it even worse for Steve Atwater and Leroy Butler since they have less years of eligiblity left. Do you think Leroy Butler will get to be a finalist in the near future?

    • February 15, 2018

      No, Butler gained ground this year by making the semifinals for the first time in his life. That’s a start. Now he must make it into the room That’s next. Atwater is another matter. He was a finalist for the first time in 2016. But then he wasn’t. Didn’t make it in 2018 or 2018. That’s a bad sign. So, yes, he’s in worse shape. Butler? No. Lynch better than both because he’s still among the 15 … but for how long? Seems like voters have moved on.

  2. Rasputin
    February 15, 2018

    Not to mention Darren Woodson (talk about historic impact) and other great 90s safeties. It seems like they’re overlooking that entire group.

  3. trent
    February 16, 2018

    Except of coure that Lynch could be one of the men who re-ignite the famous San Francisco 49ers, giving his candidacy new momentum because he will have been succesful as a player AND contributor.

    • February 16, 2018

      Bad news, though. Gets judged only as player … and only as contributor. Not as both.

      • Trent
        March 3, 2018

        Well that’s stupid. Playing is contributing!

        I reckon if the Niners win a few SBs then they’ll take his playing career into account when judging him as a contributor.

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