Bill Belichick looked down at the mass of media in front of him a number of years ago after another defensive-tinged Patriots’ victory and decided to offer up a lesson on football and the two-gap front he espoused. In many ways, it might also be the essence of Richard Seymour’s case for the Hall of Fame.
Belichick pointed out that the stat sheet would tell you Seymour did nothing that day. Zeros across the board. No tackles, no assists, no sacks, no quarterback hits. Then he snorted that in his system stats lie.
“Richard Seymour was the best player on the field today,’’ said Belichick, not known for making such definitive statements about any player, including Tom Brady.
The cruel fate for a defensive lineman playing Belichick’s two-gap, 3-4 front is that, despite games like that, you will not compile the kind of statistics that make a Hall-of-Fame case simple and straight forward. You will not have 100 sacks. You will not harass quarterbacks the way lesser talents playing more freely will. You will not amass selfish numbers.
But if you possess the kind of dominating skills Seymour had during his 12-year NFL career you will have something more important. You will have the respect of your peers, and you will have Super Bowl rings.
Seymour had both.
Despite 57.5 career sacks and just under 500 tackles, Seymour was so versatile and dominating that he would make five All-Pro teams and seven Pro Bowls as both a 3-4 defensive tackle and a 4-3 defensive end (after being traded to the Raiders in 2009 amidst a financial dispute while in the final year of his contract that would be settled when Oakland made him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL), and he would be named a starter on the NFL’s all-decade team of the 2000s.
Along the way he would win three Super Bowls and play in four for a team whose anchor at the time was not a Brady-led offense but a stifling defense ranked at or near the top in fewest points allowed and most other defensive stats from his arrival in 2001 to his departure to Oakland.
“At the end of the day, for me, it was always about wins and losses and that mindset came from coach Belichick,’’ Seymour told the Talk of Fame Network. “To play at a high level over the course of a decade definitely is very, very hard to do.
“For myself, what I wanted to do was (not only) play at a high level but also impact guys around me and make their jobs easier to do — whether it was the linebackers, whether outside linebacker next to me or someone else, I wanted to take up guys. I was OK with them getting the sacks or the stats or whatever the case may be, as long as we had the ‘W’ at the end of the column.
“But I also wanted to be known and considered one of the best to ever do it.’’
He accomplished all those goals, widely considered the best defensive lineman in the NFL for much of his career despite lacking the traditional numbers to prove it to the uninitiated. Typically, the best coach of his era … and perhaps any era … put Seymour’s accomplishments in proper perspective when he said, “Most guys wouldn’t have had 20 (sacks) playing that position.’’
One number seems to drive the case for most Hall-of-Fame defensive linemen, though. and it is how many times you dropped the quarterback. This is true even though quarterback pressures are far more reflective of real accomplishment in that area.
But if that is what you need to have your eyes opened to all that Richard Seymour accomplished during his 12-year NFL career don’t forget this: His stats are only a half-sack behind – and three Super Bowl rings ahead – Hall-of-Famer Cortez Kennedy.
So what truly is a Hall-of-Fame career? The anchor of one of the best defenses of his time is about to find out as he becomes Hall-of-Fame eligible this year. When he does, Bill Belichick has a stat sheet for the voters to consider. It may have zeros across the board, but if you know how to read it, it makes a powerful Hall-of-Fame argument for Richard Seymour.