There are only three first-team members of the 1990s’ all-decade team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and one of them has never been discussed.
LeRoy Butler, come on down.
The former Green Bay star was a four-time All-Pro, all-decade starter and such a key component of a Super Bowl champion that he was named to the Packers’ Hall of Fame. Yet he not only hasn’t been a finalist for Canton; he hasn’t even been a semifinalist, meaning he never, ever, ever made the cut to 25.
Someone want to explain that to me? Or, better yet, try explaining it to LeRoy Butler.
The guy checked all the boxes as one of the game’s pre-eminent defenders during his career, a strong safety who could do it all — rush the quarterback, stuff the run, cover tight ends and wide receivers, play man-to-man defense and protect the middle of the field — and he was the NFL’s first defensive back … ever … to have 20 or more career interceptions and sacks.
Furthermore, he was an innovator, the genius behind the Lambeau Leap — inventing it when he jumped into the stands after scoring on a lateral from teammate Reggie White in a December, 1993 game.
“He had no weakness,” said Hall-of-Fame GM Ron Wolf.
Then why in the world can’t he get a sniff from the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Yeah, I know, he was a safety, and the Hall is blind to the position. It least it was until last month when its board of 48 selectors admitted former safety Kenny Easley as a senior candidate. What’s more, two modern-era safeties — John Lynch and Brian Dawkins — were among the 10 finalists, with one of them a favorite to join the Hall’s Class of 2018.
And that’s great. But where does that leave LeRoy Butler? At least Steve Atwater, the other starting safety on the all-decade team of the 1990s, made it into the room. But he lasted one year and was gone. Butler can’t even get into the on-deck circle.
Reason? I have none.
He was part of a team that went to three straight conference championship games and two straight Super Bowls. He was also part of a defense that held Hall-of-Fame running back Barry Sanders to a career low minus-1 yard rushing in a 1994 playoff game.
Yet only two guys from those Green Bay clubs — quarterback Brett Favre and defensive lineman Reggie White — are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Everyone else gets in with the price of admission, and, Butler, for one, doesn’t understand.
Frankly, neither do I.
Butler was as critical to that Packers’ defense — no, maybe more so — as Lynch was to Tampa Bay when it won Super Bowl XXXVII. And while he didn’t pile up the statistics of, say, a Brian Dawkins, he was as much in charge of the Packers’ secondary as Dawkins was in Philadelphia.
Plus, he won a Super Bowl. Dawkins did not.
“I played 12 years for one team, and you don’t necessarily see that,” Butler said last year on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “But I would think that would help my candidacy because it puts more spotlight on the people of the ’90s who were all-decade.
“I don’t think Brett was all-decade (he wasn’t). But he definitely was a Hall-of-Fame quarterback the first time … without a doubt. But I would argue that it would put the spotlight on anybody else where (you would say), ‘If there’s anybody else who should make it, it should be Leroy Butler.”
Agreed. But first things first: If there’s anybody else from that Green Bay team who deserves to be discussed … who deserves to be a finalist … it’s Leroy Butler, and that hasn’t come close to happening.
And that’s not just baffling. It’s a wrong that needs to corrected immediately.