Who’s the best safety not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks

NFL Historical Imagery

(Kenny Easley photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)
(Johnny Robinson photo courtesy of the Kansas City Chiefs)

Talk of Fame Network

The most overlooked position in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is safety.

There are only seven pure safeties enshrined in Canton — and none since Paul Krause was inducted in 1998. He’s the NFL’s all-time leader in interceptions and it still took him 14 years to get in.

The last safety who actually played and has been enshrined was Ken Houston, who retired from the Washington Redskins after the 1980 season. So the Hall of Fame selection committee has not found a pure safety worthy of induction in the last 36 years.

Ronnie Lott was not a pure safety. Neither was Rod Woodson nor Mel Renfro. All were multi-time Pro Bowl cornerbacks before moving to safety. The seven pure safeties enshrined in Canton are Jack Christiansen, Houston, Krause, Yale Lary, Emlen Tunnell, Larry Wilson and Willie Wood.

There are 11 all-decade safeties eligible for the Hall of Fame and eight of them have never even been discussed as finalists, including all four pure safeties from the 1980s. So who is the best safety eligible for Canton but not yet enshrined? That’s the question we pose to our listeners and readers in this week’s poll of the Talk of Fame Network. Note: Ed Reed is not yet eligible for Canton.

Here are your options:

Steve Atwater. One of two 15 finalists for the Class of 2016. Atwater played 11 seasons, went to eight Pro Bowls and was named to the 1990s all-decade team. He won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

Kenny Easley. A kidney ailment ended his Easley’s career after seven seasons – but what a seven seasons they were. Easley was voted to five Pro Bowls, led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 1984 and was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was voted to the 1980s all-decade team.

John Lynch. One of the two finalists for the Class of 2016. Lynch was not named to an all-decade team but has more Pro Bowl selections – nine — than any eligible candidate at the safety position. Lynch played 15 seasons, winning a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay and losing one with the Broncos.


(Eddie Meador photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams)

Eddie Meador. One of three NFL safeties selected to the 1960s all-decade team but the only one not enshrined in Canton. Meador went to six Pro Bowls in his 12 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and still holds the franchise record for most interceptions (46) and blocked kicks (10).

Johnny Robinson. One of only six AFL players named to the 1960s all-decade team but the only not enshrined in Canton. Robinson played for 12 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, won three AFL titles and went to six Pro Bowls. His 57 interceptions are tops among all eligible safeties not in Canton.

Defensive back Darren Woodson of the Dallas Cowboys looks into the backfield in the Pittsburgh Steelers 15-14 win over the Dallas Cowboys at Heinz Stadium in Pittsburgh, PA on 08/21/2003. ©James D. Smith/NFL Photos

(Darren Woodson photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)

Darren Woodson. Woodson was among the first of the NFL’s “cover” safeties, used by the Cowboys in the coverage of slot receivers during the run of three Super Bowls in the 1990s. He played 13 seasons and went to five Pro Bowls, but was passed over for the 1990s all-decade team.

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  1. Bobby
    February 17, 2016

    There definitely needs to be more safeties put in the Hall and one criteria I think should be used more than any other is if a player was named to the first or second team on an all decade team. Having said that I would vote for Eddie Meador due to the fact he made so many big plays that effected the game. As an aside I would also add Rodney Harrison to this list who I think was every bit as good as Atwater and Lynch but was not well liked by teams he played against nor the league.

    • February 17, 2016

      To me, Meador and Johnny Robinson should be the first to go. Cowboys’ Harris forgotten man, too. All qualified.

  2. Bob Thompson
    August 30, 2017

    Johnny Robinson should already be in Canton. He has a gaudy resume with a list of honors that definitely put him in a separate upper class of players. He is a member of the HOF AFL AllTime Team and HOF/NFL Team of the Decade 1960’s. among others. 7x Pro Bowl and 6x All League. Led AFL /NFL 2x in Interceptions with 10.

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