Folks we have a problem. We could be watching a historic defense. It could be a run that caps off in back to back championships. It could be anchored by a secondary that will limit quarterbacks to rock bottom numbers. And there may be a player that should be in the Hall of Fame. The only problem is: Will he get in? I thought he was a slam dunk. No worries. Then I researched the inductees and candidates and realized that the NFL has the problem. It's not going to know what makes a recent corner worthy of a bust in Canton.
So Who’s already in?
I took a look at inductees who played the bulk of their careers in the 1990s and beyond. This was necessary to get a large enough sample size as well as stay within eras modern enough to make comparisons accurate. You can count out 5 players who are enshrined. 5. Deion Sanders, Champ Bailey, Ty Law, Darrell Green and Aeneas Williams. Seven if you include Rod Woodson and Ronnie Lott who spent large chunks of their career at safety. For comparison's sake, there have been eight quarterbacks, eight defensive ends/linebackers, and nine wide receivers. Even left tackle; one single position out of five on the offensive line has seven!
The talent level of the corners already in is undeniable. One of the biggest considerations is longevity. Every one of the hall of famers played for 12+ seasons and played in more than 180 games. Many for much, much longer. Stephon Gilmore is playing in his eighth season. He will have to play at the minimum for four more seasons in order to get himself up to 175+ games. The next biggest thing was a threshold of 50+ interceptions.
If you look at the 2020 preliminary candidates for the hall of fame, it consists of Eric Allen, Albert Lewis, Terry McDaniel, and Troy Vincent. Ronde Barber is also included in this list as a corner/safety. Eric Allen is the only one who meets these criteria. Barber and Vincent come close and one or both might get in. Even so, we have at least a semi-modern range of what Gilmore can shoot for.
So where does he stand?
He has played in 99 games so far. If he starts every game this season and for the next five seasons he will have 94 more games under his belt and increase his career totals to 193 games. This will also get him to 13 seasons played. The only problem with that is it is extremely unlikely he will start every game. Injuries and age will undoubtedly trim that down. Couple that with a reduction of career length. Fears of CTE and other long term injuries are causing players to retire earlier. Rob Gronkowski, and Patrick Willis are both Hall of fame favorites and they have just 10 year careers. This will be considered normal as we move forward.
Another roadblock is his contract situation. It will take an extension for him to get there in a Patriots uniform. He will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2021 season, and many of the corners already in the Hall spent their career with two, three or even more teams. Can New England keep him in uniform for that long?
One of the more modern metrics that can be looked at in his favor is passes defended. He currently sits at 94 according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and he is on par with Bailey’s .94 per game and ahead of Barber’s .82 per game. It may be one of the things that can help him get in to the Hall of Fame.
Another thing that works against him is his demeanor. He is a very quiet and calm player that does not find himself in the news because of nonsense. These days you hear about Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Peterson and their antics. Deion Sanders needs no explanation. It feels like Gilmore is not talked about enough, and certainly not in the Hall of Fame context. Ty Law and Champ Bailey have received far more press than Gilmore has. We as fans can change that and make sure that he gets his due.
And we are also dealing with a weird New England blowback for accolades. Of the modern Super Bowl dynasties only one player has made the pro football hall of fame. Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Richard Seymour, and Rodney Harrison are all languishing in the candidacy process. Team favorites Matt Light, Kevin Faulk, and Troy Brown are not even getting sniffs on the national level, as well as countless others. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will get in, but there are countless others that deserve consideration. Let's do what we can to help those that need it!