It’s that time of year again. A time when we look back on the past and reflect. No, I’m not talking about new years, but rather the announcement of the NFL Hall of Fame finalists. Some keynote names this year include DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis and Tampa Bay Buccaneers own Ronde Barber.
This is not the first time that Barber has made it to the final 15 in the Hall of Fame voting. He also made this short list last year and the final group of 25 for five straight years. He first became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2017 which was five years removed from his retirement.
While this isn’t the first year that Barber has been named a finalist it should certainly be his last. While there are many impressive players to choose from, I would argue that Barber is the most deserving of this honor.
Barber and the Bucs
Barber was drafted 66th overall in the 1997 NFL draft. The Virginia Cavalier alumni would only appear in one game as a rookie before establishing himself as a starter in his second year. This was just the beginning of a 16 year NFL career, all with the Buccaneers, which included five Pro Bowls, three All Pros and one Super Bowl championship.
Barber was a leading member of the early 2000s Bucs defenses, including the 2002 team that allowed the 5th fewest points per game in NFL history. His leadership, versatility and coverage ability were essential to what may have been the best defense of all time.
Where He Ranks Overall
Simply put, Ronde Barber was a playmaker. There have been few men in NFL history who were more feared by opposing quarterbacks. Not a statement typically associated with a 5’10 cornerback, but his impact could not be measured.
Despite being tied for 47th all time in interceptions, he is tied for 8th all time in interceptions returned for a touchdown. He’s also tied for 4th all time in fumbles returned for a touchdown, so every turnover was a scoring opportunity when Barber touched the ball.
However, while the flashy splash plays get a lot of attention it was his consistent excellence at his position that sets him apart. Barber ranks 3rd all time in passes defended. He also ranks 3rd in tackles all time among defensive backs as well as 2nd in sacks and tackles for a loss. In fact, Barber has just three fewer tackles for a loss than fellow Hall of Fame finalist Richard Seymour.
Barber was an incredible blend that may never be seen again. In fact the only player who statistically measures up in both ways is Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. While Woodson did play 13 more games than Barber it is Barber who has more tackles, tackles for loss, sacks and pass deflections. The two also share the same number of All Pro selections and were both selected to the 200s All Decade team.
How Barber Changed the Game
As previously stated, Barber’s blend of coverage skills and ability to tackle in the box were incredibly rare. In fact, there had really never been a cornerback exactly like him with his ability to navigate the line of scrimmage and stick with receivers. This is why Barber became the blueprint for the modern Day nickel corner.
Since then the role has become largely viewed as a starting position in an NFL defense. Guys like Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Harris Jr and many others have grown the importance of this slot defender. However, no one had approached the success that Barber found here.
The story of the NFL cannot be told without Ronde Barber. From being part of a legendary defense to his individual success among his peers to helping pave the way for modern Day defenses, Barber has done it all. His legacy is immeasurable and immense.
Barber is unquestionably Hall of Fame worthy. He has never received the recognition he deserves as so much attention went to teammates like Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. But make no mistake, his career takes a back seat to no one.