The NFL announced last week that former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins is one of 27 modern-era semifinalists for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Let’s start with some facts:
1. Dawkins is probably the favorite Eagle of anyone between the ages of 20-35 years-old and lives within a 60-mile radius of Lincoln Financial Field (excluding degenerate Cowboys fans).
2. He was a great player. Dawkins was fiery and inspiring. He was also intimidating—most fans loved him because he could flat-out lay the wood. We ate up the “Weapon-X” and Wolverine stuff, but he was also an intelligent and versatile player who did things many of his contemporaries could only dream of.
3. Randy Moss and Ray Lewis are locks to get in this year. Tony Boselli and Brian Urlacher look like relatively safe bets. Ty Law, Terrell Owens, Steve Hutchinson and Alan Faneca all have a legitimate shot to be elected. It’s going to be hard for Dawkins to get in with such a crowded field, particularly because…
4. It’s pretty damn hard for safeties to get into The Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Peter King of MMQB did a piece in April 2015 after the retirement of Steelers legend Troy Polamalu (who’s eligible in 2020). Here’s the relevant part:
Over the past 26 years, covering 147 enshrinees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the 147 has been a safety. I’m talking a player who played safety his entire career, not one (such as Ronnie Lott or Rod Woodson, both of whom played significant portions of their careers at cornerback) who split time between corner and safety. The one: Minnesota’s Paul Krause, the league’s all-time interceptions leader. There are 295 Hall of Famers, so think of it: 147 is almost exactly half of that, and 26 years is almost half of the time the Hall’s been alive. One safety has been bronzed in that time.
A quick note on Krause—it took him fourteen tries to finally gain election, a seeming impossibility given he is the NFL’s all-time interception leader. That’s…discouraging. Former Seattle strong safety Kenny Easley broke the trend with his induction this past August, but the numbers clearly demonstrate it’s been an uphill battle for safeties to get some love from the selection committee. If Dawkins doesn’t get in this year, things get murky. Are voters going to pull the trigger on several safeties in a short span?
The candidacy of Steve Atwater, John Lynch, and LeRoy Butler muddles the field. Ed Reed, who becomes eligible in 2019, is the most likely of the trio to get in. He was elected to the Pro Bowl nine times, named a first-team All-Pro five times, and named the 2004 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. A Super Bowl champion, Reed is also the all-time leader in interception return yardage and shares the NFL postseason interception record. His career 64 interceptions and 13 touchdowns are far superior to the totals posted by Dawkins and Polamalu. There’s virtually no scenario in which the other two gain admittance over Reed.
Meanwhile, Polamalu is a two-time Super Bowl champion who was named to the Pro Bowl eight times and a first-team All-Pro four times in addition to being crowned the 2010 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He compiled 12 sacks, 32 interceptions and 14 forced fumbles throughout his career. The resume of Dawkins, for the most part, stacks up favorably to that of the Steelers great. Dawkins, for his part, was named to nine Pro Bowls and a first-team All-Pro four times. He totaled 26 career sacks, 37 interceptions, and 28 forced fumbles.
Certainly, an argument can be made on the behalf of Dawkins’ worthiness over Polamalu. The problem for Dawkins in terms of Polamalu is about public perception. Head and Shoulders commercials aside, Polamalu is widely viewed as one of the most versatile defensive players of his generation. His propensity to make big plays in high-stakes games on his way to becoming a two-time Super Bowl champion may give him a leg up.
While Dawkins has made his share of notable big plays, he’s the only one of the three to never win a Lombardi Trophy, and while Eagles fans can recite many of the plays on his personal highlight reel, he lacks a nationally recognized signature moment.
It’s certainly feasible that Dawkins will get into Canton, but it’s hardly a sure-fire proposition. His fate will ultimately be predicated upon Pro Football Hall of Fame voters deviating from longstanding voting patterns. Here’s hoping they do. He deserves it.