By Tom Krasniqi
Derrick Brooks is joining football immortality. The former Bucs linebacker was elected to the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night. Brooks will be enshrined in Canton this August. Unfortunately, former Bucs coach Tony Dungy and former Bucs safety John Lynch did not get voted in. The other modern day candidates who were voted in were LT Walter Jones, WR Andre Reed, CB Aeneas Williams and DE Michael Strahan. Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey also made it.
Brooks was considered a lock by many experts and gets in on his first ballot. The list of accomplishments is quite impressive. Brooks NEVER missed a game throughout his illustrious 14 year career. He went to 11 Pro Bowls—including 9 consecutive trips--and was named to the All-Pro team a staggering 8 straight times. In addition, Brooks was named to the NFL All-Decade team for the 2000s. The drafting of Brooks along with defensive tackle Warren Sapp back in 1995 helped turned around what was a losing franchise. It culminated in a Super Bowl win in 2002. Brooks was also named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in ’02. Sapp was a first ballot Hall of Famer last year and now Brooks gets in on his first try this year.
Lynch and Dungy fell short in the voting. They failed to make the cut from 15 to 10. Only seven pure safeties are in the Hall of Fame so the deck was stacked against Lynch. The hard-hitting safety played 15 seasons and 11 of those were in Tampa Bay. Lynch was a 9-time Pro Bowler and maybe the most impressive aspect of Lynch’s career was that he made four more Pro Bowls in Denver after the Bucs released him after the 2003 season. Lynch recorded more than 1,000 tackles and 26 interceptions. The election of Williams could pave the way for Lynch to get in down the road.
Dungy made ten consecutive trips to the playoffs which is a record for a head coach. The Bucs were a dismal franchise before Dungy took over back in 1996. Dungy quickly developed the Bucs into a perennial contender. After flirting with the Super Bowl in the late 90s, Dungy was fired after going 9-7 in 2001. After six years in Tampa Bay, Dungy was quickly hired by the Colts and coached 7 seasons in Indianapolis. Dungy finally reached the pinnacle when he led the Colts to a victory in Super Bowl XLI in 2006. Ironically, he beat current Bucs coach Lovie Smith in the big game to become the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. Dungy’s overall record—including playoffs-- was 148-79.