By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Pro Football Hall of Fame semi-finalists list for the Class of 2021 was revealed on Tuesday. Included in the group are two former Patriots, one being somewhat of a surprise. Defensive tackle Richard Seymour and safety Rodney Harrison are both one two steps away from being enshrined in Canton.
Seymour was a first-round pick by the Patriots in 2001, and was a key piece of three Super Bowl-winning defenses on the defensive line. He was a five-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade team. This is his fifth time as a semi finalist, although despite constant campaigning from Bill Belichick, he hasn’t been able to cross the threshold into Canton.
What’s holding him back is likely his numbers. His tackle, tackle for loss, and sack statistics aren’t mind blowing – he’s the kind of player who needed to be seen on tape to really appreciate his greatness. He could impact plays at the line of scrimmage even without being near the ball. The way the Patriots used him was revolutionary at the time, and opened the door for smaller, athletic defensive tackles such as Aaron Donald.
Harrison’s case is a bit more interesting. He was arguably the best player in the league at his position for a not-insignificant window of time. His four All-Pro seasons and numerous statistical records are enough to get him in. There’s any number of stats one could list to prove his case, but perhaps the most impactful is that he was the first player in NFL history to record both 30 career sacks and 30 career interceptions. Only Ray Lewis, a first-ballot hall of famer, has joined him in the 30-30 club since. Nobody currently playing is remotely close.
So why is it that with such an impressive resume, this is Harrison’s first time being so much as a semi-finalist in his near-decade of eligibility? The common belief is that his reputation as a ‘dirty player’ has kept him out, and his criticism of the Hall’s process has only compounded that. Harrison has called the selection committee “lazy” in the past and accused them of having an ‘anti-Patriots bias.’
He may be on to something with that last part. The Hall has been seemingly slow in inducting members. It took Ty Law, one of the most dominant cornerbacks of his era, four tries before finally getting in. It can be seen this year as well, with the omissions of players such as Willie McGinest (who owns the all-time postseason sack record), Wes Welker, and Ben Coates. You can find a breakdown of all 23 former Patriots who were nominated this year by clicking here.
Next up for Seymour and Harrison is making it to the round of 15 finalists. That cut will come in the next few weeks. Then, that list of 15 finalists will be voted on by the committee, with up to eight players being selected to the Class of 2021.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.