Last night, a selection of legendary NFL figures were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Most inductions, like Kurt Warner, Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley and Jerry Jones, have to do some waiting before they were voted in. However, there are a select few that get voted into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, like Jason Taylor and LaDainian Tomlinson.
As great as this year’s class was, though, next year’s class has the potential to be truly special. In addition to a handful of legends who missed the cut this year - Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins, Isaac Bruce and Alan Faneca, just to name a few - a stacked group of newcomers will be eligible to enter the Hall of Fame.
Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher, Steve Hutchinson, Ronde Barber headline players who become eligible for HOF for first time in 2018.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 6, 2017
This is a very deep group of guys, but one name in particular will stand out to Chicago Bears fans: Brian Urlacher.
Urlacher was the heart and soul of the Bears’ defense throughout all of the 2000’s. He was the catalyst of a legendary defense which carried the team to the Super Bowl, as well as numerous playoff appearances. With his accolades, he will more than likely be inducted into the Hall at some point.
The question is: is he worthy enough of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer?
Before we dive deeper into this, let’s take a look at some of Urlacher’s accomplishments:
- Eight-time Pro Bowler
- Four-time first-team All-Pro
- One-time second-team All-Pro
- NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2005)
- NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2000)
- NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team
- NFC champion (2006)
- 1,353 total tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions
The Pro Football Hall of Fame currently has a policy in which a maximum of seven players (two of which must be “senior” players) can be inducted into the Hall of Fame each year. This basically cuts the amount of slots available for the likes of Urlacher, Ray Lewis and others down to five.
Let’s assume that Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens will take up three of those spots. That leaves Urlacher to battle it out with players like Brian Dawkins, Ronde Barber, Steve Hutchinson and Jeff Saturday.
Two linebackers have been first-ballot Hall of Famers in the past four years: Junior Seau and Derrick Brooks. When you break it down, Urlacher’s stats and accomplishments aren’t quite as prominent as those of his fellow linebackers.
Seau managed to play in the NFL for 20 seasons, which is an accomplishment in itself. He made it to the Pro Bowl 12 times, and was an All-Pro player 10 times. Although he didn’t have a great impact in the final years of his career, his overall production and longevity made him stand out.
Brooks played for one more season than Urlacher, which makes for a more fair comparison than Seau. Brooks has Urlacher beat in Pro Bowls, All-Pro appearances and tackles. Plus, the former has a Super Bowl victory to his name.
As great as his accomplishments are, Urlacher doesn’t quite stack up with recent first-ballot Hall-of-Fame linebackers. However, he does stack up fairly well against his fellow inductees-to-be.
As far as Pro Bowl appearances go, he matches up quite well. His eight appearances top those of Steve Hutchinson, Ronde Barber and Isaac Bruce. He is also the only defender in the bunch to have a Defensive Player of the Year award to his name. He has more All-Pro appearances than Bruce and John Lynch, and the same amount as Barber. While his career longevity is shorter than all players mentioned except for Hutchinson, his 13-year career is still impressive.
In short, Urlacher is arguably in the middle of the pack when it comes to the players eligible for the Hall of Fame next year. Given his overall production, Brian Dawkins looks to be the best fit for the fourth available slot to enter the Hall, which will leave the former Bears linebacker to battle it out with worthy adversaries.
As much as it would hurt Chicagoans everywhere (including myself), don’t be too surprised if Urlacher doesn’t get voted into the Hall of Fame next year. Odds are, though, that he would eventually be voted in the year after that.