Now's the time to make former Packers' star LeRoy Butler a Hall finalist
For the third consecutive year, former Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler is a Pro Football Hall-of-Fame semifinalist, and good for him.
Except why stop there? Let’s do what’s right … and fair … and long overdue.
Let’s make him a finalist.
OK, so safeties and linebackers comprise the largest groups among this year’s 25 semifinalists, each with five nominees. But so what? Butler deserves … no, demands … to be discussed for the simplest of reasons: He’s the only first-team all-decade choice of the 1990s – offense and defense -- never to have been discussed as a finalist.
Don’t ask me why. He and Steve Atwater were first-team all-decade safeties, yet neither went before the Hall’s board of selectors until Atwater cracked the glass ceiling in 2016. Then he was back again this year, graduating to the Top-10 finalists before bowing out.
But that is significant.
It means that voters recognize his value … albeit late in his candidacy … and are willing to consider him Hall-of-Fame worthy. Which they should. Because it was Hall-of-Fame voters who made him a first-team all-decade choice of the 1990s.
But they made Butler one, too, and he wasn’t a semifinalist until 2017, one year after Atwater moved the needle. That’s a start. Now, with the Class of 2020 void of coaches, there’s room for someone like a LeRoy Butler to step forward.
And I, for one, hope he does.
The guy did it all in his career. Win a Super Bowl. Get named to four All-Pro teams and four Pro Bowls. Become the first defensive back to have 20 career interceptions and 20 sacks. Reach the Packers’ Hall of Fame.
Heck, he even invented the Lambeau Leap.
“He had no weakness,” said former Packers’ GM Ron Wolf.
Tell that to Hall-of-Fame voters. Butler was part of a team that went to three straight conference championship games and two consecutive Super Bowls. He was part of a defense that held Hall-of-Fame running back Barry Sanders to a career-low minus-1 yard rushing in the 1994 playoffs.
He rushed the quarterback. He played the run. He covered tight ends. He covered wide receivers. He protected the middle of the field. And he, along with Hall-of-Famer Reggie White, was the heart and soul of the Green Bay Packers’ defense.
Yet, from that team, only Brett Favre and White have been chosen to Canton.
“I played 12 years for one team,” Butler said on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast, “and you don’t necessarily see that. “I would think that would help my candidacy because it puts more spotlight on the people in the 1990s who were all-decade.”
Except it hasn’t.
So let's get it started. This is Butler’s 15th year of eligibility, and the clock is ticking. If he’s not elected within his 20 years as a modern-era candidate, he moves to the senior pool … and good luck. That’s the group known as “The Great Abyss" for all the qualified candidates who reside there and have either been forgotten or overlooked.
And who have sometimes never been discussed. I don’t want that to happen to LeRoy Butler.
If nothing else, I want to hear what voters think of him, which means I want him in front of all 48 selectors when the Feb. 1, 2020 vote is taken on the 15 finalists. But that can’t occur until or unless he takes the next step and gains serious consideration.
This is his opportunity.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF