John Lynch has been a Hall of Fame finalist five times. It’s time Ronde Barber has his turn.
So say the listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network, who voted Barber as the best Buccaneer not in the Hall of Fame in our weekly poll. Barber received 27.2 percent of the vote to edge Lynch at 25.9 percent. Fullback Mike Alstott was a distant third with 16 percent of the voting support. Alstott, Barber and Lynch were all teammates on Tampa Bay’s only NFL championship team (2002).
Barber, a cornerback, is the franchise leader in career games (241), starts (232) and interceptions (47). One of the best defensive playmakers of his era, Barber scored 14 career touchdowns on eight interceptions, four fumble recoveries and two blocked kicks.
Barber returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown against Donovan McNabb and the Eagles in 2003, then returned two more interceptions of McNabb for scores in a 2006 game. He played 16 seasons, all with the Bucs, went to five Pro Bowls and was a member of their 2002 NFL champions.
As usual, the three Talk of Fame Network hosts were split in their voting with Ron Borges selecting offensive tackle Paul Gruber, Gosselin voting Barber and Clark Judge Lynch.
“Were it not for the terrible car accident that changed the arc of his career this pick would be easy,” Borges said. “It would be Hugh Green, who was like a comet rocketing through the sky. But he never fully recovered so Paul Gruber is the most dominate guy at his position among these guys. One of the best linemen of his time.”
The seventh overall pick of the 1981 draft, Green had a dynamic start to his career with Pro Bowl appearances in two of his first three seasons. But he was injured in a car wreck during the 1984 season, suffering a facial fracture that ended his season after eight games. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins midway through the 1985 season and wound up playing 11 years, but never again with the impact he had during his Pro Bowl seasons of 1982 and 1982.
Gruber was the fourth overall pick of his NFL draft who wound up playing 12 seasons and twice was selected the team’s MVP. Lynch, a safety, went to five Pro Bowls with the Buccaneers and four more with the Denver Broncos.
“I’ll take Lynch in a photo finish with Barber,” Judge said. “Like Dallas in the 1990s, the Super Bowl Bucs had their Triplets … only they were on defense … and they were Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Lynch. Sapp and Brooks are in the Hall, but it was Lynch who kept that secondary together.”