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Why it's time for John Lynch to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Eventually, players who keep banging at the door for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame kick it in and receive their deserved inclusion.

So it seems a matter of when, not if, Ring of Fame safety John Lynch joins the game's immortals in Canton, Ohio, at some point. A five-time finalist for selection, Lynch has also made the final cut to 10 players in the selection room in recent years. His misses have been narrow.

Nevertheless, the wait remains frustrating, just as it was for Terrell Davis, who was eligible for 10 years before he was inducted last year. Here's why Lynch's time out of the Hall needs to end now:


His lineage of accomplishments demands inclusion**

There are two defensive players eligible for the Hall of Fame with nine Pro Bowl selections and two or more first-team All-Pro nods who are not in the Hall: Lynch and fellow finalist Brian Dawkins. Their absence is further testament to how safety remains perhaps the most overlooked position in the Hall of Fame discussion.

He's a legend of two teams

Thousands of players have played for multiple teams in their NFL careers. Only a small handful have earned induction into the collection of distinguished players for multiple teams -- whether it goes by "Ring of Fame," as it does in Denver, or "Ring of Honor," as teams such as the Buccaneers use.

In 2016, Lynch was inducted into the Broncos' Ring of Fame and the Bucs' Ring of Honor. Both distinctions were well-deserved. Lynch is one of just two players in Broncos history to play at least four seasons with the team and make a Pro Bowl each time. In Tampa Bay, he earned five Pro Bowl selections and two All-Pro nods. The histories of the Bucs and Broncos cannot be written without mentioning No. 47.

As a member of two teams' most prestigious collection of players, Lynch stands alongside Hall of Famers such as Charles Haley, Paul Warfield, Vince Lombardi, Jim Ringo, Sonny Jurgensen, Reggie White, Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk.

The fact that his work in Denver merited selection into the Ring of Fame also shows the sustained excellence of his career. Once he emerged as a full-time starter with the Buccaneers during the 1996 season, he became one of the NFL's most feared and respected players for over a decade.


Lynch and other safeties need better representation in the Hall of Fame**

Last year, Seattle's Kenny Easley was inducted after being nominated by the Seniors Committee. His addition to the Hall of Fame was long overdue. Before kidney disease cut his career short after just seven seasons, he was the most feared safety in the NFL in the early-to-mid-1980s.

The significance of Easley's inclusion into the Hall of Fame was obvious: He became the first pure safety to play after 1980 to be inducted. The only other safeties to play from 1981 through the present day that are in the Hall — Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson — spent a significant portion of their careers as cornerbacks.

The safety drought seems likely to end in the next few years when Baltimore's Ed Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu become eligible for induction. But their inclusion would still leave a gaping hole from the late 1980s through the turn of the century, an era in which the two best pure safeties were members of the Broncos Ring of Fame: Lynch and Steve Atwater, a Hall of Fame finalist in 2016.

"I think that's the sentiment that I feel most strongly about, and I've communicated [it] when asked by the Hall of Fame writers, that, hey, I certainly would like if it was me, but I think this is something that needs to change," Lynch said in 2016. "That argument really doesn't hold water with me.

"Maybe at one point that position was one that wasn't of great import in football and on defenses, but I think as anyone has seen the position evolve -- and that's where I feel fairly good about being a part of that position changing, because early in football, they were just kind of a last line of defense."

Safeties are much more than that, of course. Players like Lynch, Atwater and Dawkins are the quarterbacks of the defense -- which for Lynch and Atwater was particularly appropriate, since they were recruited to college as standout high-school quarterbacks before being converted to defense.

He was a core part of an iconic defense

In the 2020s, similar arguments will be made for the elite defenders of the 2015 Broncos that powered the team to its Super Bowl 50 win.

Lynch was one of three signature players who held up the banner for the Buccaneers' defense during its run of dominance from 1997 through 2002, alongside Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks. Together, they led a once-woebegone franchise to five postseason trips, two division titles and a world championship in 2002. That title was fueled by its defense in a similar manner to the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens, 2013 Seahawks and 2015 Broncos.

Such defenses -- along with the Vikings' Purple People Eaters, Steelers' Steel Curtain and Cowboys' Doomsday Defense of the 1970s, are well-represented in Canton, with four members apiece.

Check out the best photos of John Lynch, a 2020 finalist for selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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