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Rodney Harrison and the Hall of Fame

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After an NFL player retires, talk of Hall of Fame candidacy inevitably surfaces. For some, it's a lock - "First Ballot HoF'er" is a term commonly associated with the likes of Tom Brady. For others, the waters are a bit murkier. Take, for instance, our very own Rodney Harrison. After announcing his retirement this past week, many opposing offenses breathed a sigh of relief. A relentless "prowler", Harrison was a no compromises, play to the whistle safety. And he was smart, too. Belichick gave him a lot of latitude on the field, freedom earned by years of success at the position.

But his no compromise style has hurt him as well. "Scarlet Lettered" by opponents as a dirty player and racking up $200,000 in fines, opposing players and coaches alike have labeled him one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. Opinions vary and are usually split by what laundry you wear. Interestingly enough, NFL Coaches labeled Harrison the dirtiest player in the NFL in a 2008 poll and this is despite the fact that safety Adrian Wilson of the Arizona Cardinals had a league-high 17 personal fouls to Harrison's 14. Did I mention Harrison's 14 was tied with Saints' defensive end Will Smith? There's clearly a bias at work, but what can you do? Rodney is branded despite overwhelming and clear evidence that others deserve that distinction. Let's move onto more discussion about Harrison's HoF chances.

Talking about HoF chances five years before a player is eligible can be nearly impossible, but an article in today's print version of The Boston Globe interviews voters John Clayton (ESPN), Dave Goldberg (AP), and Peter King (Sports Illustrated). These three bring up some interesting challenges for Harrison's inductance:

  • Both John Lynch and Rodney Harrison will be eligible at the same time, taking votes away from each other
  • "Only" 2 Pro Bowls
  • The difficulty getting safeties into the HoF
  • Use of the banned substance HgH

In my mind, the facts are hard to dispute:

  1. Using personal fouls as the yardstick, he is NOT the dirtiest player in the NFL
  2. Rodney Harrison is the ONLY NFL player in the history of the game to amass 30.5 sacks and 34 interceptions. Did I mention he did that in 186 games, averaging 12.4 per season?
  3. Guided the Patriots' defensive backfield to two Super Bowls

This is a debate about laundry and not facts, unfortunately. Harrison is one of the best safeties to play the game...EVER. Rival fans will mention the bad and conveniently overlook the cold, hard facts. Can Harrison's undeniable stats overcome the negativity?