With the Hall of Fame taking their sweet-ass time to induct players that any objective football knower would agree deserved to get in on their first shot — like third-highest-receiving-touchdowns wide receiver Terrell Owens, Pittsburgh Steelers great Lynn Swann, and the New England Patriots’ very own game-wrecking defensive tackle Richard Seymour — it seems like there’s only one candidate for a surefire first-ballot lock whose championship résumé is impossible to deny.
We’re talking, of course, about two-time Super Bowl champion New York Football Giants QB Eli Manning.
Relax, it’s a joke.
Although you do have to admit, it is pretty funny how almost every other Hall of Famer’s debate comes down to laboriously scrutinizing the entirety of their tape, stat sheet, and trophy case, and yet, every time Eli’s name comes up, it’s “oh yeah, he’s in on his first shot, no question about it, doesn’t matter who else is on the ballot, Eli’s in”. Must be nice to be a legacy.
All Eli jokes aside, it was a joyous day for Patriots Nation across the globe last week when legendary defensive lineman Richard Seymour finally made the cut for a well-deserved gold jacket. And like our fearless leader Bernd and indefatigable analyst Keagan ran down last week, Richard’s got all the credentials you could ever want in a Hall of Famer. The Pro Bowls. The All-Pros. The Super Bowls. The All-Decade Teams, both of the NFL and Patriots variety. The decade of bulldozing, wrecking-ball Smash-Bros-Falcon-Punch game tape. And the support of everyone from Thomas Edward Patrick Brady to legends of the game that Richard never even shared the field with, like Patriots all-time sack leader Andre Tippett.
There’s one thing, though, that Seymour didn’t have going for him is the one thing most fans (and probably a whole lot of voters) are going to look at first:
The raw stats.
Which, we all knew Richard didn’t have a membership card to the 100-sack club or anything like that, but this LOL-worthy tweet does ironically kind of do a good job at putting Seymour’s relative lack of a flashy Pro Football Reference page into perspective:
Richard Seymour— Phins/Bulls/Yanks (@Dolphins4Life99) February 11, 2022
4 forced fumbles
25 forced fumbles
Porter will never sniff the hall of fame. Richard Seymour is NOT a hall of famer
Fortunately, the tape prevailed and Richard Seymour now has a Hall of Fame induction speech to write, in addition to probably winning a few more gazillion dollars playing poker. As the football gods intended.
But this post is not about Richard Seymour. We could talk about Richard Seymour all day. This post is about how the Hall of Fame finally doing the right thing and, you know, watching the games instead of just giving the stat sheet a lazy fantasy football once-over sure seems like it gives us hope for another Patriots D-line legend who just so happened to become eligible for the Hall this past fall:
Vincent Lamar Wilfork.
If Richard Seymour’s career stat lines are a gross understatement when it comes to just how valuable he was in playing Wreck-It Ralph to offensive linemen and QBs everywhere, Vince Wilfork’s stats are really just a different flavor of the same candy bar. Reese’s Cups and Reese’s Cups with Pieces, if you will.
Check out the side-by-side comparison (all stats per Pro Football Reference):
- Richard Seymour (regular season): 498 tackles, 57.5 sacks, 39 passes defended, 91 tackles for loss.
- Vince Wilfork (regular season): 560 tackles, 16 sacks, 27 passes defended, 39 tackles for loss.
- Richard Seymour (playoffs): 51 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 3 passes defended, 5 tackles for loss.
- Vince Wilfork (playoffs): 85 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 pass defended, 7 tackles for loss.
So, as one would expect from comparing a (mostly) full-time defensive tackle like Wilfork to Seymour pretty regularly moving inside and out on the defensive line, the run-stuffing stats tend to favor Big Vince while Richard Seymour clearly has the edge in sacks and TFLs.
What should give us hope for Wilfork’s eventual gold jacket, though, is that if Seymour got in based on the merit of his tape, and how his dirty-work trench warfare lobbed up the assist for his second or third-level teammates to either mercilessly stuff the run or pin their ears back and give the quarterback hell, there’s no reason Vince shouldn’t make it in on the same criteria.
Namely, for as much as we hear about how Bill Belichick’s defensive game plans are truly unlocked when he has a *air quotes* SHUTDOWN CORNER to erase whomever on the opposing offense he deems worthy of the privilege — the same is true when Belichick has an elite, brutally strong, and lethally intelligent nose tackle that gladly does the dirtiest of dirty work on the defensive line. It unlocks, at the risk of being hyperbolic and/or telling Paul Bunyan stories, almost everything else that a Belichick defense loves to do with the other defensive linemen, edge defenders, and linebackers. Big Vince spent a decade in New England doing exactly that.
We all know the classic Patriots nose tackle job description: take on the double and occasionally triple-teams, occupy the offensive linemen, and open up the gaps so the linebackers can fly in at full speed to clean up whatever needs cleaning up. And while that was more often than not exactly what Vince did at the nose tackle spot, it wasn’t unusual to see him Kool-Aid-man smash through the offensive line altogether and either meet an unsuspecting running back two yards behind the line or a quarterback that’d suddenly start realizing it was time to make a business decision.
The NFL hates fun so this embedded highlight reel below may not be playable without going to YouTube, but watch it anyway and then come back here and finish reading (please):
Thanks for coming back.
On a schematic note, it’s also very much worth giving Vince Wilfork his flowers for doing everything he was tasked with in a defense that regularly toggled between 4-3 and 3-4 defensive looks with ease, whether it was Vince’s famous 2-gapping prowess or shooting gaps when opposing teams dared to give him an opening. Even in his later days manning the defensive tackle spot in the 2012, early part of 2013, and 2014 seasons, when the Patriots were transitioning to running nickel defenses that started out as a 4-2-5 scheme more often than not, Vince anchored defenses that ranked as follows in rushing yards allowed:
- 2012: 8th
- 2013: *excluded due to Vince’s Achilles injury in Week 4.
- 2014: 9th
Put simply, until his very last days as a New England Patriot, if you want to try and run the ball against Vince Wilfork, or, god forbid, Establish The Run™, you’re going to have a bad time.
Vince will probably get docked cause he played on some objectively god-awful defenses during his storied Patriots career — the 2011 squad having a relatively historic case for worst defense to make a Super Bowl comes to mind — but, much like the aforementioned Richard Seymour, if the dorks that vote on the Hall of Fame are actually willing to watch Wilfork’s devastating effectiveness at forcing opposing offensive into negative plays and/or playing left-handed, his tape speaks to his all-time game better than any amount of ink spilled on this blog ever could.
And finally, while Richard Seymour had to wait a few years to finally get his honors, he did demonstrate with authority that a popular trope Patriots legend Ty Law somewhat disproved years ago isn’t necessarily a barrier to entry:
The idea that playing in a Bill Belichick defense makes you a system player of sorts, and you wouldn’t be as good playing in any other defense.
(Obviously this is preposterous; while Belichick is certainly world-renowned for putting his players in positions to succeed more often than not, please note that no other HOF candidate has to deal with this. Nobody uses the hypothetical of whether Warren Sapp or Jason Taylor would’ve been as effective if they were on literally any other team as an argument against their Hall of Fame worthiness, but how many times have we heard that any player Belichick coaches is a System Guy? That Bill putting a player in a position to succeed makes a players, uh, success less successful? It’s a thing. We all know it.)
Taken as a whole, Richard Seymour finally getting the all-time respect he deserves is worth popping a bottle of something nicer than Costco champagne for on its own merits. What makes it extra sweet is - as out-of-style as optimism is in the year 2022 - Seymour may very well have paved the way for Vince Wilfork’s case to actually get the attention and “holy sh*t this guy did nothing but DOMINATE for a straight decade” recognition that could put Vince in a gold jacket. Where he belongs.
Not convinced (no pun intended)?
Our fearless leader Bernd correctly pointed out when I floated the notion on our Slack channel that Vince’s case is ironclad regardless:
Vince Wilfork should get in on his role in the Buttfumble alone.