When the Hall of Fame finalists were announced recently it struck me that Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders were the two headliners of the announcement. There was no mention of Curtis Martin in the headlines, the great running back for the New England Patriots and New York Jets, who should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Then I pondered, does Deion Sanders really belong in the Hall of Fame? My answer is no.
Yes, I know that Deion is on the all time greats lists and will no doubt be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee. That doesn’t mean he actually deserves all these accolades. Sanders is known as much for his oversized ego and big mouth as he is for his play on the field. Curtis Martin, on the other hand, is a quiet, unassuming player whose greatness spoke for itself on the field.
And no doubt Deion Sanders is one of the best “cover corners” in the league history. Usually I do not use that term derisively but in this case I am. Sanders rarely saw a tackle he cared to make. Now he is not like Asante Samuel who I have seen actually run away from running backs breaking down the field. Sanders, at least, put on a good act.
Deion Sanders was a one dimensional cornerback who was terrible at run support (and was not nearly as great in covering receivers as people seem to think he is). I think in all the years I have watched Sanders play, he made one decent tackle, and that was against a player about his own size.
Deion Sanders was nowhere near as great, as true lockdown corners would also come up and make big hits or tackles on running plays. Rod Woodson and Champ Bailey are as good, if not better than, Deion Sanders at covering receivers. Yet, they will also come up and lay the wood on running backs to support their teammates on defense. Even a small cornerback like Darrell Green was an outstanding tackler and came up to make big plays on running backs much larger than he was.
A few others I will name that are in the Hall of Fame and in the same caliber as Woodson and Bailey include Michael Haynes (New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders), Ronnie Lott (San Francisco 49ers) and Ken Houston (Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins). I would include Mel Blount of the Pittsburgh Steelers but he was more of an intimidator in the true bump and run coverages before the rule changes in 1978. And these are just the players I actually saw play.
Deion Sanders doesn’t come close to being as great as these cornerbacks. His name should not even be mentioned in the same breath.
Yes, I know he was one of the most instinctual punt returners of all time, but he didn’t do that consistently enough for me to say he should be in the Hall of Fame.
And when does get inducted, which unfortunately is a foregone conclusion, they should immediately make him a B grade inductee so as not to tarnish the names of those who truly belong.