Following Ronde Barber’s decision to retire, much debate has ensued over whether or not his career would be Hall of Fame worthy. Barber has never been the spotlight guy. He spent most of career quietly dominating wide receivers while other players at his position seemed to steal the national exposure. But there are three ways to judge a career when considering the Hall of Fame: statistics, longevity and a signature moment. While other players may have had their 30-seconds of fame–at the expense of Barber throughout his career–these three categories reveal that even though he was occasionally denied the attention he deserved, he won’t be denied pro football’s greatest honor.
During his 16-year NFL career, Ronde Barber accumulated over 1,200 tackles, 28 sacks and 16 forced fumbles. Since he became a starting CB in 1998, he only played one season in which he did not record at least 70 tackles. He also has the most sacks of any CB in NFL history with 28. In coverage, Barber ended his career with 47 interceptions, 205 pass deflections and 8 touchdowns. Adding to his NFL sack record, he is also the only CB in NFL history with 25+ sacks (28) and 40+ interceptions (47). Any time you can throw a few of those “only _____ in NFL history” phrases in there, your chances of finding your name in Canton, OH increase significantly.
As previously stated, Barber enjoyed quite the lengthy NFL career with 16 years in the league. He finished his career with 215 consecutive starts, tied for the sixth-longest streak in NFL history. He was also a 5-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion in 2002. Though these stats are impressive by themselves, Barber’s most impressive feat maybe be that he accomplished all of this as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Barber began and finished his career in Tampa and was a team captain for the past nine years under three different head coaches.
In some instances, a career can be summed up in a single moment. For Ronde Barber–though his career was young at the time–that moment was the game-winning interception in the 2002 NFC Championship game that sent Tampa to its first and only Super Bowl.
…So here they were again, in the same place where Tampa had its season end the past two years, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. This playoff rivalry was turing into one of the NFL’s most bitter match ups; they didn’t like us, and we didn’t like them. But with new head coach Jon Gruden at the helm, it seemed like there was only one option for the league’s best defense: Shut down McNabb, shut down the Vet, and book their tickets to San Diego (the location of the 2002 Super Bowl). With the Bucs up 20-10 and less than 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter, it seemed like the Eagles were running out of time. But McNabb began to do what he did best and marched Philadelphia down into the red zone for what looked liked another game-winning comeback. But this year felt different; this year the Bucs would not be denied, and with 3:12 left in the game, the history of Tampa football changed forever…
(McNabb) Hooks, dropping, oh, it’s intercepted! At the 10, to the 20, gone coast-to-coast! Ronde Barber! To the 50, to the 40, (5), and to the 30, nobody’s going to touch him! Ronde Barber! 10, 5, touchdown Tampa Bay! A 95-yard interception return, Bucs lead 26-10! … The Buccaneers are the Champions of the NFC! How about that! We’re going to the Super Bowl!
– Gene Deckerhoff
The greatest moment I have in my life is seeing No. 20 hustling down their sidelines to send us to the Super Bowl. That was, uh…. I don’t know what the word is, uh…. joy?
– Jon Gruden
So let’s put this Ronde Barber Hall of Fame question to rest, shall we? In summary: he is the only CB in NFL history with at least 28 sacks along with 47 interceptions, he is sixth all-time in consecutive starts with 215, and he had one of the most iconic moments in franchise history when he picked off Donovan McNabb to send the Buccaneers on their way to winning their only Super Bowl. There aren’t many defensive backs–let alone NFL players in general–that will be able to say they had the kind of career he was able to have. Ronde Barber will one day have his name immortalized in the halls of Raymond James Stadium and will eventually have his name immortalized in the halls of Canton as well. The resumé confirms: it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”.