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Brian Dawkins: The Case for the Hall of Fame
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BatCountry!


Joined: 12 Feb 2006
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Location: North Carolina
PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:57 pm    Post subject: Brian Dawkins: The Case for the Hall of Fame Reply with quote

Brian Dawkins: The Case for the Hall of Fame


The following is my argument for the future induction of Brian Dawkins into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I feel that despite his unbelievable accomplishments on the field, outside of Philadelphia the pressure to place Dawkins in the Hall is not very strong. I hope my analysis can provide ample ammunition for Eagles fans and non-fans alike to justify the Hall of Fame resume of one of the greatest Eagles to ever put on pads.

Here we go!



*image courtesy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com



Part I: Career Interceptions

A cursory glance at Brian Dawkins' career would reveal an assumingly large problem on his Hall of Fame resume - his career interception total. Every Hall of Fame defensive back was a prolific ballhawk, and their career totals in this statistic are extremely impressive. The interception itself is often the defining statistic for defensive backs among casual fans, and year in and year out we see players being voted to the Pro Bowl based almost exclusively on their interception total that season. However I want to debunk the myth that Brian's relatively low total of career interceptions (34) should be a concern for his Hall entry.

Only 11 players who are ranked in the Top 20 in career defensive interceptions (giving advanced credit to Rod Woodson and Aeneus Williams) are Hall of Famers. Clearly, a player's career interception total is not the common denominator for Hall entrance among defensive backs. However, at the same time no current Hall of Fame defensive back has fewer than 40 career interceptions. Roger Wehrli ('69-'82), a career cornerback, has 40 and the safety with the fewest career picks is Jack Christiansen ('51-'58 ) with 46.

What this represents is that while Hall of Famers are not, and should not be, one dimensional players (unless they have displayed complete and historical dominance of a certain aspect of the game), they should undoubtedly be very good at the primary skills required for their position.

Yet, as with all statistics, the interception has evolved over time. The popularization of the 'shotgun' formation in the 1960s increased the number of pass attempts per game league-wide which created more balanced offensive attacks. Coaches enamored with the quick strike capability of a prolific passing offense called more ambitious, albeit risky, plays during this time period. The purpose of the passing game was to target vertical lanes down the field and gain a larger number of yards that could be gained consistently through the running game. Concurrently, defensive interception totals around the league were very high (comparatively) during this era.

In the 1980s, Bill Walsh's 'West Coast' offense and the evolution of the quarterback position began changing the game. This offense utilized a greater proportion of high percentage passes and punished aggressive blitzing schemes. Passing attempts in this type of offense were high, but the turnover ratio was much lower due to the shorter nature of the routes and multiple options granted to the quarterback.


* Statistics for this graph are presented on a spreadsheet at the end of the post

The success of the WCO and the proliferation of the Bill Walsh coaching tree around the league further impacted interception totals league wide. By the late 1990s and into the 2000s, the number of interceptions thrown per game (both teams combined) went down from an average of ~3 during the 60s and 70s to ~2, the current rate.

The purpose of this digression was to demonstrate how analysis of career interception totals should be adjusted for the current generation of players. Modern interceptions do not come as cheaply as they did in the earlier years of the NFL. In reason, modern defensive backs cannot be compared statistically to current Hall members.

As for Dawkins: Among active safeties Brian Dawkins is ranked 4th in the league in interceptions, behind only Darren Sharper, Sammy Knight, and Ed Reed. Among NFL safeties who began their careers after 1980, Brian is ranked 13th in career interceptions. BUT, if you take all those players since 1980 and eliminate every player that was not voted 1st team All-Pro more than once (much more a barometer of success than the Pro Bowl since it is voted on by the Associated Press - Dawkins made 4), Dawkins is ranked 6th in interceptions at safety behind only Ronnie Lott, Derron Cherry, Ed Reed, LeRoy Butler, and Joey Browner.



Part II: Revolutionizing the Safety Position

Brian Dawkins was the primary catalyst in the modern revolution of the safety position. Like Lawrence Taylor, who transformed outside linebacker from a read-and-react position to an aggressive attacking role, Brian Dawkins redefined the use of the NFL safety to that of an all-purpose playmaker. Not only did he breathe new life into a stagnant position, he re-tooled modern defensive coordinators with one of the most effective defensive weapons in recent football memory - the hybrid safety.

Brian is a rare player, not only with the coverage abilities of an cornerback and the power of linebacker, but the blitzing instincts of a rush end; much more effective than the one-dimensional 'rover' safeties of past generations due to his coverage skills, and even deadlier on the blitz due his speed and instincts. Brian's hybrid safety revolution granted defensive coordinators new tools to create havoc and confuse opposing offenses. Further, hybrid safeties have also taken new responsibilities in countering the infusion of more athletic tight ends to NFL offenses in the past decade. During his career, opposing quarterbacks and centers were forced to identify Dawkins' location prior to the snap - such adjustments in the past were almost always designated for linebackers. This was primarily due to Dawkins' starting position at the snap being the pre-determinant of the Eagles' blitz scheme for the majority of his career.

Evidence of Brian Dawkins' impact can be seen throughout the league today in the newest crop of impact players - the Troy Polamalus, the Adrian Wilsons, the LaRon Landrys. In high school, high profile athletes who would in the past be recruited for linebacker, running back, or cornerback, are signing letters of intent to play safety. College players like Taylor Mays, William Moore, Will Hill, Chad Jones, and Morgan Burnett look to continue this new tradition.

For years in the NFL, 'safety' was a positional designation defined by what a player could not do. Brian Dawkins repealed this label and created a new position defined by the fact that there was nothing they could not do.


*image courtesy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com



Part III: The Playmaker

I feel that there are certain statistics that have been underrated in the league for a long time, and the forced fumble is one of them. Short of the interception, the fumble is the only turnover-forcing play on defense. Turnovers change possessions and resultantly swing momentum in football games. For years the 'forced fumble' was not a recorded statistic in the NFL although the 'fumble recovery' was. I assume this was due to the difficultly on the official scorer's part in identifying who forced a fumble without the use of high-definition replay and multiple camera angles. Regardless, I feel that the forced fumble is a superior statistic to the fumble recovery since it is the catalyzing, intentional play which could lead to a possession change. The fumble recovery does demonstrate in-game awareness, presence around the ball, and in many cases athleticism, yet the forced fumble is still superior.

To continue my case on forced fumbles, among Brian Dawkins' most impressive statistics is his number of "disruptive plays" (interceptions + forced fumbles) throughout his career. In fact using this definition of 'disruptive', you could clearly make the case that Brian Dawkins has been one of, if not the most, disruptive defensive players in NFL history. For all players who began their careers after 1990, no NFL player has recorded more "disruptive plays" than Dawkins' 66. And if you go back further to 1980, the only players ahead of Dawkins are Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and future Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.

Other accolades (edit, adjusted for full 2008 statistics):
Arrow The only player with 30+ INTs and 30+ FFs in his career.
Arrow 4-time 1st Team All-Pro (AP). Since 1980, Dawkins is one of only 4 NFL players to be voted 1st Team All-Pro as a safety 4 or more times in a career. The other three are Ronnie Lott (5x), LeRoy Butler (4x), and Darren Woodson (4x).
Arrow Shares the Eagles team record for most career interceptions with 34.
Arrow Has 106 career wins, most all-time for any Philadelphia Eagle, including 9 playoff wins.
Arrow Most forced fumbles among NFL defensive backs in history (32 - like sacks, difficult to prove numbers from past players before stat was recorded).
Arrow One of only 9 members of the NFL's 20/20 club - 20 sacks and 20 INTs in a career. Dawkins is one of the 4 defensive backs in the club.
Arrow Ranks 4th in most career sacks by a defensive back with 21.0.
Arrow Holds the Eagles team record for most games played as an Eagle with 183.
Arrow Leads all active defensive players in fumble recoveries with 16 so far in his career.
Arrow He is the only player in league history to record a sack, an INT, FR, and TD reception in a single game (vs. Hou. 9/29/02).



Conclusion:

What makes a Hall of Fame player?

Voters and fans alike have been asking this question since Canton's inaugural year. For some players their inclusion is unquestioned - the all time greats like Reggie White, Jim Brown, and Dan Marino. Yet there are other players that do not have such barrier-defying attention that are great, Hall of Fame players in their own right.

How do you quantify such greatness? I believe the best way to quantify a player's greatness in the ever-changing environment of the National Football League is through an objective comparison with other players in their era as well as a notation of the player's contribution and impact on the game. I believe my quantitative analysis of Brian Dawkins' career has provided ample proof of his uniqueness and singular accomplishments on the field that should merit him induction into the Hall of Fame. And most notably, in my objective analysis I have even dared to omit what possibly could be Brian's most important ticket to Canton - his heart and spirit on the field. As the heart and soul of one of the most consistently dominant defenses of his era, as well as the heart of soul of a legion of fans, Dawkins' impact extended well beyond the field. I sincerely hope that when the time comes, voters will properly respect the career of Brian Dawkins with a bust in Canton for posterity.

Outstanding 2007 interview of Brian Dawkins by Steve Sabol from NFL Films


* I tried my best to be as accurate as possible with all of my statistics, but I am human and god knows I make my mistakes! Pretty much all my information came from the sites listed below, but if I made any errors please let me know!

NFL Per Season League-Wide Interception Totals, 1961-2007


Sources:
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/
http://www.profootballhof.com/
http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com
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Last edited by BatCountry! on Tue Jan 06, 2009 1:17 pm; edited 5 times in total
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babyatemydingo


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He hasn't even retired yet.

You should be lobbying for Harold Carmichael.
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BatCountry!


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

babyatemydingo wrote:
He hasn't even retired yet.

You should be lobbying for Harold Carmichael.


Well, I'm pretty tired after this one. Embarassed Sounds like the next thread you could make! Wink
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McDawkins520


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BatCountry! wrote:
babyatemydingo wrote:
He hasn't even retired yet.

You should be lobbying for Harold Carmichael.


Well, I'm pretty tired after this one. Embarassed Sounds like the next thread you could make! Wink


I would be too, Great read and I hope to God he somehow get's in because he changed the saftey position forever and deserves the HOF honor.
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Shanbhu


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i don't think we need to make a case, he'll get in on his first time up.
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Eagles_808


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Applause Exceptional analysis BC! What organization are you a journalist for?

The "other accolades" alone seem to be enough qualification for the HOF. I like how you mentioned his revolution of the safety position in comparison to LT doing the same for the linebacker position.

My only problem with those HOF voters is that they put such a profound influence on a SB ring as being a major prerequisite for acceptance. And not having at least those 40 picks like each other DB in the HOF may hurt his chances a little, but those other numbers should be enough to get him in....or at least I hope so.
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RBrown86


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Magnificent post BC! Applause

I completely agree with everything. Not only is he a great player he is an exceptional leader.
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Bednarik60


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post, great read.

His revolution of the position IMPO is enough to put him over the top in voting. Being Iggles fan, we have seen Brian do things that are unexplainable and far beyond stats, breath taking goal line stands, uncanny instincts, closing speed that just cant be explained, tackles that the field may never ever ever see again.... He has always played in another universe and these things just aren't that well understood by non-Eagles fans.

The responsibility and requirements of his position in this defense also must be considered, he is basically the "Peyton Manning of our defense".
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marky_b27


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great Post!

Two words sum up #20:

Iconic and Revolutionary
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SeanTayorsaPIMP


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great post BatCountry! and yes, Brian Dawkins is a HOFer
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McDawkins520


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 5:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the HOF committee should take a look at this video and he will be a for sure HOFer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKHU_TjYG2w


.....oops actually this one

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qe5B8W8ZyR4
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kellygreen


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like Brian Dawkins and I liked reading the post but he is not going to the HOF. He has had only a slightly better career the Wes Hopkins. Wes had as many tackles and was just as hard of a hitter in his day. Interceptions are similar too 30 for Wes in 10 years to 34 for Dawkins in 13 years. But I have never heard any one claim that Wes should be in the HOF; he was just a good player not a great player at his time the way Dawkins is now. Some of Dawkins Pro Bowls were as a reserve or because of injury; he was not a top safety for all 7 trips to Hawaii. Harold Carmichael and Randall Cunningham deserve to be in the HOF before Brian Dawkins.
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mm6492


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 6:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kellygreen wrote:
I like Brian Dawkins and I liked reading the post but he is not going to the HOF. He has had only a slightly better career the Wes Hopkins. Wes had as many tackles and was just as hard of a hitter in his day. Interceptions are similar too 30 for Wes in 10 years to 34 for Dawkins in 13 years. But I have never heard any one claim that Wes should be in the HOF; he was just a good player not a great player at his time the way Dawkins is now. Some of Dawkins Pro Bowls were as a reserve or because of injury; he was not a top safety for all 7 trips to Hawaii. Harold Carmichael and Randall Cunningham deserve to be in the HOF before Brian Dawkins.


For a 5-6 year period dawkins was not just one of the best safteies, not just one of the best defensive players but he was a gamne changer.

HOF in my books
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E-A-G-L-E-S


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

great read!

dawkins should get in, obviously not having a ring will hurt but i think the intangibiles and transformation you cite will help. for years hes been at the top of the list of safeties with Ed Reed, few if any others have had the consistency and longevity at the position. another factor will be when he retires and who else retires with him. so often after the first couple ballots guys get forgotten about, and greats of the past get looked over as current guys get in. as you mentioned the game has changed and that often effects who gets in, particularly at positions like wr and qb where stats are way up in recent decades. if dawkins retires this year or next he might have to comepete with guys like farve, ogden, orlando pace, kurt warner, issac bruce, strahan, among others. great players retire every year but if there is a run dawkins might get left out and forgotten. the eagles and the fans really must lobby dawkins day comes.

lets go get him a ring though and let him out on top hes a class act and deserves it
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Bleed Green 93


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 18, 2008 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great read...Dawkins is my favorite Eagle by far...he deserves it. I'm young, but through my years watching the league, Dawkins has been the best safety, and the most intense football player I've ever seen. It'd be a joke for him to not get in, but I fear that he won't as it's hard for a DB to get in. When he does though, I'm driving down to Canton to watch him get inducted.
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