- Former Bucs Derrick Brooks, Tony Dungy and John Lynch are three of the 15 modern-era finalists for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014
- Between two and five of those 15 will be selected for enshrinement on February 1
- Brooks and Dungy are two of the four first-year-eligible candidates in the final 15
The 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 were revealed on Thursday night, and they include three former Buccaneers: linebacker Derrick Brooks (1995-2008), Head Coach Tony Dungy (1996-2001) and safety John Lynch (1993-2003). If Brooks, Dungy and Lynch are eventually chosen for induction in 2014, they could more than double the number of figures in the Hall of Fame with significant ties to the Buccaneers.
The Hall of Fame, located in Canton, Ohio, could be opening its doors for one or more former Buccaneers for the second year in a row. This past August, defensive tackle Warren Sapp was enshrined as part of the Class of 2013, joining 1995 inductee Lee Roy Selmon as the two Hall-of-Famers who spent the majority of their careers in Tampa. The finalists for the Class of 2014 were revealed on an NFL Network special Thursday night called The Pro Football Hall of Fame: The Final 15. Dungy and Sapp were two of the four first-year-eligible selections among that final 15, along with wide receiver Marvin Harrison and tackle Walter Jones. Lynch made the cut to the finalist group in his second year of eligibility.
Brooks, Dungy, Lynch and Sapp were all key figures in the Buccaneers' rise to prominence in the mid-1990s, and in the formation of one of the most memorable defenses in NFL history. Lovie Smith, the Buccaneers' new head coach and the team's linebackers coach from 1996-2000, worked closely with all three and was delighted by Thursday's news.
"Tony, Derrick and John have meant so much to me both personally and professionally, and I am thrilled to see them move one step closer to induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Smith said. "They embraced the exceptional level of hard work and dedication that it took to achieve success on the field, while displaying the highest character and moral values off of it. Tony, Derrick and John stand for everything that the league strives for with its players and coaches, and it comes as no surprise that they've made it to the list of 15 nominees. It would be truly special to see all three inducted on their first try."
The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet in New York on Saturday, February 1 to cast the final vote for the Class of 2014. They will select at least two but no more than five enshrinees from that list of 15 modern-era finalists, and will also consider two "senior" candidates to potentially increase the class to seven members. The Class of 2014 will be revealed that evening on the "Third Annual NFL Honors Show."
The 15 modern-era finalists were chosen from a list of 25 semifinalists, which was announced in late November and was in itself a reduction from the original list of 126 people being considered for the Class of 2014. Having made the most recent cut, Brooks, Dungy and Lynch are sure to receive serious consideration from the Selection Committee for first-year election to the Hall.
A first-round draft pick in 1995 – the same round that brought Sapp to Tampa – Brooks played every game during his 14-year career and started 221 of 224. He was voted to 11 Pro Bowls, earned six first-team All-Pro selections and was a member of the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s. Brooks was the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2002, when he led the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl championship. Brooks is one of six players in NFL history who have won a Super Bowl, captured an NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and been selected to seven consecutive Pro Bowls, and the other six are already in the Hall of Fame: Sapp, Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White.
Dungy was the Buccaneers' head coach from 1996-2001 and he led the Buccaneers to their first playoff appearance in 15 years in 1997. Dungy's Buccaneers made it to the postseason four of his six seasons at the helm – also in 1999, 2000 and 2001 – and advanced to the NFC Championship Game in '99. Dungy compiled a 54-42 record as the Buccaneers' head coach and then spent the next seven seasons as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, leading the Colts to the Super Bowl title in 2006. In all, Dungy compiled a 139-69 record over 13 seasons and is also remembered as the first African-American head coach to lead a team to a Super Bowl championship. He, too, was a member of the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s.
Lynch was drafted by the Buccaneers in the third round in 1993 and he went on to play 15 NFL seasons, 11 of them in Tampa. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls, including four during his final four seasons with the Denver Broncos, and is best known as one of the most feared hitters in the history of the NFL. In addition to 24 interceptions and 13 sacks, Lynch logged nine seasons of at least 90 tackles. He was a three-time first-team All-Pro selection and a starter on the Buccaneers' 2002 Super Bowl championship team.
The 46-member Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be choosing from the following list of 15 modern-era finalists:
- K Morten Andersen
- RB Jerome Bettis
- LB Derrick Brooks *
- WR Tim Brown
- Owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr.
- Head Coach Tony Dungy *
- LB Kevin Greene
- DE Charles Haley
- WR Marvin Harrison *
- T Walter Jones *
- S John Lynch
- WR Andre Reed
- G Will Shields
- DE Michael Strahan
- CB/S Aeneas Williams
- First-year eligibles