A year ago, the 15 finalists chosen to be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 included three former Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This year, there are just two prominent Buccaneers on the list…and that's actually good news.
One of those three 2014 Hall finalists now has a bronze bust of his own, as Derrick Brooks was enshrined last August. For the other two – former Head Coach Tony Dungy and former safety John Lynch – the extremely good news is that they are right back on the doorstep of the Hall of Fame in 2015. Dungy and Lynch learned that they would be finalists for a second straight year during an NFL Network special on Thursday evening. The live NFLN program, entitled "Gold Jacket Finalists," marked the first time the Hall had announced its final 15 on national television.
Check out photos of Hall of Fame finalist and former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Safety John Lynch.
The Buccaneers hope they will be represented among the incoming Hall of Famers for the third straight year in 2015. Brooks' enshrinement as part of the Class of 2014 came just 12 months after Warren Sapp had donned his gold jacket along with the Class of 2013. After seeing just one player who spent all or most of his NFL career in Tampa gain enshrinement during the franchise's first 37 years – defensive end Lee Roy Selmon went in with the Class of 1995 – the Buccaneers are seeing their representation grow as a reflection of the era of success that began in the mid-90s.
Indeed, Sapp, Brooks, Dungy and Lynch were all key figures in the Buccaneers' rise to prominence and in the formation of one of the most memorable defenses in NFL history. Current Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith, who was the team's linebackers coach from 1996-2000, obviously worked closely with Dungy and Lynch and was thrilled that both would once again be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame.
"Last year, it was an honor to be on hand to see Derrick Brooks and Aeneas Williams enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it would be truly special to make a second consecutive trip to Canton this year to celebrate Tony and John getting in. Tony has played a large role not only in my career, but in my life, as one of my early mentors and I can't think of a more deserving candidate for this ultimate career achievement.
John was one of the cornerstones to all the success that we enjoyed here in Tampa, and his work ethic and passion for the game are things that made him one of the truly elite players to ever play the safety position. I wish them both the best of luck getting in this time around."
The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will meet in Glendale, Arizona – site of Super Bowl XLIX – on Saturday, January 31 to cast the final vote for the Class of 2015. 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 2015 will be revealed that evening on the "Fourth Annual NFL Honors Show."
The 15 modern-era finalists were chosen from a list of 26 semifinalists, which was announced in late November and was in itself a reduction from the original list of 113 people being considered for the Class of 2015. Last year, Brooks gained enshrinement in his first year of eligibility; Dungy is now in his second year on the ballot while Lynch has been eligible for three years and is now a second-time finalist.
Check out photos of Hall of Fame finalist and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy.
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. He 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 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 Hall of Fame Selection Committee will be choosing from the following list of 15 modern-era finalists:
- Morten Anderson, kicker
- Jerome Bettis, running back
- Tim Brown, wide receiver
- Don Coryell, head coach
- Terrell Davis, running back
- Tony Dungy, head coach
- Kevin Greene, defensive end/linebacker
- Charles Haley, defensive end/linebacker
- Marvin Harrison, wide receiver
- Jimmy Johnson, coach
- John Lynch, safety
- *Orlando Pace, offensive tackle
- *Junior Seau
- Will Shields, guard
- *Kurt Warner, quarterback
- First-year eligibles