On January 31, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee selected five modern-era players for enshrinement in 2015. Simeon Rice was not among them. Rice deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the game's all-time greats. Not eventually, but *now.
Rice was not one of the 15 finalists for enshrinement that were identified earlier this month. In fact, Rice wasn't among the 25 *semifinalists named in November and not even on the list of the 125 initial candidates released in September! That's inexplicable.*
There *was a defensive end added to that original list for the first time this year in Jevon Kearse, who trails Rice by nearly 50 career sacks. Kearse was a fine player with a very brief peak of dominance and a great nickname, but he was no Simeon Rice. That he made the list of nominees and Rice did not is ridiculous.
Forget Kearse. Lets compare the following two unnamed players:
* Double-digit sack seasons
% Sacks per game
^ Super Bowl championships
Player A is Michael Strahan, who got his bronze bust last summer. Strahan *is a deserving Hall-of-Famer, and there were some who were surprised that he had to wait an extra year to get in. But if Strahan has a home in Canton, why not Rice? Meanwhile, as compared to Strahan, Player B - Simeon Rice, of course - caused more fumbles, intercepted more passes, broke up more passes, had more sacks on a per-game basis, had more seasons in which he surpassed 10 sacks and won the same number of Super Bowls.
As for the comparative career sack totals for Rice and Strahan, Rice typically faced tougher matchups at the line of scrimmage. That is reflected best in the Pro Bowl rosters from Strahan and Rice's respective playing days; the all-star dominance of left tackles demonstrates where the most talented players generally lined up.
Meanwhile, Rice's best sack season as a Buccaneer – 15.5 in 2002 – were instrumental to getting his team to the playoffs and eventually the Super Bowl champions' platform. Rice also had four sacks during the three playoff games that season and a total of seven sacks in seven career playoff games, which compares favorably to Strahan's 9.5 sacks in 10 postseason contests. Strahan also won a Super Bowl with the Giants, but it was in his final season of 2007, in which he had nine sacks in 16 games during the regular season. In Rice's last 16-game season with the Buccaneers, 2005, he had 14.0 sacks and helped the Buccaneers win their division.
Rice's 2002 season equals the best campaign, in terms of AV, put up by Hall of Fame great Bruce Smith and has not been topped in the official sack era.
The 1999 season was the beginning of a seven-year stretch in which Rice was simply the best pass-rusher in the entire NFL. From 1999-2005, Rice led the NFL in sacks, and by a good margin, with Strahan in second place. Seven years is an incredible time to remain among the NFL's elite in any category.
The sum of those many years of dominance make him the current best choice at his position to receive Hall of Fame recognition. There were eight players primarily considered defensive ends who were among the original nominees for this year's class. Here are those eight and Rice in a side-by-side comparison:
Since the turn of the decade, the Hall has taken in four defensive ends, including one chosen by the Senior Committee. There would be no drop off if the Hall followed Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Claude Humphrey and Michael Strahan with Simeon Rice. Rice has a much better sacks-per-season rate than any of those four and in fact has the fourth-best mark in that category for any defensive end who played in the post-1982 era and is no longer active, following only Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Leslie O'Neal.
Here's a look at the 120-sack club:
Simeon Rice checks all the boxes for enshrinement. Taken as a whole, his career produced the type of numbers that have led to nearly every player at his position getting a bronze bust. He also was the best player in the NFL at his job for a sustained period, and his absolute peak years coincided with great success for his team as a whole. It is mystifying that he has received virtually no support for his candidacy in the three years he has been eligible.
Simeon Rice should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.