Why Brian Dawkins deserves a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The longtime Eagles player isn’t a lock, but he should be. And Terrell Owens should get in too.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles Mini Camp

I bought my father-in-law a kelly green shirt with a giant 20 on it from Shibe Sports for the holidays. When he opened it, my first words were, “It’s for Brian Dawkins. He’s getting into the Hall of Fame this year.”

I believe it with every fiber of my being. Brian Dawkins is getting into the Hall of Fame this year.

There hasn’t been a more deserving former Eagle up for Hall of Fame consideration since Reggie White. The fact that Dawkins was left off the list last year, his first year of eligibility, but that Jason Taylor — also in his first year on the ballot — and a kicker made it was ridiculous.

The same can be said for onetime Eagles player Terrell Owens, who was also kept out of the Hall last year.

The list of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced late Tuesday. Both Dawkins and Owens are back on the list again, alongside a cavalcade of contemporaries that includes Isaac Bruce, Edgerrin James, Ty Law, John Lynch, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Randy Moss.

Trust the Process?

NFL: New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles

How was Dawkins not selected last year? It’s silly really. The Hall of Fame voters — one media member representing each team and 15 at-large voters — sit in a room the day before the Super Bowl and talk about each of the 18 finalists (15 modern-era and three from the seniors and contributors committees). The modern-era candidates are narrowed from 15 to 10, then that list is narrowed from 10 to five. After that, each of the remaining five get voted on by the committee. To get into the Hall, candidates must receive at least 80 percent of the vote.

In any given year, no less than five and no more than eight (including the senior and contributor nominations) will get in.

Last year, those selected from the modern-era finalists were Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Morten Andersen, Jason Taylor and LaDanian Tomlinson. Both Tomlinson and Taylor were first-ballot selections.

This year, the first-time eligible finalists include Steve Hutchinson, Lewis, Moss and Urlacher. If all four of them get in on the first ballot, that would leave just one spot for 11 other deserving candidates. Lewis and Moss should be total locks on the first ballot, but given past voting, it’s likely that Hutchinson and Urlacher will have to get in line behind other candidates. Like Dawkins.

The case for BDawk

NFL Football: NFC Championship-Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
  • Position: Safety
  • Height: 6-0
  • Weight: 210
  • College: Clemson
  • High School: William M. Raines (FL)
  • Drafted: 2nd round (61st overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft
  • Seasons in NFL: 13
  • Seasons with Eagles: 10

Dawkins hopes to become the 21st member of the Hall of Fame to have played for the Philadelphia Eagles. He played for the Eagles from 1996 to 2008 and is sixth all-time in tackles (and first in assisted tackles) in team history. In addition to his 707 stops and 191 assists, Dawkins had 21 sacks with the Eagles, 34 interceptions — including two for scores — forced 32 fumbles and recovered 16, including one for a score. He is tied for the franchise record in interceptions, and holds the record for forced fumbles by more than 10.

As great as Dawkins was on the field, his impact within the franchise continues to this day. The Eagles brought Dawkins in an official capacity last season, hiring him as a Football Operations Executive. Dawkins was the leader of the Eagles defense in the Andy Reid era, and is in an elite category of most beloved Philly athletes in any sport.

By around 1999, Dawkins had become the face of the Eagles defense, playing 183 games over his 13 seasons with the team. He retired after the 2011 season, after three years with the Denver Broncos, but he will always be known as an Eagles star and a beloved figure in Philadelphia sports history.

Taken with the last pick of the second round in the ’96 NFL draft (pick 61), Dawkins was selected with the Eagles’ third pick that year, behind first rounder Jermane Mayberry and tight end Jason Dunn, who the team took 54th overall.

Dawkins was undoubtedly productive on the field for the Eagles, but it was the style by which he played — heart on his sleeve, flying through the air — that endeared him to Philadelphia fans. He embodied everything it was to be an Eagle in the Reid era, leading the defense by example on and off the field.

Dawkins HOF: By the Numbers

USA Today Sports/Billy Penn

If Dawkins gets voted in, he will join an elite class that will add to the 266 players, 23 coaches and 23 contributors already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Seventeen of those members were in the charter class and just 76 were elected on the first ballot after that.

This is where it gets hard for Dawkins. Of the 266 players in Canton, just 24 are defensive backs — less than 10 percent of those enshrined — and just seven are listed as safeties, with 11 having played primarily safety in addition to cornerback.

Of those players listed at safety, just four were first-ballot inductees. How Dawkins didn’t join that list of first-ballot safeties is a mystery, and looking deeper, there is some concern that the number of defensive backs on this list of finalists could keep him out for another year as well.

In the early rounds of voting, Dawkins will be pitted directly against John Lynch, who played safety for Tampa Bay and Denver in his career. This is Lynch’s fifth year on the ballot and he still hasn’t gotten in, so chances are some voters in the room might think Dawkins shouldn’t be able to jump Lynch in line.

Then there’s Ty Law, who like Dawkins was a finalist for the first time last year, as well as Everson Walls, who is finally a finalist this year after 20 years on the ballot.

It’s hard to see Dawkins not making the Hall this year, but with a process this flawed, it’s less about who deserves to get in and more about who on the list is the most deserving first. It’s very dumb. I’m already getting mad at Dawkins getting snubbed again. So let’s move on to a guy who could take his spot.

The case for T.O.

NFL 2005: Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Height: 6-3
  • Weight: 226
  • College: Tennessee-Chattanooga
  • High School: Benjamin Russell (AL)
  • Drafted: 3rd round (89th overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft
  • Seasons in NFL: 15
  • Seasons with Eagles: 2

Owens was a mercurial player during his decade and a half in the NFL, but there’s no denying his productivity. He ranks second all-time in NFL history in receiving yards with 15,934 and is eighth all-time in catches, one of just 14 receivers in history with 1,000 or more receptions.

Owens wasn’t just a stat compiler, as he could light up the scoreboard unlike almost any other receiver in history. Owens is one of only three players with more than 150 touchdown catches, as his 153 stand behind only Moss (156) and Jerry Rice (197).

Owens played most of his career in a far more balanced offensive league than the pass-happy NFL we see today and is still 17th all-time in receiving yards per game, with nine of the 16 players ahead of him still active.

Owens started his career in San Francisco and played eight years with the 49ers where he took over for Rice as the team’s top receiver. But a messy divorce with the franchise (he seemed to have a lot of those in his career) led him to Philadelphia, where he played for two seasons under Andy Reid. If you can call it two years.

Owens played in 14 games his first season before suffering a leg injury that nearly kept him out of the entire 2004 Super Bowl run. Owens caught nine balls for 122 yards and almost willing the Eagles to the championship by himself on a broken leg.

Sadly, the Eagles lost, and his relationship with quarterback Donovan McNabb, Reid and the front office soured, leading to one of the most incredible scenes in the history of the NFL.

The dude should be in the Hall of Fame just for that moment alone.

Well, that moment and the popcorn moment and the Sharpie marker in his sock moment and the pom poms moment and all the other moments in which Owens made “No Fun League” unpredictably fun.

T.O. played 231 regular season and playoff games in his career and just 22 of them were with the Eagles, but he left a mark in Philly that will never be forgotten. And then he left for the hated Cowboys.

T.O. HOF: By the Numbers

NFL 2005: Philadelphia Eagles at Denver Broncos

Just 25 members of the Hall of Fame are modern era wide receivers, and until last year one receiver had been inducted each of the previous four years.

There is no rule that two receivers can’t make the Hall of Fame in the same year. It’s just never happened. And this year, there are three receivers on the ballot.

Owens has just a good a case as Moss, in that they are both certain Hall of Famers, but T.O.’s relationship with the media during his career might have him waiting another year if the voters don’t use up two spots on receivers for the first time.

So who gets in?

Like Lynch and Dawkins, Moss and Owens could face off against each other in the early rounds of voting. All due respect to Isaac Bruce, but he’s just not in the same category as the other two. But then there’s this by Elliot Harrison of NFL.com:

There is a bloc of voters who, at least for the time being, are a hard “no” on T.O., which could precipitate pushback on Moss. Put another way: If Owens and Moss were even in scope — Owens is second in career receiving yards, Moss is fourth — and the former can’t get inducted in three tries, why should Moss make it on his first?

This is insane. There are people who cover the NFL for a living and have ascended to the esteemed group of Hall of Fame voters who watched T.O.’s career and “are a hard ‘no’” on him getting into the Hall of Fame. Let’s move forward with the understanding that if that’s the case the whole process is a joke. And yet, five guys are getting in.

Lewis is a lock. Dawkins should be. Urlacher could be. Moss and T.O. might be. That’s a heckuva list.

But my guess is that with 44 offensive linemen in the Hall already and some very solid candidates this year, that Alan Faneca gets in over Urlacher. But if a kicker got in last year over T.O., who’s to say the committee won’t put Lynch in — a good guy everyone liked — over both Moss and Owens?




Brian Dawkins, Terrell Owens