The System Broke Down

January 3rd, 2018


System corner.

That’s the belittling phrase I heard from several members of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee regarding Ronde Barber when his name came up during the NFL owners meeting last March.

That was a warning shot, advance notice that a key member of an iconic defense was going to have problems making it to the finalist stage in his first year of eligibility.

So what happened on Tuesday? Barber found himself on the outs when the final 15 was revealed.


There are 25 defensive backs with busts in Canton — not one has the resumé of Ronde Barber. None.

That doesn’t mean No. 20 was a better cornerback than Deion Sanders or Darrell Green, but it does mean he was different, more versatile.

“Ronde was a complete player at the position,” Rich Gannon told me this season before a Bucs game at Raymond James Stadium. “He was great in run support, he was a great blitzer and he was really smart. He understood that scheme so well and he cheated within that scheme.”

In the eyes of some, Barber’s accomplishments were diminished because he played in a Cover 2 system. That’s just silly. Do we take points away from Joe Montana because he excelled in Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense?

Of course not.

Special “Involvement”

Barber’s durability was historic for the position. I used to call him the smartest player in the league, regardless of position, because he was a master at breaking down tendencies.

He would goad quarterbacks into mistakes and the best example came when he turned in the biggest play in franchise history, picking off Donovan McNabb and going the distance to clinch the NFC title game.

McNabb thought Barber was blitzing, but he dropped into coverage instead. Barber outsmarted a quarterback who excelled at minimizing mistakes.

Barber will have many more years to make it into the discussion room, and so will Simeon Rice, who made strides by advancing to the semifinalist stage for the first time.

My only presentation in Minneapolis will be the case for John Lynch, who returns to the room for the fifth consecutive year. It could come down to a scrap between Lynch and Brian Dawkins, two impact safeties known for their physicality.

Mike Tomlin, who dealt with Lynch and Barber as Tampa Bay’s secondary coach, says both are worthy of a place in Canton.

“It was an honor and a privilege to work with those two men,” Tomlin told me. “Those guys really provided a springboard for my career. They made plays. They were football players, team players. They impacted the game in a lot of ways — maybe in some ways that stats don’t reveal.

“I know that’s the case with John. You’re talking about an enforcer, a tone-setter at the safety position. Ronde did things other cornerbacks didn’t. He was a 100-tackle guy and his involvement in the running game was special. So was his involvement in the blitz game. He was at the forefront of defining what we know now as the nickel position.”

Lynch Timing

Add it all up and it’s baffling why Barber has to wait at least another year for his case to be heard.

Lynch has a chance, a good chance, to be fitted for a gold jacket.

The time is right because Ed Reed will be eligible for the Class of 2019 and he has the look of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Dawkins was a heck of a player, but Lynch was a cornerstone of an iconic defense that shut teams down over a long period of time.

System corner, my butt. In my book, the system just broke down.

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also see Ira every football Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on FOX-13, Scott Smith’s Tailgate Sunday.

27 Responses to “The System Broke Down”

  1. unbelievable Says:

    Could not agree with your more Ira.

    Ronde took the cornerback position to a new level. Everyone plays in a system, so who the fck cares about that? Absolute travesty.

  2. DB55 Says:

    Lmao you guys are funny and you think fluffy mcfluffy pants is getting into the Hall, BAHHHHHAHAHAAAHAHHAAA

    If Simone can’t get in, Ronde nor Lynch (before he became gm now not fair cuz reporters are just kissing his ass) no way lynch belongs in the hall before Steve Atwater none zero zilch.

    If the guys who brought the second most pitiful team in the league a Lombardi trophy can’t get in what in the world makes you think cancer93 will get in? Is there a cheerleading wing opening in canton or something? Maybe a frozen yogurt and ice cream consession near the busts?

  3. LargoBuc Says:

    Looks like the New York/Philly/Dallas/Chicago talking geads get their way. Again.

  4. unbelievable Says:

    DB, you’re starting to close in on tmax levels of obsession…

    Where was GMC brought up anywhere in this article or comments?

  5. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    A big loud mouth coward afraid to tackle gets in because he made so many interceptions in”americas team” but an iconic corner who did it all not just cover 2 but man and was smarter than many of the qbs he faced, an all around great guy and sportsman who affected opposing teams so much and the league copied the Tampa 2 for so long can’t??? They all should be lined up naked and Ronde allowed to throw soaking wet footballs at them in the freezing snow. Pitiful!

  6. Rod Munch Says:

    I said it before but my argument is Barber is the best player ever at his position in his system – and that system was the most important system of his day. How is that a bad thing? In addition to being the best Tampa 2 corner ever, he also is the best blitzing corner of this era and one of, if not the best, tackling corner as well. He also made tons of big plays, really meaningful big plays at the biggest moments. He’s a HOFer and those that say otherwise are pieces of trash that should be force fed ebola.

  7. DB55 Says:

    Two words: Steve Smith

    Steve still owns Ronde sometimes Ronde comes home and Steve is in his kitchen doing ronde girl bc well he can and ronde just can’t stop him no matter how hard he tries. You see Steve on national tv while ronde still calling games for the last place succanneers. Lol you guys are funny.

  8. Nate Says:

    ira, my friend like young vito corleone (hope I spelled it right) now older sticking up for the old bulls some of the aging patriarch (haters) just don’t want TOO MANY bucs legacies in the hall

    it will diminish the argument that the bucs were never a top defense ….despite their 10 year consistency

  9. Rod Munch Says:

    LOL DB… all you do is complain about McCoy not making big plays, yet the player who made the biggest play in franchise history – at the biggest moment, you hate him. Wow, what an inconsistent dolt you are – along with being a horrible evaluator of talent. The Winston haters really have an ally in you in that they can point to you loving Winston as proof that he’s terrible since you’re never right about anything.

  10. Rod Munch Says:

    Nate – Anywho who doesn’t say the Bucs had one of, if not the best defense in NFL history is truly a dumb slob. The Bucs absolutely had THE #1 best passing defense in the history of the league in 2002. Also the Bucs were the best defense in 2002 by a huge margin in a year that offense was way up. Unlike the 2000 Ravens for example that played a bunch of teams with no offenses and got to beat up on an expansion Browns team, the 2002 Bucs played a schedule where they faced offenses that put up a ton of points on everyone but the Bucs. Football Outsiders did a rundown of stats where you evaluate based on who you play and the Bucs have the 3rd best defense of all time, and the other two, the 91 Eagles and the 69 Vikings – they didn’t win a SB. The Bucs only “weakness” was merely having a very good rush defense instead of an exceptional one, but again the pass defense is the best on record.

  11. Chris Says:

    Turn this team around, win some games be relevant .media backlash at our being pushed up after Hard Knocks. We’ll be lucky to get anyone in for awhile.

  12. Chris Says:

    DB again proving what a troll he has become. I remember when he actually had good things to post. Now he’s just Tmaxs twin. Ronde Barber was on of the more cerebral players in the league. He could beat you in many ways and had the most iconic play in Buc history.

  13. tmaxcon Says:

    The only thing less credible and more laughable than the has beens on the hall of fame selection committee is the united states congress and buy here pay here car salesman. HOF has zero credibility

  14. DB55 Says:


    Is Ronde a finalist? Then I guess I’m wrong right along with 48 others dolts but plz educate me about the greatness of your Tamponbay Buccaneers.

    I’d suggest that maybe you’re the one that doesn’t know what he’s talking about but that’s not even a possibility is it Rod Munch?

  15. tmaxcon Says:

    5 play off wins does not deserve more than one player from the team enshrined. Sapp was the key the rest were role players including the storms failed president…

  16. tmaxcon Says:


    The bucs had great defense on a horribly coached one dimensional team that underachieved.

  17. darin Says:

    You must be young, or didnt watch atwater and lynch play ALL their games. Lynch belongs in. If it wasnt for the safety bias he would already be in. Id personally put atwater in but he hasnt gotten the call and wont before lynch. I think lynch definitely deserves in over ronde. Ronde to an extent was a system corner because of the other pieces the defense had. Without sapp, brooks and lynch he wouldnt have had the freedom to do what he did. I think he gets in but itll be a while. Now db get a hobby or something. Go back n watch games of lynch and atwater instead of blabbing about mccoy after an article about ronde and lynch in the hof. You lose all credibility when you spew stuff thats not close to the truth.

  18. tmaxcon Says:

    Atwater belongs in way before lynch. Neither lynch nor barber won enough games to be in hall… they can blame the one dimensional ignorant fool dungy and his career losing playoff record…

  19. lightningbuc Says:

    Though no one could pick them out of a lineup, these HOF voters sure think very highly of themselves.

  20. DavidBigBucsFan99 Says:

    Tmax, sapp did not run that whole defense. As much as you despise Dungy, he and Kiffin built that defense into the greatness it became. Sure Wyche drafted them but Dungy, Kiffin and Marinelli developed them into the nfl players they became. Sure Dungy was ultra conservative on offense but very good with the defense. When he went to Indy and finally changed that defense a few years later He won a Superbowl with Peyton Manning. Why is it that it took Dungy before Manning won? Why do you think Mike Tomlin went on to be a great coach in Pittsburgh? Tony Dungy taught him well. Plus he already had it in him. This thing you have against Derrick Brooks and now Ronde is really crazy. Sapp is not the only one who played on that defense and he always gives props to Brooks. Ronde was a great player at that. He made so many plays, some of the greatest in Bucs history and was an iron man even playing with a broken arm. If A gutless flash dance clown scared to tackle can get in then Ronde deserves to be in it.

  21. tmaxcon Says:


    tomlin is not a dungy guy…. you can not make things up… he coaches nothing like the scared conservative clown dungy and his failed coaching shrub… there is NOT a single similarity in style or philosophy between tomlin and dungy… again the legend of dungy far exceeds his actual accomplishments because people like you make crap up to justify a one dimensional playoff failure… especially when it comes to Tomlin. he was a qc nothing more for 1 year with dungy…

    it’s a team sport and it was a horrible team with a great defense….

    Not a single coach for dungy’s coaching shrub succeeded. Edwards failed twice, lovie failed twice, Caldwell failed, marinelli failed with a glorious 0-16… Manning carried the ignorant dungy on his back…. dungy the clown and his scared conservative style cost the bucs and indy multiple super bowls. he wasted 99, 55, 47 and many other great players with his ignorance of offense and his piss poor game day management style…. those are undisputed facts…

    hiring dungy was a huge mistake and wasted whyce’s hall of famers and set this franchise back decades

    and yes Sapp was the main driving force behind that dfense… They never WON another playoff game without. brooks was a good player who hung on 2 years too long…

    dungy’s 2 playoff wins in 6 years with that defense is failure any way you look at it. he is nothing more than a mediocre to below average coach with a career losing playoff record who just happens to get a free pass based on some bs popularity.

  22. DB55 Says:


    Young and beautiful.

    Just check out Atwater’s accomplishments 2x SB champ, 8x pro bowl, 2x all pro and the most menacing and vicious hitter next to Ronnie Lott. That’s indisputable!

    Hell if Rodger Craig can’t get in then no other buc should have a chance.

    What is not true that mcrainbow sprinkles isn’t a hof’er? Bahaha you’re right I’m wrong I’ll meet you at canton when he gets in. Lmao!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The only way Lynch gets in before Atwater is bc he’s a gm now.

  23. loggedontosay Says:

    Ronde’s #’s say yes. Maybe it is karma. He said the fumble exchange was Jameis’ fault because Jameis pulled out early. You could clearly see Jameis’ hands grabbing for a ball that did not reach its destination. The rest of you better beware.

  24. Joel Says:

    Stupid. And Joe Montana is a “system” QB.

  25. DB55 Says:

    Is Montana a system q.b? Didn’t he finish his career in KC with Marty Schottenheimer who’s known for Marty ball which was basically run run pass punt.

    Walsh used short passes to compliment the run and Marty did the opposite, am I wrong?

    Plus Montana took KC to the playoffs both years. Not sure that’s what I would call a system qb bwtfdik

  26. grafikdetail Says:

    Simeon Rice > John Lynch

  27. Dell Says:

    Ronde is not a great corner, good wrs had they’re way with him