At the end of the 1990s, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee chose 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense for the All-Decade team. Of those 22 players, 19 are now in the Hall of Fame and two have been Hall of Fame finalists.
And then there’s LeRoy Butler.
Butler, the former Packers safety, has never even made the list of 15 finalists. He finds that hard to understand, given his 38 interceptions, 20.5 sacks, four All-Pro selections and status as one of the most important players on a Super Bowl-winning team.
“If they go by numbers, then I think it’s a slam-dunk I’ll be in,” Butler told the Packers’ website. “If they go by the guy who really started this safety blitzing and covering, and stuff like that, I know it will take care of itself and I’ll eventually get in. I just don’t know what they go by.”
Unfortunately for Butler, he looks like a long shot at the moment. He’s been eligible for 10 years and hasn’t even made the final 15 yet, and there are two other safeties — Brian Dawkins and John Lynch — who have been finalists and appear to be ahead of him in the mind of the members of the Selection Committee. And it’s only going to get harder for safeties to get in when Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed become Hall of Fame eligible.
“I guess I was more frustrated when I was first eligible because I was like they’re not going to put in a safety first ballot so next year should be my year,” Butler said. “When it didn’t happen, I said, ‘OK, this is one of those things that are drawn out. It may take some time so I just have to have peace with it.’”
That leaves Butler hoping that he’ll make it as a veteran candidate some day, as former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley did this year.
“I thought that was big,” said Butler of Easley. “I was glad to see a safety get in.”
Packers fans will be glad to see Butler get in, even though they’re probably going to have to wait a long time.