Zach Thomas, Hall-of-Famer?

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Zach Thomas, Hall-of-Famer?
IconI don't have any ingrained biases against any members of the media—not even CBS SportsLine's Pete Prisco.
Everyone is entitled to his opinions, after all...provided those opinions are arrived at through a sound process of logical thought.
Unfortunately, this is the second time I've had to take a stand against Prisco for failing the test. 
Previously, I argued against Prisco's assertion that Joey Porter is the most overrated player in the NFL. Now, I'm taking exception to Prisco's article "In or out? Will these stars of today be HOF-bound tomorrow?"

Prisco's latest piece evaluates the Hall of Fame prospects of today's top players. For the most part, Prisco does a very respectable job weeding out the good from the great. As a Dolphins fan, for example, I'm in total agreement that Jason Taylor is "On the Bubble"—mostly because he needs to put together a few more productive seasons to cement his legacy.
But I'm not here to dispute Prisco's ranking of Taylor. It's his assessment of Zach Thomas that really gets me.
According to Prisco, Thomas is in the "No Way" group. His reasoning: "He was a good player but overrated at times."
Excuse me? There's not a chance that Thomas has been overrated at any point in his career. If anything, he's been vastly underrated.
I think a very valid comparison can be drawn between Thomas and the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan. Both have been dominant performers for nearly a decade, but both fly under the radar because of their low-key personas and the national media's ignorance of their year-in, year-out greatness.
A recent article in Sports Illustrated had this to say about Duncan:
"The 'problem' has been his steadfast consistency. If you keep banging out great seasons with none standing out more than any other, who's going to notice?"
That's Thomas' situation in a nutshell. No one notices his incredible performances because a 150-tackle season is the "boring" norm...and because Thomas isn't one to draw attention to himself.
It's the old Zen conundrum: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise? Well, if Zach Thomas puts up over 1500 tackles in 11 seasons and few people take notice, is his greatness somehow diminished?
Absolutely and unequivocally not.
It's an interesting exercise to compare Thomas to the last middle linebacker enshrined in Canton—Mike Singletary. In 12 seasons, Singletary made 10 Pro Bowls and amassed 1488 tackles (885 solo), 51 passes defensed, and seven interceptions. Thomas, meanwhile, has recorded 1586 tackles (1195 solo), 63 passes defensed, and 17 interceptions while making seven Pro Bowls in 11 seasons.
Judging by those statistics, and much of the Hall of Fame voting is based on statistical production, Thomas has played at a Hall of Fame level.
It's also interesting to compare Thomas to two current stars whom a majority of fans would consider to be better players—Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher.
Both Lewis and Thomas came into the league in 1996. According to Prisco, Lewis is in the "Welcome to Canton" category...and yet Thomas trumps Lewis in all the important MLB statistical categories: tackles (1586 to 1398), solo tackles (1195 to 1117), and forced fumbles (16 to 8).
Additionally, Thomas has proven to be the much more durable of the pair, missing only 13 games due to injury compared to Lewis' 27.
The primary difference between the two, of course, is that Lewis' love of the spotlight has made him a household name. Lewis has also won a Super Bowl, but the Hall of Fame is about individual achievements, and rings shouldn't be a decisive factor in voters' decisions.
And then there's Urlacher. Though Thomas has played more seasons, we can draw some important conclusions by comparing each player's average yearly output. Again, Thomas comes out on top in all the important categories: tackles (144 to 120), solo tackles (109 to 92), and forced fumbles (1.45 to 1.14).

Prisco has labeled Urlacher as "Needs More Work." But even if Urlacher maintains his current rate of production, he won't approach the level of Thomas.
And somehow, some way, Thomas is the one who has no shot at Canton.
The only good news here? Pete Prisco doesn't get a vote in the Hall of Fame selection process.
Check out more of Sam's Dolphins news and analysis at his site Phinaticism.


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