Defining what decides a Hall of Fame career is a tough thing to do at times.
There’s a ton to consider: stats, championships, character off the field and individual achievements are just a few.
So, what’s the most important thing to consider? It’s hard to say, although some areas are more important than others. Stats and championships are typically held in higher regard than who the player is off the field, but being a nice guy definitely helps.
There’s a happy medium you have to find amongst all of these things, and some players make it easy.
London Fletcher is one of those guys. Fletcher has been one of the most overlooked players since coming into the league.
As a small-school prospect from John Carroll University, not much was expected from the undrafted, undersized middle linebacker. He began his NFL journey with the St. Louis Rams and made a name for himself sooner rather than later.
Once he left St. Louis in 2002, he joined the Buffalo Bills and continued his quiet success.
Although Buffalo has never had much to celebrate as a team, Fletcher was one of the most consistent and dominant defenders on their squad.
After five season with the Bills, Fletcher joined his current team, the Washington Redskins. Since coming to the Capital, Fletcher has become a pillar of the Redskins’ defense.
What he brings to Washington’s defensive unit is similar to what fan-favorite Sean Taylor (rest in peace) brought to the table: a tenacious and fierce competitor who makes things happen.
There’s never been any question about Fletcher’s toughness, and the stat that says it all is his consecutive games played (240)—the most among active players.
When looking at which positions endure the most punishment on every play, middle linebacker is definitely up there. Just as the average career length for running backs is generally shorter than most because of the beating they take on every down, the same should be said for the Mike linebacker position.
Aside from his knack for staying healthy, Fletcher has the stats to back him up.
For the past 14 seasons, Fletcher has had at least 116 tackles each year. Between 2000-2009, no one had more tackles than No. 59. He has also led his respective teams in tackles for the past decade.
Fletcher may not have had eye-popping sack or interception totals, but his productivity in the form of tackles speaks for itself.
The measuring stick for Hall of Fame linebackers can largely be summed up in two words: Ray Lewis. It is no secret that Lewis was one of the most electrifying players on and off the field. Add in two Super Bowl rings and a couple of Defensive Player of the Year honors, and you got yourself a pretty impressive resumé.
Now, Lewis may be the more widely known player, but when keeping things strictly about football, Fletcher is more than comparable.
He has averaged more starts, tackles, sacks and forced fumbles in his 14-year career than Lewis totaled in his 17-year career. The only major statistical category that Lewis bests Fletcher in is interceptions, and even that is only a two-tenth difference (1.6:1.8).
There is no doubt that Lewis was a more out there, vocal leader than Fletcher is, but that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) make or break whether a player reaches the Hall of Fame or not.
Lewis does have more Pro Bowl appearances (12) than Fletcher (2), but with how big of a joke the event and voting process has become, Pro Bowls are starting to mean less and less. Which, given how much a Pro Bowl appearance used to mean, is sad, frankly.
To many, Fletcher and Lewis are both Hall of Fame players, but Lewis is the more obvious choice because of the reputation he’s built off the field and as a performer when he comes out of tunnel.
These are in no way a knock on Lewis, but more to show the trivial differences between the two linebackers.
Another unique and important aspect of Fletcher’s career is his character as both a player and as a man of the community.
To recap: Fletcher was a winner early on in his career before being diagnosed with a case of the Buffalo Bills, but has since made a name for himself with the Redskins.
He has seemingly accumulated a bajillion tackles in his career (1,912 to be exact), and has made an impact off the field as well, taking charge in weakened communities. Tack on two Pro Bowls, and Fletcher has had a pretty amazing ride in the NFL.
So, is he a Hall of Famer? Well, I obviously don’t get a vote, but if I did, he would get it for sure.
It is clear the type impact he has made in the NFL the past 14 years, and no matter what happens in this coming season, Fletcher is definitely worthy of a Hall of Fame nod.
Even if he has to wait an ungodly amount of time to get voted in like fellow Redskin great Art Monk, he will get in.
You can donate to the London’s Bridge Foundation here.
Dilan Ames is a Washington Redskins Featured Columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Dilan_Ames