TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Longtime Tampa Bay area sports writer Ira Kaufman jokes that he used to be called “The Closer” by his Pro Football Hall of Fame peers.
Kaufman represents the Tampa Bay area in the quest to add former players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His job? Convince the Hall of Fame voters that his candidates are worthy of football’s most prestigious honor.
The Closer had a pair of slam dunks in back to back years. Warren Sapp was a first-ballot hall of famer in 2013 followed by Derrick Brooks in 2014. Kaufman’s job seemed easy as more Bucs greats from the team’s best era lined up for Canton. That’s where the road north hit a few bumps.
This Saturday, Kaufman will speak to the voters and present the case to enshrine former Buccaneers safety, John Lynch. It will be his sixth attempt to push Lynch over the hump. The case is more than credible as Lynch becomes the longest-tenured finalist, a distinguished list on its own. Kaufman feels that it is just a matter of time.
Two things are staring at Kaufman and Lynch this weekend. First, a first-ballot safety, Troy Polamalu, an all-decade player from the Pittsburgh Steelers that seems poised to get into the Hall.
Second, the legend of John Lynch has dwindled as Hall of Fame voters have gotten younger. He is the hard hitter from the generation that allowed hard hits. Lynch does not have the statistics of other safeties, such as Polamalu.
What Lynch has, in Kaufman’s opinion, is an undeniable contribution to the game of football. Lynch’s Buccaneers defense help revolutionize schemes at all levels of football in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He played a role that led to collective team success, not gaudy stats.
Lynch’s resume is also noteworthy as his name dons two Rings of Honor, Tampa Bay, and Denver. His post-football life is now in the front office, helping to build the San Francisco 49ers into a Super Bowl contender in his third season as the team’s general manager.
The Hall of Fame guidelines ask that voters pay attention to a player’s career “between the lines,” as Kaufman states. The prospect of Lynch as a red hot NFL executive? Kaufman laughs, “It doesn’t hurt.”