Is Matt Light a Hall of Famer?

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Is Matt Light a Hall of Famer?

Does Matt Light belong in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

My instincts said no, but I sat down last night hoping to prove otherwise and with three very powerful bullets in my wanna-be revolver.

1. Light won three rings, and is one of only five players to start five Super Bowls.

2. He was an essential part of what will eventually be known as one of the signature dynasties in NFL history, and the Hall of Fame likes rewarding legendary teams.

3. He was the almost-exclusive blind side protection for one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

With that I was off and very quickly deflated.

That's not to say that at some point down the line, 20-25 years from now, once Belichick, Brady, Wilfork, Law, Harrison, Vinatieri, Seymour, Poteat, Klemm and whomever else from this historic run is comfortably nestled in Canton, that the Veteran's Committee won't look at Light and say, "You know what? He had a great career these other players love him he seems like a great guy let's put him in!"

But I'm saying that's probably the only chance he has.

Here's why:

In the last 15 years, only seven tackles have been inducted to the Hall:

Anthony Muoz
Ron Yary
Jackie Slater
Bob Brown
Rayfield White
Gary Zimmerman
Willie Roaf

What's interesting is that these seven guys have a combined three Super Bowl rings among them. (White won two with Dallas; Zimmerman won one with Denver).

Fifteen years. Seven Hall of Fame tackles. Just as many rings combined as Light has by himself.

But here's where the argument loses steam:

Munoz made nine All-Pro teams and 11 Pro Bowls. Yary made six All-Pro teams and seven Pro Bowls. Slater made zero All-Pros but seven Pro Bowls. Brown made six and seven, White made three and six, Zimmerman made three and seven and Roaf made three and 11.

To sum it up, everyone but Slater was an All-Pro at least three times, and they all made at least six Pro Bowls.

Matt Light made one All-Pro team and three Pro Bowls.

That's not enough.

Football may be a team sport, but the Hall of Fame is an individual honor. Rings are nice, but personal accomplishments and dominance matter more. And while Light was undoubtedly steady for his 11 years on Tom Brady's blind side, and as a Pats fan, you probably couldn't have asked for more, as an individual football talent, Light falls short.

When you go back and think of the dominant left tackles of the last decade you think of guys like Walter Jones, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, Roaf and Chris Samuels before you think of Light, and there's already a new batch of young talent Joe Thomas, Chris Long ready to carry that torch for the next generation. No. 72 is on the outside looking in.

As for being one of five players to start five Super Bowls?

That's nice, but there's no Hall of Fame precedent for reaching that milestone.

Of the four other guys in the Five Start Club, only two John Elway and Brady (I think its safe now) are in the Hall of Fame. The other two are Charles Haley, who's not in the Hall, but probably would be if he hadn't been such a horrible person in his playing days, and Cornelius Bennett, who just never made the cut. (It didnt help that he went 0-5 in his five Super Bowl starts.)

It would be one thing if all four were in there. And it would be an entirely different story if Asante Samuel had made that interception in Arizona or Wes Welker had pulled down that catch in Indianapolis, and Light waded into the Hall of Fame pool with four or five rings. But the five starts aren't enough.

And as for protecting Brady's blindside? We'll never forget Light for the job he did, but Bubba Paris protected Joe Montana's blind side for eight seasons and three Super Bowls, and he's still waiting. Light had a better career (although not a better name) than Paris, but again, the precedent isn't there. Protecting the best of all time is not a Hall of Fame guarantee.

And for a guy like Light, who never even planned on playing college football, that's not such a bad thing. The fact that the question "Does Matt Light belong in the Hall of Fame?" even exists says so much about his career.

But still, not as much as those three rings and 11 years of unbelievable memories.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.