Which ones will make the cut?
With 25 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Packers boast the second most athletes in the hallowed halls of Canton, Ohio, but can easily see that total increase over the next decade.
Being a Packers’ diehard, it’s not easy separating the very good from the all-time greats who truly deserve to someday have their own bust.
Determining which ones get inducted into the grand palace of football legends should come down to a few simple criteria during the evaluation process, including:
- Did the player in question ever dominate his sport and/or was he ever the focal point of his team?
- Did the HOF candidate make the players around him appreciably better?
- What was his lasting impact on the game? Is he known for any signature games or moments that withstand the test of time?
- Did the athlete perform at an elite level over an extended period of time?
Here’s a list of current and erstwhile Packers and their respective probabilities of getting that long-awaited confirmation. Getting that much-anticipated knock on the door from the larger-than-life Pro Football HOF President David Baker is far more realistic for some than it is for others.
Aaron Rodgers- 100 percent
Not only has the two-time MVP dominated for much of his career since taking over as starting quarterback in 2008, but Rodgers has carried his team throughout his tenure. His come-from-behind efforts versus the Lions in 2015, the Cowboys in a divisional-round playoff win and his opening week Houdini act on one leg against the Bears in 2018 were just a few of the memorable masterpiece performances by AR12. His artistry in tossing off-balance throws and ability to use his legs to extend drives make him one of the most revered players of all time. Where Rodgers remains unmatched is in his ability to avoid turnovers, as evidenced by his 364:84 career touchdown-to-interception ratio. He’ll be a shoo-in the day he becomes eligible for enshrinement.
Charles Woodson- 100 percent
The noted 1997 Heisman Trophy winner gives new meaning to the word “versatility,” considering how he thrived in his first 14 seasons of his NFL career as a shutdown corner and went on to prosper as a nickelback, safety and even linebacker if needed. Upon arriving in Green Bay in 2006, Woodson proved to be an immediate difference maker in how he routinely jumped routes and stripped away the ball from opposing ball carriers. The nine-time Pro Bowler forced 15 of his 33 career fumbles during his six years in Green Bay, while also recording 38 of his 65 total interceptions and twice leading the league in pick-offs in 2009 and 2011. What’s more, Woodson had a nose for the goal line by scoring 13 times off his interceptions and fumble recoveries, while also chipping in with 20 sacks. The reluctant Packer who was initially iffy on moving to Titletown as a veteran free agent wound up cementing his legacy as an all-world defender in a green and gold uniform. The former Michigan Wolverine went on to being recognized as the 2009 NFL defensive player of the year and winning a Super Bowl the following season. It would be quite stunning not to see the all-time leader in defensive touchdowns with the fifth-most interceptions in NFL history not stroll into the Hall as a first-ballot enshrinee next year.
LeRoy Butler- 85 percent
It wasn’t until his 14th year of eligibility that the all-time Packer great was finally named an HOF finalist earlier this year despite being a starter on the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1990s. Butler was on the front end of a new breed of safety who could impact the game in multifarious ways as a downhill enforcer, a ballhawk in pass coverage and a punishing blitzer. The four-time 1st Team All Pro could erase tight ends down the seam or go one-on-one with wide receivers in the slot. In addition, he was a tonesetter and a focal point of Green Bay’s defense that opposing coaches tried running away from — just ask Mike Shanahan, who game planned against him in Super Bowl XXXII. Yet, Butler has been the victim of a numbers game in recent years, with other players at his position regularly getting the nod over him (see Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, Steve Atwater, et. al.). In the case of Atwater, who was among the inductees in this year’s class, Butler bested the longtime Denver Bronco in career interceptions (38-24), sacks (20.5-5) and forced fumbles (13-5). Keeping No. 36 out of the Hall continues to be a downright crime. But given how close Butler came in 2020, it’s probably just a matter of the Florida State product just waiting his turn before he’s ushered in.
Clay Matthews III- 65 percent
If Matthews decided to call it quits this instant, he would have fallen a bit short of 100 sacks, with 91 in his 11 seasons, 10 of which he spent with the Packers. But numbers alone don’t begin to describe the third-generation athlete’s impact in Green Bay that went beyond sacking the opposing signal caller. “The Claymaker” was a master at firing up the defense with splash plays, some of which were moments that diehard fans will never forget. Watching No. 52 blow up Rashard Mendenhall on a forced fumble in Super Bowl XLV was one of them, as was witnessing Clay intercept Eli Manning the following season on a pick-six during an exhilarating 38-35 win over the New York Giants. Matthews’ energy was only matched by his ability to serve in several different roles in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense in which he was able to play all four linebacker positions. In his prime from 2009-2015, the USC product was among the most agile, explosive and instinctive pass rushers and made six Pro Bowls as a result. The fact that his game fell off as soon as he hit 30 may hurt his HOF chances, along with the fact that he was only once named 1st Team All Pro. Conversely, Matthews has been a flashy and visible player throughout his career, as well as being a key cog on a number of successful Packers teams, which should help him eventually earn his ticket to Canton.
Sterling Sharpe- 50 percent
For much of his career from the late 80s to the mid 90s, Sharpe was widely acknowledged as the best wide receiver not named Jerry Rice. The 6’0”, 207-pound go-to target was incredibly strong, as confirmed by Deion Sanders, who recently remarked how Sharpe would “manhandle” defenders in their futile attempts to bump him at the line or off his route. His attention to detail helped him become an exceptional route runner and develop great chemistry with a young Brett Favre, as they combined to make Sharpe the first-ever receiver to generate back-to-back 100-catch seasons in 1992 and 1993. During his shortened but dominant career, the pride of Glenville, Georgia would go on to lead the league in receptions in 1989, 1992 and 1993 and twice in touchdowns in 1992 and 1994. A couple of factors, unfortunately, are working against the three-time 1st Team All Pro being voted into the Hall, including the fact that he wasn’t the most accommodating athlete when it came to furnishing quotes to the local press. In Sharpe’s defense, he was convinced that the media was treating him unfairly — as chronicled in Jeff Pearlman’s “Gunslinger” — by writing content about him without ever actually talking to the star pass catcher. Also contributing to Sharpe’s notable — and unjustified — absence from the Hall of Fame is that he played in an era devoid of social media, where fans keep reminding you every 15 seconds about how special their favorite players are. Sharpe has become a forgotten man and for some who are too young to have seen him live, he is just some old dude who used to play with Favre. If No. 84 could’ve stayed healthy long enough to have been part of the Packers 1996 Super Bowl team, he would have probably beaten his brother, Shannon, to Canton’s sanctified edifice.
David Bakhtiari- 40 percent
“Bak” has been one of the top handful of offensive tackles over the past few seasons and the numbers back it up. In addition to achieving PFF’s second-best pass blocking grade among offensive tackles in 2019 (89.9), the eighth-year pro was named PFF’s Pass Blocker of the Year in 2018 thanks to his consistent high level of play. The website went on to note how rarely Bakhtiari was beaten “cleanly,” comparing him to future HOFer Joe Thomas. The former Colorado Buffalo’s accomplishments to date are truly remarkable when one factors in Rodgers’ propensity for holding on to the ball for a few extra beats while surveying the field. Bakhtiari, in fact, is a major reason why AR12 is able to execute many of his second-reaction plays. While it may be too early to predict if the blindside protector will be a serious HOF candidate with any degree of certainty, it’s hard to argue that No. 69 is putting together quite a résumé. If the 28-year-old continues to perform into his early 30s, his chances of donning a gold jacket will grow exponentially.
Nick Collins- 35 percent
It seems like ages ago since “Nick Da Pick” patrolled the deep middle, as the ascending safety’s career was prematurely cut short in 2011 upon sustaining a serious neck injury while he was in the process of tackling Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart. Collins ballhawking ways (see 21 interceptions in 95 games) were the product of the free safety’s impeccable instincts. And no one, according to his former position coach Darren Perry, could “close in” on an opportunity to seize an errant throw like Collins. The 2005 second-round pick enjoyed one of the best seasons a safety could ever hope for by scoring on 3 of his 7 interceptions and generating 295 yards on those turnovers. But while Cheeseheads around the world continue to hold Collins’ exploits in high regard, it seems rather doubtful that he’ll ever sniff the Pro Football HOF due to his lack of longevity (six full seasons) and the current backlog of fellow safeties (John Lynch, Rodney Harrison and Carnell Lake to name a few) with longer service times that are also waiting for their names to be called.
Davante Adams- 25 percent
The unquestioned primary target in Green Bay’s offense overcame a slow start early in his career — due in part to a high ankle sprain during his sophomore campaign — by emerging as one of the league’s top route runners since his 2016 breakout. Adams’ explosive release off the line and ability to execute double moves by disguising his routes have allowed him to tie Antonio Brown for most receiving touchdowns (35) from 2016-2018. In addition his strong hands and leaping prowess make him a lethal weapon on contested plays over the middle and on goal-line fades. The only critique one can highlight when it comes to examining Adams’ body of work is the fact that he’s produced one 1,000-yard season since entering the NFL in 2014, although he did post 997 yards in both 2016 and 2019. The slithery pass catcher, however, is at his physical peak at only 27 years old and should have plenty more years to tack on multiple 1,000-yard campaigns to his ledger. The other aspect of his game that elevates the former second-round pick among the elite at his position is his big-game production, as he’s caught 45 receptions for 687 yards and 6 touchdowns in his eight playoff appearances. “Tae” is only a handful of big-time seasons away from serious HOF consideration, but we can’t crown him yet until he does it.
Donald Driver- 15 percent
Driver is a great American success story with how he rose to stardom despite growing up in the drug-infested streets of Houston, Texas. He parlayed a highly successful run as a receiver and track and field athlete at Alcorn State into a 14-year NFL career in which he amassed seven 1,000-yard seasons. The 1999 seventh-round pick worked his way from the bottom of the depth chart into becoming Brett Favre’s right-hand man. Driver ran crisp routes and secured most of the balls thrown his way and registered, in fact, a 60.2-percent career catch rate. The Packer legend, though, played in an era that saw bigger, flashier pass catchers surface throughout the league, including Steve Smith, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Torry Holt, among others. HOF voters will likely look at Driver’s stats and point out that he never led the league in receptions, yards or touchdowns and never scored double-digit touchdowns. Had No. 80 played 10 or 20 years earlier, he would have undoubtedly been already fitted with his sparkling gold blazer.
Jordy Nelson- 5 percent
The chemistry between Rodgers and Nelson was magical. The man known as “White Lightning” bailed his quarterback out of several jams with his ability to freelance if he couldn’t get open off his initial route. For much of his 10 years in Green Bay, Nelson was the complete package in how he would beat defenders with his size, speed and toughness. Further, the Kansas native was consistently among the more sure-handed receivers in the league, as he posted catch rates of 66 percent or greater in five of his seasons. Overall, Nelson recorded four 1,000-yard seasons and also led the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns in 2016. While his accomplishments are certainly worthy of praise, they just won’t stack up when compared to other HOF-worthy wideouts in years to come. His torn ACL during the 2015 preseason was a key setback that robbed “Air Jordy” of some of his trademark explosiveness in his prime years.
Greg Jennings- 5 percent
No. 85 was a major source of big plays during his seven seasons in Titletown, scoring multiple touchdowns of the 70 and 80-yard variety. Not only was Jennings blessed with game-breaking speed, but he possessed short-area quickness to get open underneath and was a superb runner after the catch. His three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons are noteworthy, as is the fact that he twiced scored 12 touchdowns in 2007 and 2010. A 2012 groin injury put a damper on the Michigan native’s performance from that point forward, with Jennings hitting a decline during the latter part of his career with the Packers and later as a member of the Vikings and Dolphins. As is the case with Nelson, Jennings didn’t sustain his greatness for a long enough period to ultimately be voted into the HOF.
Darren Sharper- 5 percent
Five percent is beyond generous for the disgraced former safety who’s currently serving a jail sentence of 18 years plus as a result of pleading guilty to a series of heinous crimes. Sharper essentially fessed up to distributing substances to nine (and possibly more) females with the intent to commit rape across four U.S. states. While the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn’t consider an athlete’s off-field transgressions when evaluating his credentials, it’s hard to fathom any group of voters making a strong case for the sexual predator as he rots away in prison. As for Sharper’s playing career, the 6’2” defensive back was an extraordinary ballhawk, who ranked eighth overall in career interceptions (63), as well as finishing third all-time in interception return yardage (1,412) and fifth overall in non-offensive touchdowns (13) resulting from pick-offs and fumble recoveries. He also twice led the league in interceptions in 2000 and 2009 and was a two-time 1st Team All Pro. Alas, Sharper flushed away his chances of basking in HOF glory with his depraved actions.——————
When ~Reverend~ Ralph Mancini is not tackling hard news in New York City, he enjoys analyzing his favorite sports team, the Green Bay Packers. You can follow him on twitter at ReverendRalph.