I’m an advocate for as many Green Bay Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as possible. I will not rest until the Packers surpass the Bears for most members of the Hall of Fame. Last year around this time I made my point for Sterling Sharpe to be inducted. Right after Sharpe, the next in line should be Safety Nick Collins.
Much like Sterling Sharpe, Nick Collins had his career cut short by injury. On September 18, 2011, Collins went down with a neck injury against the Carolina Panthers. He went to tackle Panthers’ running back Jonathan Stewart when Stewart went to hurdle Collins. Though he did not complete the hurdle. Instead, Collins’ head collided with Stewart’s tailbone, compressing Collins’ neck. After surgery on a herniated disk, it was ruled that playing again was too much of a risk to his future health. Nick Collins was forced to retire after seven seasons in the NFL.
At the moment of his injury, Nick Collins was easily one of the best at his position. Named an All-Pro the previous three seasons, there was no question. He was also the backbone of an outstanding Packers secondary. Had Nick Collins had the opportunity to play a full career, he would be in the Hall of Fame.
But was it still good enough for a bust in Canton?
Comparison to Hall of Famers
Of course, we need to check the Hall of Fame resume. What’s the number one thing it seems a player needs to enter the Hall of Fame? A Super Bowl ring. Sad as it seems, unless you’re an unreal talent, you need that ring. Well, check on that. Collins was a huge part of the Packers Super Bowl XLV Championship. In fact, I’d argue that the Packers may have earned a few more rings had Nick Collins played a full career. But that’s for future Packers Multiverse articles to answer.
Now let’s move to Hall of Famers from Nick Collins’ era, at the same position. I’m going to choose Brian Dawkins and Troy Polamalu. Each of them were pretty much starters from day one just like Collins. Both were considered likely first ballot Hall of Famers. To level the playing field, we’re only going to take each player’s first six years in the league. Yes, Collins played seven, but year seven was cut short in week 2. So, we’ll end at six years.
Before I get started, if career longevity is an issue, some great Hall of Famers need to be removed. I’m talking Gale Sayers or Terrell Davis, who played only seven seasons. Or Otto Graham who played only six. So, longevity needs to be excluded from the conversation ASAP. Or else there are some big names that need their busts taken out of the great Hall.
Okay, back to the task at hand. What’s the biggest stat for a defender? Interceptions. How many times you take that ball away from the offense can determine your worth. In his first six seasons in the NFL, Nick Collins had 21 Interceptions. This greatly surpassed Polamalu and Dawkins who had 17 and 18 respectively. How many of those were returned for six points you ask? Collins had four, while Polamalu had 1, and Dawkins had 2.
Okay, big woop, sometimes INT’s can be lucky right? Yeah maybe, but then let’s look at tackles. Collins in his first six years had 336 solo tackles to Polamalu’s 333 and Dawkins’ 330. Collins wins again. We will move to forced fumbles. Collins had 5 to Polamalu’s 7 and Dawkins’ 10. Okay, Collins was behind on that one, but not by much. I’ll give those extra forced fumbles as the make-up for Collins having more tackles and interceptions. Level playing field at this point I think.
We then come to sacks, where Collins only had 1 to both Dawkins and Polamalu’s seven. Yeah, that’s a good stat to have. But when you realize that Deion Sanders, one of the greatest defenders of the last 30 years only had one sack, it kind of dissolves. That’s almost like criticizing receiving touchdowns for a running back. It’s a good stat to have, but is it truly necessary for a player whose main job is to take hand-offs? Not really.
I don’t think I could make it any clearer. The career longevity argument is null and void. He beats out first ballot Hall of Famers of his era on the stat sheet. He has the sacred Super Bowl ring that seems to make Hall of Fame voters discredit greatness if they don’t have it. So, why is he not in the Hall of Fame?
We can’t let a player like Nick Collins wait until he’s in his twilight years like Jerry Kramer, to be honored. Nick Collins has the Hall of Fame resume and deserves his time now.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.