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Sunday, August 07, 2011
Deion In the Hall

I was never a fan of his swaggering, cock of the walk persona. I recognize that some of that was an image that he cultivated; many of his former teammates have said that he was not arrogant when the camera was off him.

He certainly has a resume that sounds like a Hall of Famer:

Eight-time Pro Bowl selection (1991-94, 1996-99)
Six-time first team All-Pro selection
Two-time Super Bowl champion (XXIX, XXX)
AP Defensive Player of the Year (1994)
Two-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1993-94)

When you add in the bits about most returns for a touchdown ever, and his helping to get the Niners over the hump in 1994, then going to Dallas and helping get them back over the hump, you have a pretty strong case.

But in the comments on the CBS sports article, you can also see some of the criticisms:
I like this class a bunch except for Deion Sanders. His aversion to contact made him a good returner, but to be HOF'd as a defensive football player in the same class as Chris Hanburger and Richard Dent just seems wrong.

I bet Tim McCarver is thrilled Deion made the hall. "You're a real man Deion." I do remember Deion being an amazing coverage corner, an amazing return guy and a guy so talented that he could play WR too. But he was pretty soft when it came to delivering punishment or even tackling for that matter.

That 1993 Defensive Player of the Year award has always bugged me. Deion held out for the first five games, which the Falcons lost. He came back and Atlanta closed out the season 6-5. So the theory goes that if Deion had been there all year, Atlanta would have made the playoffs. Of course, that kind of undermines the argument that he helped his team; by holding out he kept them back.

In 1993, the Falcons gave up the most points in the league. Now, it's true that they gave up about 30 points per game when Deion was out and only 21 when he was there. But what about 1992, when Deion played 15 games? The Falcons gave up the most points in the league that year as well.

And check out what happened in 1994, when Deion went to San Francisco. The Falcons, despite losing the DPOY improved relative to the league, ranking 24th in points allowed (although they gave up exactly the same number of points). And the 49ers? They did improve from 16th in total points allowed to sixth, despite allowing 1 more point in 1994, but... it's mostly a statistical glitch, as the 49ers in 1993 had a lot of teams just barely beat them in fewest points allowed.

And in 1995? Deion left SF for Dallas. The Niners improved to 2nd in the league in points allowed, while Dallas went from third to third.

So overall, the evidence that Deion substantially improved the defenses that he played on is lacking. There is no denying that he was an exciting player, but it is hard to see that he was an effective player.

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