When asked for one name that should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame that hasn’t already been inducted, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had a quick response.
“John Lynch.” Shanahan said in Mobile, Alabama last week. “There you go.”
However, Shanahan’s current “teammate” could have a bit of a wait ahead of him. As much as Lynch accomplished as a safety and for how much he defined the position, there are other notable safeties that are finalists as well.
All-Pro safeties Ed Reed and Steve Atwater are also finalists for the 2019 class. Troy Polamalu will be eligible in 2020, Charles Woodson in 2021.
Lynch does have the statistics to be a Hall of Famer, the question is: when. He earned first team All-Pro honors three times and went to the Pro Bowl nine times. He recorded a whopping 1,054 total tackles over his storied 15-year career, 736 of which were solo.
The only safety who made it to more Pro Bowls than Lynch is Hall of Famer. Ken Houston, who was voted to the Pro Bowl 10 times during his 14 year career, played for the Houston Oilers and Washington from 1967-1980.
Lynch was known as one of the hardest hitting safeties during his time in the league. His style was even noticed by Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders.
"John was as good as any safety I ever played against,” Sanders told Buccaneers.com. ”He reminded me a lot of guys like Ronnie Lott and Steve Atwater. He was a terrific player, a great defender, a fierce defender. He could knock the snot out of you.
“John Lynch didn’t just play the position, he occupied a spot in your mind and you had to be aware at all times where he was on the field.”
Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning also admitted to being completely aware of where Lynch was at all times.
"John was a safety that you always knew where he was," Manning said. "I think there are only certain guys like that. I can assure you all receivers and tight ends always knew where he was. He was such a physical football player, what I would call an impactful tackler.
“Any receiver going near or across the middle with No. 47 in the area knew what he was getting into. He was always there. You could see it very often on film, after an early hit how he would affect a receiver, his confidence going across the middle or anywhere near there the rest of the game."
While Lynch doesn’t have the flashy interception totals with 26 over his career, he did break the 100-tackle mark in three of his seasons with the Buccaneers. For perspective, Reed totaled 64 interceptions in his 13 seasons and Woodson racked up 65 over his 18 years.
What is easy to miss about Lynch’s numbers, are the importance of those interceptions. 14 of his 26 picks were secured in the fourth quarter. To which couch Monte Kiffin nicknamed Lynch “The Closer.” His picks were pivotal with 21 of his 26 picks helping his team secure victories.
Lynch also played a different role upon his arrival in Denver. He not only adapted, he was extremely productive. Seven of his 13 career sacks happened in his final four seasons with the Broncos when he played closer to the line of scrimmage.
Lynch was so valued by both the Buccaneers and the Broncos that he is in the ring of honor for both teams.
Lynch, has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist six times. He is the only one of the 17 finalists from 2014 who is on the 2019 ballot, simply because all of the others have since been inducted.
Shanahan has a very strong case for his general manager.