Patrick Willis should already be a Hall of Famer

Patrick Willis should already be a Hall of Famer

Patrick Willis should already be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. For eight seasons he was an enforcer for the San Francisco 49ers. He was drafted by a proud franchise that had fallen into disarray, and was intricate part in bringing it back to prominence. Willis did this all while playing a position of honor and glory in the NFL — middle linebacker — as well as anyone in the history of the league.

The semi-finalists for the 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame class were announced on Tuesday, and Willis is a part of that group for the fifth time. He has also twice been a finalist, and for four years the voters have erred by not putting him into the hall.

Modern-era players who have been inducted ahead of Willis include LeRoy Butler, Steve Atwater, John Lynch, and Zach Thomas. Troy Polamalu absolutely deserved to get into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, but there is no way that he was a more impactful player than Willis.

It is very likely that Willis retiring after only eight seasons is why it is taking him so long to get the gold jacket that he deserves. Combine that with the fact that he never won Defensive Player of the Year, some might argue that his consistent excellence over a relatively short period of time did not have enough pop to get him into the Hall just yet.

I guess being mentioned in the same breath with prime Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher as a rookie is something that the voters have forgotten. Lewis played 14 games in 2007 and Urlacher was in the lineup for all 16. When the votes were cast for first-team All-Pro middle linebacker, the honor went to Willis. In fact, the former Chicago Bear turned MAGA hair restoration billboard model was only voted first-time All-Pro four times. Lewis played for 17 years and received the honor seven times.

Willis was a first-team All-Pro five times, four years in a row from 2009-12. For the majority of his NFL career, there was no debate as to who was the best middle linebacker in the NFL. With those accolades even if Willis played only five seasons he should still be in Canton.

The goal of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is to be a museum that honors the absolute best players in the history of professional football, the players who must be mentioned when discussing the history of the game

Some of the names who have gone in ahead of Willis, Deion Sanders was right a couple of years ago when he said that his bust does not belong in the same room with them. Being a very good, or even simply a dominant player should not be enough to get someone into the Hall. The players enshrined should be among the best of their era. Their names should be mentioned when discussing the greatest to ever play at their positions.

Willis was that type of great. He was a sure and punishing tackler, who gave blockers fits. He was the anchor to a defense that would eventually become one of the top units in the NFL. Not only did he bring the pain, but he also possessed the level of athleticism necessary to play in the middle of a defense during the 21st century. Shedding lead blockers and cracking running backs will always be important, but playing middle linebackers requires an ability to make plays in pass coverage. Willis tallied eight interceptions in his career, and had two seasons with 10 or more passes defended.

In any conversation about the best middle linebacker of all time, his name deserves to be mentioned. Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Mike Singletary, Lewis, and Urlacher, a legitimate argument can be made that Willis is better than all of them.

That is the type of player for whom the Pro Football Hall of Fame was built to honor. For some reason voters just haven’t gotten around to putting him there.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.