John Lynch helped Bucs win their first Super Bowl, and that helped him to the Hall of Fame

·3 min read

Very few defenses have the legacy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. 

Other great defenses have won Super Bowls. Very few did it without much offensive star power. The 1970s Steelers had a great defense and an offense with multiple Hall of Famers. The 1985 Bears had Walter Payton. The 2015 Denver Broncos had Peyton Manning, and although he was a lesser version of himself in his final season, people will remember it as a Manning team. 

The 2002 Buccaneers had an offense that was not near the top half of the league, but they had a defense. Did they ever. It was a punishing group with Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber and others. 

Safety John Lynch was a key member of that defense and it took a while for him to get to the Hall of Fame. He finally got into the Hall on his eighth time as a finalist. It's fair to say Super Bowl XXXVII gave him the nudge he needed to get over the finish line. 

John Lynch was key part of Bucs' legendary defense

The Buccaneers had plenty of frustrating seasons, when the defense was the best in the league but the offense couldn't help get them over the hump. But the 2002 team upset the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship team to reach the franchise's first Super Bowl. 

In that Super Bowl, the Buccaneers trashed the Oakland Raiders' stellar offense. Lynch was mic'ed up for NFL Films and there are clips of him calling out the Raiders' plays (Lynch yelling to his teammates "Sluggo seam!" is one of the enduring images from that game). Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden did a great job preparing his team, and Lynch helped lead the way on the field. 

It was a 48-21 blowout. The Buccaneers' defense scored three times. It wasn't Lynch's most prolific game, but the most important. 

With the win, that defense earned its place among the all-time great units. The names will be remembered forever. Would Lynch be in the Hall of Fame if the Bucs lost to the Raiders, or lost to the Eagles in that NFC title game? Maybe. He was a great player for many years. But it might have been a longer road for him. 

John Lynch waited a few years for a Hall of Fame call. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
John Lynch waited a few years for a Hall of Fame call. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Lynch had success wherever he went

Lynch was a nine-time Pro Bowler. The Denver Broncos portion of Lynch's career isn't mentioned as often as his time in Tampa Bay, but he made four Pro Bowls in four seasons. Lynch was a playmaker and a fantastic athlete, good enough as a pitcher to be drafted by the Florida Marlins in the second round of the MLB draft.

It's the hard hits we'll remember most from his football career, which started as a high school quarterback. 

“I liked playing quarterback,” Lynch said in 1995 according to the Del Mar Times, “but in the end I found out that playing defense and hitting people is what I really like.”

In Lynch's post-playing career, he was a successful broadcaster at Fox before the San Francisco 49ers hired him to be their general manager. The 49ers won an NFC championship with Lynch as their GM. Staying relevant in NFL circles after he retired as a player didn't hurt his Hall of Fame chances. 

It all mattered. The long string of success with all the big hits in Tampa Bay. The four solid seasons with the Broncos at the end. An engaging personality that led to an opportunity in the booth and then success as an executive. But the team Lynch helped win a Super Bowl is probably the biggest reason he's a Hall of Famer. The Bucs finally reached the pinnacle that day. 

That team is immortal. Now, thanks to a Hall of Fame bust, so is Lynch. 

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