Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 May 2013

Ronde Barber Retires

As reported by Jay Glazer, longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber has chosen to retire. Start the Hall of Fame talk immediately!

Posted by: Tom Gower on 08 May 2013

40 comments, Last at 24 May 2013, 10:06am by bachslunch


by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 4:37pm

Tough day in the retirement department for the Glazers.

He has more points of AV than Champ Bailey (!). And thats the weighted version that doesn't give Barber much credit for his two extra seasons. Seems like a no brainer - he's tied with Deion Sanders (and Tony Gonzo, btw).

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 4:52pm

I put on my red #20 jersey the moment I heard. I'm wearing it now, and I may sleep in it for a week.

Ronde was the last one left, the last guy from the Super Bowl team. He was the final link to the team that made you stop being embarrassed to be a Tampa fan. He picked off McNabb, took it back for a TD, sent the Bucs to the Super Bowl, and put a stake in decades of futility before that. The entire time, he was smart, classy, a great teammate, and everything you'd want in a football player. His numbers, frankly, are kind of ridiculous:

-215 straight regular season starts (tied for 2nd all time for a defensive player with Alan Page, behind only Jim Marshall, 6th overall including offensive players)
-47 picks
-28 sacks, as a CB. Career leader as a CB.
-For the 13 years he started every game, he averaged almost 70 tackles a year. For a corner.
-Fourth-most defensive TDs in history, only behind Deion, Devin Hester, and Rod Woodson.

He's going to get tarred with the "OMG ZONE CORNER" brush, as if that's an insult, and yes, his tackle numbers are a direct result of the scheme he's played in, where the Tampa-2 meant he'd be up at the line, covering the flats, and able to get in on the kind of run tackles a down-the-field corner wouldn't have. That being said, can you imagine a guy like Deion or Asante Samuel, or some other man-to-man corner trying (and utterly failing) to play Ronde's game? If Ronde is "just a zone corner", I'd argue he's the best "just zone corner" ever. The job of a corner is to play DEFENSE, not just defense the pass, and Ronde gave you a blend of coverage, run support, blitzing, and being in the right place that's hard to surpass.

I'm a Bucs fan, and an unabashed Ronde Barber fanboy, but, regardless of that, the guy has a very solid case for Canton. I also accept that there's going to be a potential backlog, with guys like Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson, Ed Reed, and possibly a few others out there. That being said, I'll be an optimist and plan to be in Canton one of these days, wearing this shirt.

by theslothook :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 6:27pm

A few things will work in his favor that I think he'll get in. First, his career longevity was amazing. 2 - The sb win, especially one where the defense got all the credit(or most of it), of which he was an integral part. While the zone corner knock will come up, it's not big enough to overcome his overall picture. I think he gets in quite easily.

by CBPodge :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 4:32am

3. He's a nice guy who is liked off the field. That also helps.

by Ryan D. :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 8:32am

4. The backlog of corners listed "Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson, Ed Reed" won't yet be backlogged, because they won't yet be eligible. As long as Ronde doesn't unretire, he will be up for consideration BEFORE those guys that are still playing this upcoming year, and Ronde should get in pretty easily.

by justanothersteve :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 12:02pm

That's assuming Barber is a first or second ballot HoF guy. I agree he should get in. But the HoF voters are a quirky bunch. When he's first eligible, the voters may think others who have waited longer deserve to be inducted first. After that, at least two out of Bailey, Woodson, and Reed will likely retire within two years. So if Barber doesn't get in during his first two years of eligibility, is he going to then be competing against those DBs for entry like the current group of WRs?

by IrishBarrister :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 7:00pm

I'm not a big Barber fan, but I'd befuddled by the notion of keeping him out of Canton for being "just a zone corner." Maybe I'm not as familiar with what analysts and Hall of Fame voters think is relevant in judging the strength of cornerbacks, but saying Barber is "just a zone corner" strikes me as the equivalent of saying Sapp was "just an Under front tackle" (to keep with the Buc theme here). It just doesn't seem terribly relevant. Inevitably, you are going to have players in the same position who operate out of very different schemes and who gather equally significant, albeit different, statistics for playing their assigned scheme very well.

So I have to agree: if people are going to pigeonhole Barber as "just a zone corner", then they should probably concede that he was probably the greatest ever at that job.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 7:14pm

Devin Hester?

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 7:50pm

It's a ranking of non-offensive TD leaders, not defensive TD leaders. I'm not sure if PFR's database can pull a ranking of defensive TD leaders, but at a glance it looks like Barber's 12 tie him for third in that category with Aeneas Williams, behind Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper who each have 13.

by bernie (not verified) :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 6:38pm

DOes he have a "signature play" that you can point to? Guys who are known for particular plays are nearly always given precedence over guys with just solid bodies of work.

by Anonymouse (not verified) :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 7:04pm

Barber's signature play was mentioned above already, but here's the link:


Source: NFL Films Top 10 Plays in Buccaneers History <-- Barber's is #1

by Theo :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 7:11pm

NFC Championship vs the Eagles. He made the pick six that sent them into the Super Bowl.

by nuk :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 7:42pm

I'm no Bucs fan, but it's sad to see him go. I'll let others argue about HoF.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 8:23pm

He has the longevity, but I don't know if he has the peak in my mind. There aren't too many better corner options in his era, which could help him.

What could hurt is I doubt they'll put in four guys from that defense, and Sapp's already in, Brooks is a lock, and Lynch is probably right there with Barber.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 9:16pm

I know Lynch has a major advantage in Pro Bowls, but it's always seemed to me that Barber was a more important part of his team. I'm not sure that either is worthy, but Barber seems like a slightly more deserving candidate than Lynch. AV sides strongly with Barber. (Of course, Lynch's 9[!] Pro Bowls pretty much guarantees that he will make it.)

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 9:24pm

I think Barber was better, but to me Lynch had a higher peak.

Barber does have a 2nd Team All-Decade to his name, and 2nd Team guys generally get a HOF spot about half the time. Lynch wasn't on the 2nd team, passed over for Troy Polamalu and Darren Sharper.

by Yaguar :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 6:00pm

In practice, a great cornerback is much more important than a great safety. See the market rates of compensation for each. Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu aren't paid what Darrelle Revis is paid.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 10:04pm

I'd put Barber well above Lynch; he's got the longevity, the TDs, the great blitzing ability, and the signature play. Lynch collected Pro Bowls his last four years in Denver, and I don't really recall him seeming particularly awesome those years, but it's not like Pro Bowls are exactly a marker of excellence these days. I'm a Bucs fan, and I'm honestly of the opinion that Lynch doesn't belong in the HOF. He was quite good, but I don't think of him as one for the ages.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 05/08/2013 - 10:37pm

I'll take the word of Bucs fans over my possibly off opinions that were founded when I was far younger.

I always thought that Ronde was a bit of a compiler (he had about 2-4 INTs a year for twelve years, apart from his 10 in 2001), whose career numbers look better just because he played for so long. But it still is football, at an extremely demanding position, so it is quite impressive for him to play that long.

by jonnyblazin :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 12:49am

Maybe he's the Art Monk of CBs?

by David :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 4:20am

Absolutely a hall of famer for me - I understand (and agree with) the knock for being in a scheme that allowed him to accentuate certain stats, and that played to his strengths, but being in a scheme that's good for you is hardly unusual for a HOFer.

He won a championship, has a signature play that sent his team to the SuperBowl, good counting stats, and a long career. Plus, if I were a voter, I'd know that it would aggravate Tiki something chronic, so that's a plus as well :)

by CBPodge :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 4:38am

For my money, he's borderline. Fine if he goes in, fine if he doesn't. I'd say he's probably the best HoF candidate at CB from now (the best is currently Aeneas Williams, and I'd probably pick Barber over him) until either Charles Woodson or Champ Bailey retire.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 6:59am

For me, Asante is as good of a candidate as Ronde. Already has more career INTs. Been on two Super Bowl winners. Has the NFL record for playoff pick-6es (I know random, but something that voters will love). There's his aversion to tackling, but his play as a corner has been stellar.

He isn't liked the way Ronde is, but that shouldn't matter (though it probably will).

by AB (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 7:35am

Definitely in, for me. One of the best CBs in the league for a very, very long time.

He also has the right "signatures" - the absolute archetype of a particular role (the Zone CB), big role in the Super Bowl winning team, longtime loyalty to and identification with a particular franchise.

To my mind he's way ahead of Lynch, who was a solid hard-hitting safety but no Polamalu/Reed.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 7:44am

The question of whether Barber should be a hall of famer really boils down to whether you think ANY Tampa-2 corner can be a hall of famer. That Barber was the best Tampa-2 corner ever doesn't seem to be in dispute.

I'd put him in. To keep him out over the scheme is a cop out. Everybody is a scheme guy. Yeah, Barber wasn't a "shutdown" corner, but Deion Sanders couldn't have done the things Barber did either. You can't hold it against a guy for having been put in a position that maximized his strengths. The fact that the Tampa-2 proliferated enough to give Barber's resume some context may help him with the voters in this regard.

by AB (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 8:07am

Exactly - we've seen the Tampa 2 used to make some terrible cover corners look almost OK. We've never seen it make anyone look nearly as good as Ronde Barber.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 1:28pm

He's not a HOFer for me.

He will get a knock for being 'just a zone corner' and it's a valid criticism. Zone cornerbacks do not have to have the same skills as man corners, they don't have to be as fast or have the man coverage skills. They are more fungible and don't get paid as highly as the very rare true man corner, which demonstrates that NFL teams don't value them as highly. Does that mean that all man corners can play zone? No and not all zone corners are equal, some are much better than others.

The Tampa 2 is probably even easier to play corner in than a cover three where Ike Taylor, Asante Samuel and now Richard Sherman have shown great skill. Nathan Vasher looked like a better corner for a few years before injuries and a lack of commitment led to his retirement.

I just don't think even the most dominant zone corners affect the game as much as a great man cornerback, or even a guy like Revis, who is capable of excelling in both techniques. If you offered me an Aeneas Williams or Charles Woodson in place of Barber then I would bite your hand off.

I'd offer up Mel Blount as a superior zone corner to assuage the 'best ever zone corner' argument. Barber was very good but never great, I'd argue that Charles Tillman might have a higher peak even if he's unlikely to match Barbers' longevity. It's this sustained high level of play that is his best case for the Hall but for me he just never had the peak value.

I don't think Lynch should have a hope but he'll get in, the voters are a pack of idiots. The conversation will go, "He's been to nine probowls!"
"Yes nine probowls, lets vote him in, I'm hungry!"
"Help me, help me, my shoe is untied!"
"Nine probowls, we don't need to talk anymore I'm hungry, just fill the form in with a tick."
"Which one is a tick? Is it the happy one or the angry one?"
"It's the happy one that's kicking! I'm smart. I write for the Sports Illustrated, it's a magazine but not for shooting with."

by Bill (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 2:03pm

Enjoyed your post.

1) Asking all 32 coaches or GMs to do an all-time draft of CBs would, I suspect, start with a run on the best man-cover guys, beginning with those who can also tackle and intercept, and take a long time to get to zone guys, and even then begin the transition with zone guys who can be reimagined as man guys, like Asante and Peanut. Point I'm trying to make is that coaches would, quite often, run man schemes if they could (talent / cost / availability), and therefore value it more.

2) Have you catered the HoF voting?


by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 2:11pm

You left out the part where the hungry guy tells a really boring anecdote about some time when he was travelling and he wanted a certain kind of coffee, but he couldn't get it, and how it was really annoying.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 3:24pm

Not as good as Mel Blount. Is there an opposite of "damning with faint praise?"

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 5:06pm

Sure, Randy Moss is a nice player, but he's no Jerry Rice.

I'm just saying, Tom Brady's OK, but Joe Montana, there's a QB.

Sure, Lawrence Taylor could get sacks, but he couldn't raise the dead like Jesus. Kick the guy out of the HOF already.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 5:53pm

That part wasn't really about Barber's HOF candidacy, it was specifically in response to your assertion that he was the best zone corner ever. I don't think he is quite that good.

I should have been clearer, at this rate I'll soon qualify as a HOF voter.

by dbostedo :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 5:43pm

Praising with faint damn?
ěčesiarp tniaf htiw gninmaD

by lumberjack (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 10:12pm

I think that hits the nail on the head. I like Rhonde, but would have a hard time ever voting a zone corner into the HOF. Not that anyone in Canton is concerned about my views. As for Lynch, well, the lazy, multiple pro bowls issue, might get him in, but I feel as if memories of him are already fading.

by Mike J (not verified) :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 5:34pm

OK, I got the message: waste of time posting here. F--you, assholes!!

by dbostedo :: Thu, 05/09/2013 - 5:44pm

I would love to know what prompted this... just out of morbid curiosity.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 05/10/2013 - 8:06am

I'm guessing something involving the spam filter. But yes, it does seem like there could be an interesting story here.

by MC2 :: Sat, 05/11/2013 - 10:31pm

I think Barber belongs in the HOF. I always thought he was much more important to that defense than Lynch was, although Sapp and Brooks were the only two guys that were really indispensable.

As for the "just a zone corner" argument, there is already one kicker in the Hall, there will probably be another when Vinatieri retires, and I've heard people (including people on this site) advocate for Steve Tasker. Surely zone corners are at least as valuable as kickers and special teams gunners, no?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Sun, 05/12/2013 - 12:43am

Just a zone corner is a silly thing to prevent induction. The hall of fame is about telling the story of football and honoring the great players. I know FO is all about the stats, and I agree with that perspective when talking about effectiveness and making predictions, but that is not what the hall is about. Someone who is the very best at something if that something is pertinent to winning football games ought to be in. Zone corner absolutely qualifies. Best gunner of all time? Sure if he's appreciably better than other players. Heck if I thought I could reasonably tell them apart I'd argue for the best long snapper of all time to make it too.

If a player is truly great at what he does, and what he does contributes to the game that has to count. People say that Namath is too week to really merit induction. I don't really know. But I do know he was really darn good and also contributed a, well, "famous" bit of NFL lore that helped sell the sport. Put those together, and I don't care if he wasn't quite up to snuff talent-wise as long as he's in the conversation.

As far as kickers go, if there aren't already three in the hall by the time Vinatieri is eligible then there's no way he going in. And the hall needs a punter.

by bachslunch :: Fri, 05/24/2013 - 10:06am

I think Barber gets in after several years wait. For a CB of his time, he'll likely be seen as behind Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson, at about the level of Ty Law. These four are the 00's all-decade CBs as well. And it's not unusual to see HoF CBs be 3-4 deep for a given period.

Re kickers, I can't see a HoF argument for Vinatieri when Morton Andersen, Gary Anderson, and Nick Lowery aren't in. Unlike the others who are among the best all-time in FG pct period-adjusted to era (along with HoF-ers Jan Stenerud and Lou Groza), Vinatieri is only at average level. I think he's overrated.