DENVER — At last, years of long discussion as to whether John Lynch was a Hall of Fame player has been silenced.
Lynch is a Hall of Famer, once and forever.
On his eighth consecutive try as a top 15 modern-era finalist, Lynch was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos safety received at least 80 percent of the tallies from a committee of 48 voters, it was announced Saturday night. Lynch learned of his election back on Sunday, January 24 as his family was gathered to watch the NFC Championship Game pitting Tampa Bay against Green Bay at his offseason San Diego home.
"I saw my neighbor later and he said, 'You must have got into the Hall of Fame,'" Lynch said in an interview with 9NEWS. "I said, 'How’d you know?' And he said, 'Because why else would you have a camera crew at your house during quarantine?'"
Hall of Fame president David Baker notified Linda Lynch of her husband’s election on Friday, January 22. She made sure their four children and John’s mom and dad were at the Lynch home on Sunday afternoon – although she told them the purpose of the gathering was the conference championship games.
"Linda was the only one who knew," Lynch said. "She didn’t tell anyone and it was perfect because we had gone to church and then the games were on so it’s plausible that everybody would be there. I mean that’s normal for us. But she hadn’t told any of them."
Then came Baker’s knock on the Lynch’s door.
"It was a surprise for everybody," Lynch said.
Oh, and one more thing before Baker left. The Hall of Fame made the entire Lynch clan sign non-disclosure agreements.
Lynch, who is now general manager of a San Francisco 49ers team that won the NFC Conference Championship Game a year ago, played 11 seasons for Tampa Bay, where he was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team five times and helped the Bucs win the 2002-season Super Bowl. He then played four seasons with the Broncos and was named to the AFC Pro Bowl team all four times.
The only other Hall of Fame-eligible players who had four-plus Pro Bowls with multiple teams – Champ Bailey, Reggie White, Willie Roaf, Tony Gonzalez and Ken Houston– all had their busts bronzed in Canton.
Lynch’s 9 Pro Bowls are tied for second with Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins among safeties, trailing only Houston’s 12. Reed and Dawkins had previously joined Houston in the HOF.
With Lynch and Bailey anchoring the Denver D from 2004-07, the Broncos were 4th in total defense in 2004, and ranked 3rd in scoring defense in 2005, when the Broncos went 13-3 during the regular season, beat Tom Brady and the Patriots in a second-round playoff game at Mile High, and reached the AFC Championship Game.
Lynch was more than just a four-time Pro Bowler in his four years with the Broncos. He and Linda gave out more than $1 million in college scholarships to local high school scholar-athletes through their John Lynch Foundation for 14 years from 2004-17.
Lynch first became a top 15 HOF finalist in 2014, his second year of eligibility. It appeared to be his turn to get elected into the class of 2017, his fourth year as a finalist, but he split the safety vote with first-ballot candidate Dawkins. The next year, Dawkins, who played three of his 16 seasons with the Broncos, catapulted Lynch into the Hall.
Lynch again appeared to be on the verge to join the Centennial Class of 2020 but he was jumped by Broncos’ safety Steve Atwater, who was elected 20 years after his final game and in just his third year as a finalist.
Lynch vs. Atwater was a fervent debate among the Hall of Fame voters last year – "I didn’t like that because Steve is a good friend of mine," Lynch said. -- and Lynch’s HOF case drew considerable discussion again this year when voters met by Zoom on January 19 to elect the class of 2021. With Super Bowl 55 and the NFL Honors show in Tampa – where Lynch spent the bulk of his playing career – it would have been almost cruel for voters to not give Lynch one of the five modern-era spots this time.
The lot can be tough, maybe, but not don’t call them cruel. Lynch, who was previously inducted into the Broncos’ Ring of Fame and the Bucs’ Ring of Honor, will now get his bust bronzed and placed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum in Canton, Ohio. The induction ceremony for the Class of 2021 is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 8 in Canton providing the event receives health officials’ clearance from COVID. The Hall of Fame Class of 2020 that features Atwater – which did not get its ceremony last summer because of the COVID shutdown -- will be inducted the day before, on Saturday, August 7, virus permitting.
"A pretty good year for the Broncos because of the two classes," Lynch said. "Atwater, Peyton and myself all there so a good representation."
Indeed, the Broncos are on a Hall of Fame roll with an NFL-most six elected in the past five years -- Terrell Davis (2017), Bailey (2019), owner Pat Bowlen (2019), Atwater (2020) and now Manning (2021) and Lynch (2021) and five in the past three.
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