When Devin McCourty announced his retirement recently, the conversation turned to his Hall of Fame candidacy.
Longtime voter Clark Judge tackled the issue in a column, conferring with three football historians before rendering his verdict that McCourty belongs in the Hall of Very Good, and not pro football’s Hall. The rationale is that McCourty was never a first-team All-Pro in 13 seasons, and was only a Pro Bowler twice. Judge ranked McCourty behind Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, and Eric Berry, each of whom likely won’t make the Hall of Fame.
Judge’s opinion is surely shared by many of the other 50 or so Hall of Fame voters. But they should take a deeper look at McCourty’s career before he is eligible for the Hall five years from now.
Compared with his peers, McCourty has the numbers. Over the last 20 years, McCourty ranks sixth among safeties in interceptions (35), ahead of Troy Polamalu, Thomas, Weddle, and Berry. His 110 passes defended rank sixth, and his 938 tackles rank fourth.
Then add in the peripheral stuff:
- McCourty started 205 of a possible 210 games, not missing one over the final seven seasons of his career. He also played in 24 postseason games, adding an extra 1½ seasons of wear and tear to his body.
- McCourty played in five Super Bowls, winning three, and reached the AFC Championship Game in three other seasons.
- McCourty was a captain for 12 of his 13 seasons, and nine times the Patriots’ defense finished in the top 10 in points allowed, including three years as the league’s No. 1 or 2 scoring defense. McCourty was the defensive play-caller and was used at free safety, strong safety, and cornerback.
As Bill Belichick also explained this past week, there was more to McCourty than numbers. McCourty didn’t stand out in the Patriots’ 37-31 overtime win over the Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship game, finishing with three tackles. But the Patriots limited Tyreek Hill to one catch for 42 yards that day, and McCourty was the mastermind.
“One of the real keys to that whole game was the way that Tyreek Hill moved around,” Belichick said at McCourty’s retirement news conference. “And the way Devin was able to manipulate the defensive calls that we used to try to double and cover Hill, and how that changed in the course of the game as they moved [Hill] to different spots, from outside to inside, put him in motion and things like that. That was really a tremendous job by Devin of organizing the secondary and making the proper calls and the proper adjustments in obviously the biggest game of the year.”
Why McCourty didn’t make more Pro Bowl/All-Pro teams or the 2010 All-Decade team is a mystery. Berry played just five full seasons between 2010-19 and had only 14 interceptions, but got the All-Decade nod over McCourty, who had 10 healthy seasons and 26 interceptions, third most among safeties. McCourty may not have been the best at his position in a given year, but consistency and longevity surely count for something.
You don’t even need to include all of the great stuff McCourty does in the community, which only bolsters his candidacy. McCourty has the stats, the rings, and the résumé to make it to Canton. If McCourty isn’t a Hall of Famer, they may as well shut down the entire museum.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.