Being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is one accolade that few NFL players get to experience, serving as the ultimate recognition of their individual achievements during their career.
As of 2020, there are only 346 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A small amount considering the number of players that have played throughout the years, with coaches and contributors being included as well.
The selection process is long and thought out. Over the years, the Hall of Fame has received its fair share of criticism for the selection process and the absence of names that many believe were left out.
Fans are biased and partial to their favorite players. All fans believe that their player was the best and should have made it before the other guy. No one process is flawless and there are many players, coaches, and contributors that deserve to put on the coveted gold jacket and likely never will.
It’s hard to be exceptional and to achieve individual recognition in a team sport. Often, the team itself isn’t good as a whole and the individual doesn’t get the opportunity to end up on the big stage to display his greatness.
The 2020 class consists of modern-day inductees Edgerrin James, Isaac Bruce, Troy Polamalu, Steve Atwater, and Steve Hutchinson.
All deserving inductees. However, Miami Dolphins fans (biased or not) believe that Zach Thomas was deserving as well. The 5-foot-11 middle linebacker who wore No. 54 for 12 seasons as a Dolphin won the hearts of fans through his exceptional play for the aqua and orange.
The former Dolphins linebacker recorded 1,727 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, and 17 interceptions with four touchdowns throughout 184 career games.
Zach’s career spanned from 1996 to 2008 where he appeared in 8 playoff games from 1997 to 2001. The end of the playoff appearances coincidingly closed with Dan Marino’s retirement in 2000, and the beginning of the twenty-year slump that Miami is hoping will finally come to an end.
In spite of the fading competitiveness of the Dolphins in the early 2000s, Thomas still played his way on to seven Pro Bowls, five First-Team All-Pro honors, two Second-Team All-Pro selections, the 1996 AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and recognition on the NFL’s All-Decades Team for the 2000s.
In comparison, Polamalu, a first-ballot nominee, compiled 32 interceptions, five touchdowns, and 12 sacks in 158 games, including 15 playoff appearances. His many individual accolades include eight Pro Bowls, four First-Team All-Pro selections, and Pro Football HOF Second-Team All 2000’s team.
The stark difference in comparison is that Polamalu was part of a winning team throughout his time in Pittsburgh, capturing two Super Bowl titles.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Monitor is a metric designed to estimate a player’s chance of making it into the Hall of Fame using AV, Pro Bowls, All-Pros, championships, and various stat milestones, according to Pro Football Reference.
The current list has Zach Thomas with a 112.2 Monitor Score. The average HOF score for this position is 113. The players ahead of Zach Thomas are, in order: Ray Lewis, Mike Singletary, Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus, Luke Kuechly, and Brian Urlacher (113.4). All of which are already enshrined into the Hall of Fame with the exception of Luke Kuechly. Worth noting is Nick Buoniconti is two spots below Zach Thomas on this list at 102.55
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that Polamalu’s HOF monitor score is 95.73, with the average score for a DB being 99.0
All the accolades and metrics in the world won’t matter without the support of the 48 members of the Selection Committee. Part of the voting procedure does include fans nominating players of their choice for consideration.
Thomas deserves to have his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as he compares favorably with other players already inducted. Throughout 12 years and 168 game days with Miami, he displayed individual greatness and excellence.
The HOF continues to evade an all-time defensive talent, but it’s about time for Thomas to put on the gold jacket and be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.