Tiki Barber is one of the greatest running backs in New York Giants’ history and one of the best running backs anywhere during his career.
So why hasn’t the Pro Football Hall of Fame noticed?
Barber has been eligible for the Hall the past eight years and never … not once … has he been a finalist or semifinalist. Twin brother Ronde has. In fact, he was a semifinalist in 2018, his first year of eligibility, and, in all likelihood, will be a finalist one day.
So why haven’t voters come around to Tiki?
The guy was a three-time Pro Bowler. He twice led the league in yards from scrimmage and is one of only three players to have 10,000 career yards rushing and 5,000 yards receiving. Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen are the others, and both were elected to Canton in their first years of eligibility.
But Tiki? Crickets.
When Barber retired following the 2006 season, he was the Giants’ all-time rushing and receiving leader – with four of the five best rushing totals in team history. He had the most 100-yard rushing games. He had the most 200-yard rushing games. And he set franchise records for career rushing (10,449 yards), career yards per-carry (4.7) and most yards from scrimmage in a career (15,632).
It’s that last total that should get your attention because it ranks 14th among all NFL players, just behind Terrell Owens and just ahead of Edgerrin James. Of the 11 players eligible for Canton who are ahead of Barber, all are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And the two that aren’t? Frank Gore and Larry Fitzgerald will be there one day.
So what’s the problem with Tiki Barber?
The guy was an all-purpose back for one of the bedrock franchises of the league. But he was more than that. Much more. He was one of the NFL's premier performers, rushing for 1,000 or more yards in six of the seven years that he was a starter, averaging 63.4 catches a season during that time and three times producing over 2,000 yards from scrimmage – including a franchise-record 2,390 in 2005.
That last figure ranks third in NFL history, behind only Chris Johnson (2,509) and Marshall Faulk (2,429) and just ahead of LaDainian Tomlinson (2,370).
The bottom line is this: There is virtually nothing missing from his resume except … well, except a Super Bowl championship. And there’s no doubt that penalizes him, especially with the Giants winning one the year immediately after Barber’s retirement.
Granted, his 68 touchdowns rank 113th in league history, but they tie him with Raymond Berry, Art Monk and Larry Csonka – all Hall of Famers. Plus, his career rushing average of 4.7 yards-per-carry ties him with O.J. Simpson, Hugh McElhenny and Adrian Peterson.
Simpson and McElhenny are in the Hall. Peterson will be there. But none of them won championships, either.
Critics charge he was divisive, offering the Giants’ 2007 Super Bowl season as proof. He had retired, and Big Blue won a championship without him. OK, so they won. It happens. But don’t tell me he played no role in their being there because he did.
In case you forgot, it was Barber who saved Tom Coughlin’s job the last game of the 2006 season when he ran for a franchise-record 234 yards in a playoff-clinching defeat of Washington – a game where Barber scored three times.
Of course, it was Coughlin who helped correct fumbling issues that plagued Barber early in his career.
If there’s a legitimate knock on Barber, it’s that he retired too soon. His two best seasons rushing were his last two. The last three he had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, and in 2006 he produced more yards than any NFL running back in his last season. Yet he left after 10 years with the Giants – seven as a starter – to pursue interests outside the game, specifically television.
“I didn’t have any regrets,” he said on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast last year, “because I had made up my mind so strongly to walk into my next career.”
Understood. Also understood is that longevity no longer serves as a measurement of Hall-of-Fame careers -- not since the 2017 induction of Terrell Davis.
So what’s the problem here? I wish I knew. Tiki Barber was a marquee back for a marquee team. In the seven years that he was a starter for the Giants there were few backs anywhere that were better.
People talk about the four-year run of Marshawn Lynch (2011-2014) where he averaged 1,339 yards rushing and 4.53 yards a carry and how that makes him Hall-of-Fame worthy. OK, maybe. But in each of Barber’s last five seasons (2001-06) he averaged 1,528.6 yards rushing and 2,054.8 yards from scrimmage.
Furthermore, he checked in at 4.8 yards per carry.
One more thing: Lynch had 10,379 yards rushing for his career. Barber had 10,449. Yet Marshawn Lynch is Hall-of-Fame worthy, while Tiki Barber can’t get a sniff as a semifinalist? I’m sorry, but there’s something wrong with this picture, and it needs to be corrected.
Tiki Barber deserves better.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF