Rodney Harrison is right – the HOF has a Patriots problem

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 12: Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots talks to Chad Johnson #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals after Johnson was unable to catch a ball in the end zone at Gillette Stadium on December 12, 2004 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 35-28. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 12: Rodney Harrison #37 of the New England Patriots talks to Chad Johnson #85 of the Cincinnati Bengals after Johnson was unable to catch a ball in the end zone at Gillette Stadium on December 12, 2004 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Patriots won 35-28. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Rodney Harrison recently joined Ty Law in suggesting that the NFL Hall of Fame has an anti-Patriots prejudice… and he’s 100% right.

One week from today, legendary New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law will be honored in Canton, Ohio, as he and seven other prominent NFL figures will become enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Law is certainly deserving of the honor – his career stats and accomplishments as a player place him well near the top of the league’s Mount Olympus of cornerbacks. Beyond his individual numbers, though, he also revolutionized his position, effectively forcing the NFL to adapt to his playing style by regulating just how physical and contact-heavy corners could be with opposing wide receivers.

So with Law just days away from accepting one of football’s most prestigious honors, why is some of his rhetoric in the media of late a little less than flattering when it comes to the Hall of Fame… the same organization that is about to cast a bust of his visage in gold?

One word: prejudice.

“You look at the numbers, and of course, yes I had the numbers, and you look at the championships, but for whatever reason, and I still think it’s still like that today, is as much winning as we’re continuing to do, it’s like we are looked at as a team. That’s it, like there’s no other players worthy of that, at least from the media perspective when it comes to the Patriots. It’s Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and everybody else, you know what I mean?”

Law’s point is essentially this: no one is saying the Patriots aren’t an incredibly successful franchise this millennium. No one is arguing against this utter dominance of a league designed for parity, nor is anyone saying that the team’s machine-like brilliance doesn’t rightfully deserve a seat at the exalted table of professional sports dynasties.

The problem, at least according to Law, is that almost all of that credit is going to just two people: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Make no mistake – he’s not saying that Brady and Belichick aren’t deserving of all the accolades and commendations they’ve earned over the course of the past two decades. He’s just saying that especially with a sport like football – which is the epitome of a team game – it takes more than just the pairing of a once-in-a-generation quarterback with a once-in-a-generation head coach to make all the beautiful magic happen.

“You pretty much know, Tom Brady is the greatest of all time,” Law explained. “There’s no doubt about that. There’s no question about Coach Belichick. When you hear about our team, it was like to me, we have a hell of a lot of players out there that can play. You can’t do it by just two guys. I think we were molded like this through perception in the media that there was probably no other Hall of Fame players outside of that, which now we know was totally wrong. I think that I should be the first of a few more, to be honest with you.”

Rodney Harrison, who played with Law on some of those early-days teams in the 2000s, couldn’t agree more. Speaking to the Boston Herald on Wednesday, Harrison elaborated on what Law meant in describing an anti-Patriots bias in the Hall of Fame.

Courtesy of NBC Sports’ Darren Hartwell, here’s what Harrison had to say:

"“People don’t think we have ballers. I’m like, Ty Law was the greatest defensive back I’ve ever played with. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. Richard Seymour, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, these dudes were, bad, bad dudes. They weren’t just system guys.”"

Like Law, Harrison believes the sentiment stems from a familiar place: the idea that all of New England’s success comes solely from Brady and Belichick.

"“It’s unfair when people say, ‘As long as you had Tom and Bill,’ well, ‘Dude, Tom and Bill can’t get it done by themselves.’ It takes a lot of really smart, great players. It’s just unfortunate. It’s almost a form of discrimination. People don’t want to elevate us, or recognize, or acknowledge how great we are, because they’re such haters. Everywhere I go, people hate on the Patriots. So we don’t get credit. All I hear is Tom and Bill. But that’s such a lazy analysis. They don’t see what the team really is, and that’s really frustrating because a lot of guys get cheated and don’t really get the recognition they deserve.”"

Hartwell correctly points out that the dominant NFL team from the 1990s – the Dallas Cowboys – has three Hall of Famers in Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, and Emmitt Smith. The New England Patriots of the 2000s also won three Super Bowl championships in a four-year span, and yet Ty Law is so far the only player from those teams to receive induction.

In fact, Law will become just the fifth Patriots player to be enshrined in Canton. The only other Hall of Famers officially listed with New England are John Hannah, Andre Tippett, Mike Haynes, and Nick Buoniconti.

It’s not unreasonable to think that any number of former Patriots greats could – and perhaps should – join Law in the near future. Richard Seymour narrowly missed out on the honor this year. Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, and Mike Vrabel might also have legitimate arguments.

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Of course, Brady and Belichick are both surefire locks. Team owner Robert Kraft could be inducted as soon as next year, and is also seen as a guaranteed entrant at some point. And the vast majority of analysts and experts also believe that recently retired tight end Rob Gronkowski will one day be admitted to the Hall of Fame as well.

Who do you think is most-deserving of Canton’s recognition from the early years of the Patriots’ dynasty?