I love Rodney Harrison as much as any Patriots fan. Like I said when he was announced as one of the nominees along with Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel, when he signed here at the age of 31 to replace Lawyer Milloy at strong safety:
He did nothing less than make All-Pro his first year, then win two straight Super Bowls in the best back-to-back seasons by a team in league history (34-4). In his nine postseason games with the Patriots he had an incredible seven interceptions, including the pick-6 in Pittsburgh that blew open the 2004 AFC championship game and handed Ben Roethlisberger his first career loss and his pick of Donovan McNabb to close out Super Bowl XXXIX.
So it’s in that spirit that I say what I’m about to: The voters blew this selection. Not only does Rodney not belong in ahead of Seymour, I’d put him on the Bronze medal stand behind Vrabel.
For starters, Seymour and Vrabel are in the Three Ring Club. It’s not a coincidence that the Patriots dynasty began in their first year. Seymour was the pluperfect 5-technique defensive end in Belichick’s old 3-4 2-gap defense. and he came close to getting into Canton this year, so him getting into the Foxboro Hall should be the no-brainiest of no-brainers. Vrabel was a dual threat outside linebacker, both at setting the edge against the run and as a pass rusher, where he was good for double digit QB hits and at or near double digit sacks. And became a triple threat as a goal line tight end, with 10 touchdown catches on 10 targets, including two in the Super Bowl.
None of that is meant to be a shot at Rodney Harrison. He just didn’t reach the level those two did in his much shorter Patriots career. And I think his induction is less about merit and more a product of the fact he’s got one of the highest profile media gigs in football. While Seymour is playing competitive poker and Vrabel is coaching the Titans, Harrison is a vocal, talented guy who is not only on the highest rated network show, he gives a ton of interviews. Again, no knock on him. But I think the fact these other two keep getting passed over is an indictment of the voting process. It should be about getting the most deserving Patriots in there. It shouldn’t be “American Idol.”
That said, Harrison was as good a strong safety as they’ve ever had, before or since. A devastating hitter who could drop down into the box and blow up runners like an inside linebacker 40 pounds heavier, blitz, cover tight ends and backs, but also be trusted to drop back and play post safety covering wide receivers over the top. And one of the most important leaders in a locker room full of them.
I think it speaks volumes that the Patriots were competitive and fighting for championships in all of the six seasons these guys played together. And then once they were all gone after 2008 season, the 2009 Patriots were the most underachieving and least likable squad of the Bradichick Epoch. Thanks to unworthy, unmotivated ingrates like Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess, instead of world class leaders like Seymour, Vrabel and Harrison. So it’s no surprise that season ended with the worst postseason blowout of the era, losing 33-14 to the Ravens at Gillette. Which is my way of saying that, while I would’ve gone with one of the guys besides Harrison, all three of these guys are Patriots Hall of Fame-caliber players. Having three on the same ballot is a Dynasty Problem.