Hall of Fame voter Jason Cole offers insight into candidacies of Steve Atwater, John Lynch


AD: As a voter, do you try to use your vote to be representative of what everyone thinks or do you use it for who you think should be in?

JC: “Well, it’s a little bit of both. Again, this is not a binary system. It’s not a yes-no. It’s not like voting for president. It’s listening to the room, trying to get a feel for the room and understanding that this is not like a one-year process. That’s what a lot of people, I think, mistake. They say, ‘Oh, it’s all about this year.’ Yeah, it is, but if you follow the process along for three, four, five, six years, you understand there’s going to be a time when a guy’s going to be in better position. And then sometimes there’s John Lynch, who unfortunately waits and waits and waits and kind of gets bypassed somewhere along the way, like he did last year. That just kind of happens occasionally.”

AD: What do you think about the candidacies of Steve Atwater and John Lynch?

JC: “Well, they’re very good. Both of them are strong. I talked to a couple of Denver people who refused to break the tie. I’ll deal with those people when I see them personally. You can quote me on that. All joking aside, look, Atwater is a first-team All-Decade guy, Lynch is a second-team All-Decade guy. You’re talking about very miniscule differences. … If you put all that stuff out there, it’s pretty damn equal. Again, I think we’re going to have to see what the read of the room is. I expect it to be a difficult argument, just like it was a difficult argument when we had [Brian] Dawkins and Lynch. Dawkins seemed to catch some momentum. And I don’t know if that’s somebody said a certain thing that turned the tide, but Dawkins on that day, everybody seemed to be drawn to that candidacy.”

AD: There have been a lot more safeties inducted in recent years than over much of the Hall’s history. Is that reflective of the players that are up for induction, or is there another factor that’s led to a slew of safeties being inducted?

JC: “I haven’t studied it enough to give you a great, scientific answer other than, there happen to be a lot of great safeties. You’ve got the four on this ballot, and then behind them you’ve got Darren Woodson, Rodney Harrison, Roy Williams, who aren’t far behind in most people’s eyes and probably deserve to be discussed in the room somewhere along the way. I think that you could probably do a really great study on the changing in the passing game over the last 30 years and the pressure that puts on safeties to perform at a higher level, and therefore that guy gets put on the spot. In other words, it’s not the old days where the safety just played center field and either he was a really good center fielder, or he wasn’t. Or he was a box safety and he came up and smacked the crap out of somebody play after play. The game is more sophisticated. You move safeties around a lot. They have to be able to play a little bit in the box. They have to be able to play in coverage. They have to be some combination, and I think Atwater, Lynch — you talk about Rodney Harrison — those are prototypes. Troy Polamalu is certainly great at playing at the line, great at attacking the run game and pretty darn good in coverage. Some people criticize Troy, but he was pretty darn good in coverage.”