Chicago Bears: Is Devin Hester a lock for the Hall of Fame?
Well, Devin Hester is now officially eligible to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, but all bias aside, does Devin Hester deserve to get his bust in Canton and represent the Chicago Bears?
For many Bears fans, the obvious answer is “yes”. Do the stats back it up though, or is this a Chicago Bears fantasy?
Let’s take a look.
Do stats predict former Chicago Bears returner Devin Hester as a Hall of Famer?
Well, if there was a “Lovie Smith has called you the greatest of all time” stat, Devin would at least have that one going in.
"“My first head job and I got to coach the greatest returner of all time. That was special, the things I was able to see him do with his hands on the ball.” – Lovie Smith"
Now, is that actually how the Hall of Fame panel looks at it? Probably not, but whenever someone is called the greatest (blank) of all time, people start to run with it.
However, what has Devin Hester accomplished that makes him more qualified than the others in his eligibility class. He’s going up against competition like DeMarcus Ware, Steve Smith Sr., Robert Mathis, Andre Johnson, Vince Wilfork, Anquan Boldin, and with a maximum of eight inductees, it’s an important question to ask if he deserves it over some of these other guys, as well as guys that have been pushed back from prior years.
The “Hester Rule”
When you think of Devin Hester, the first thing that might come up is returning a kick for a touchdown, and it makes sense that that’s the first thing that comes to mind.
In actuality, Hester’s ability to turn a vast majority of innocent kickoffs into six points the other way changed the game forever.
He quite literally created the “Hester Rules”, and whenever someone changes how the game is played, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t dominant in some capacity.
"The “Hester Rules” :“The NFL changed the kickoff to the 25-yard line to help promote more touchbacks, ultimately limiting Hester’s ability to take over games as a return man.”"
Now, this is one of the reasons that I think Hester is Canton-bound, but there are plenty of reasons for him to not make it, or at least not this year as a first-ballot candidate.
Where does Devin Hester rank amongst returners?
Usually, when Hall of Fame talks come to the surface, the ranking games come out. So, where does Hester rank when up against the other return men of NFL’s past and present?
A stand-out statistic for many is that Hester is rostered on the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000 Team and Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2010 Team, even if both were a 2nd-team position. Now, does that mean that he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer? No, but it at least means that he’s amongst good company. To be fair, Peyton Manning is 2nd team, even if Tom Brady is the one ahead of him — small victories.
With 156 games under Hester’s belt, he’s been to four Pro Bowls, and he’s been named an All-Pro three times.
In terms of rankings, here’s where Hester stacks up against the pack.
He ranks 1st (14) in punt returns for a touchdown, 12th (5) in kickoff returns for a touchdown, 11th (7,333 yards) in kick return yards, 3rd (3,695 yards) in punt return yards, and 8th (11,028 yards) in kick and punt return yards, so when looking at these stats, it’s easy to see why people are hesitant to say Devin Hester will absolutely be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
[Editor’s Note: Don’t forget teams literally kicked the ball out of bounds to eliminate him from having any chance at returning the ball, and he was part of the new era his “rule” created, thus drastically cutting down his statistics]
Super Bowl XLI
Now, for any Bears fan, Super Bowl XLI holds a special place in our hearts. No, not because they won, but because it started out with one of the most electric ways to score — an opening kickoff return for a touchdown by Devin Hester. This is still the most memorable moment in Chicago Bears history for Bears fans that weren’t alive in 1985. While that game ended in the opposite fashion as the opening kickoff, that play will forever keep Devin Hester loved in the Windy City.
To me, Devin Hester changed the game of football with the “Hester Rule”, and I’m usually an advocate for the thought of; “if the rules of a game are changed to make someone less dominant, it’s hard to say that person isn’t good enough for the Hall of Fame.” However, it’s a hard thing to say just because some people mistake the Hall of Fame for the Hall of Really Good, myself included.
At the end of the day, I’d personally vote for Devin Hester to get into the Hall of Fame due to a couple of reasons. I can’t say I’m confident that he’ll be a first-ballot option, however, I do think he will end up in the Hall someday.
- (Not to be a broken record, but) “Hester Rule”
- Ranking 1st in punt return touchdowns and 3rd in punt return yards
- Being on both the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2000 Team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame All-2010 Team
- The historic start to Super Bowl XLI