GREEN BAY - Kevin Greene doesn’t quite know how to identify a Hall of Famer. There was once a time he thought he knew. Then more than a decade passed.
That’s how long Greene had to wait — 12 years after becoming eligible — to be inducted despite retiring as the NFL’s third-highest sacks leader since it became an official stat in 1982. His wait ends in August when he’ll join a 10-man Hall of Fame class. Many who follow the game — including Greene, naturally — thought the delay should have been much shorter.
Hall of Fame credentials can’t only be about stats, Greene said. If so, he surmised, why would a pass rusher with 163 career sacks have to wait that long? It had to be more about pure impact on the field, he figured. If not, why wouldn’t voters more quickly recognize a player who competed in a conference championship game for each of his four teams throughout his career?
“I think that criteria is very convoluted,” Greene said. “I think there’s a lot of gray area involved.”
So Greene has a hard time saying any specific player should be a Hall of Famer. He simply doesn’t know.
For Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Julius Peppers, he made an exception.
Each of the top three living career sack leaders — Bruce Smith, Greene and Chris Doleman — said Peppers should be a Hall of Famer even if he retired today. That’s without winning a Super Bowl ring in his career, mind you.
“I do. I really do,” Doleman said. “His longevity, his production. That’s pretty awesome. And he was on teams that were successful.”
Peppers has a chance to add to his already illustrious career this fall when he plays the final season in his original three-year contract with the Packers. Nobody knows whether this will be the final season of his career, even Peppers. What’s clear is Peppers' Hall-of-Fame credentials are in a good place as he enters his age-36 season, partly because of his ability to prolong his production to an almost unprecedented level in Green Bay.
Peppers is tied for ninth with recently retired Jared Allen with 136 career sacks. He’s the only man in NFL history to have double-digit interceptions and more than 100 sacks. Like Greene, every team Peppers has played for — three in total — throughout his career reached a conference championship game.
“I’m a huge statistics guy,” Smith said. “Based upon where he ranks and what he’s been able to accomplish, he has the qualifications. Yeah, he’s a phenomenal talent.”
With another season similar to his last, Peppers will continue putting himself in rare company. He is six sacks from passing Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan and moving into the top five all-time. He is 14 away from becoming the fifth player in NFL history to reach 150.
“I think Julius is obviously stringing together a fine career,” Greene said. “That’s really what I want to see as a fella that’s going into the Hall of Fame this summer. I want to see somebody doing it over a long period of time at a high level. I think that deserves some serious consideration, when you can put that together. I’m not just talking 10 years. I want to see 12, 14, 15, 16 years at a high, impactful level, production-wise, making an impact late in his career. Offenses still having to account for them late in his career. Then you know that’s a special kind of dude, and I do believe that Julius falls into that category.”