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How to Measure a Safety’s Value

‘The Ringer NFL Show’ ranks the top-10 linebackers and safeties, with help from John Lynch

As part of The Ringer NFL Show’s series ranking the 10 best players at every position, noted Andy Dalton enthusiast Kevin Clark and I spent this week chatting about the league’s best safeties and linebackers. Talking to an expert is helpful for discussing all positions, but for the safeties, it was particularly important. Defining value is tough with safeties: There are few numbers to support any argument, and without being able to see the backend players during broadcasts, we know less about them. That’s why we called nine-time Pro Bowl safety (and ace Fox color man) John Lynch to discuss the traits he values most at the position, our rankings, and Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.

Lynch has considerable love for Chancellor. They’re kindred, soul-crushing spirits. To Lynch, what makes Kam’s success even more remarkable is that he lays monster shots in an era when nearly every other player in football would be penalized for them. John and I touched on that issue and more during our interview, including whether his hard-hitting ways would translate to the way the game is officiated today. That excerpt is transcribed below. It was an enlightening conversation, and I encourage you to check it out, along with the rest of the show. — Robert Mays

To listen to the entire episode of The Ringer NFL Show, click here.

Robert Mays: Do you think you would have struggled to play today?

John Lynch: No, I don’t. I get that all the time. In the airport last night, a guy came up with his kid, got an autograph, and talked football. The guy loves football, but he just said, “You couldn’t have played in this day and age.”

My son asked, “Dad, you could have played in this, right?” And I said, “Yeah, I think you adjust.” I played the game the way it was taught when I played. As the game evolved, I think I would have evolved. That’s what good — great — players do. You adjust, and I think I wouldn’t have had a problem doing that. Nowadays, the thing you run into — and all these players run into the same thing because there’s such a light being shined on [them] — when you hit someone physically across the middle, it doesn’t matter where you hit them; the likelihood is there’s going to be a flag.

That would’ve been the biggest challenge, because that was my style of play. [Chancellor] is probably the guy on my list of when people say, “Who’s the guy?” I think Kam’s probably the guy that most modeled [his game after] the way I played the game.