One of the New York Giants’ greatest players never to win a Super Bowl is now making his way toward a different prestigious NFL milestone. For the first time, Tiki Barber is on the 25-man modern-era semifinalist list for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This comes three months after he presented his twin brother Ronde for enshrinement in Canton.
Barber retired after the 2006 season following a 10-year career with the Giants. The team selected him with the 36th overall pick of the 1997 draft, and he promptly finished fourth in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting after posting 810 scrimmage yards and. Barber was quiet the next two seasons, although he did have 609 receiving yards and a punt return touchdown in 1999.
In 2000, Barber posted his first season with over 1,000 rushing yards, helping the Giants on an improbable Super Bowl run that fell short against the Ravens. He was the lightning part of the Giants’ “Thunder and Lightning” duo together with rookie Ron Dayne. All told, Barber had 1,725 scrimmage yards and nine touchdowns that season. After another 1,442 scrimmage yards in 14 games in 2001, he had five consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 rushing yards and 1,670 scrimmage yards to close out his career.
Barber’s last three years in the league were his best. In 2004, he posted 1,518 rushing yards and 2,096 yards from scrimmage. In 2005, he bested that with 1,860 rushing yards and 2,390 scrimmage yards, approaching Marshall Faulk’s then-record. He carried the Giants to the playoffs with 28 carries for 203 yards, including a 95-yard touchdown scamper. Barber capped off his career with 1,662 rushing yards and 2,127 scrimmage yards in 2006 en route to another playoff berth. He again willed the Giants there with a 23-carry, 234-yard, three-touchdown performance to beat Washington, 34-28.
Barber decided to retire at 31 years old and seemingly in the prime of his career. He thereby missed out on the Giants’ 2007 miracle Super Bowl run, including their upset over the undefeated Patriots. He finished his career with 10,449 rushing yards, 4.7 yards per carry, and 55 rushing touchdowns. He added 586 receptions, 5,183 receiving yards, and 12 receiving touchdowns. He was a three-time Pro Bowler (in his last three seasons) and a first-team All-Pro in 2005 when he also finished fourth in the MVP voting and third in the Offensive Player of the Year race.
Barber’s road to Canton is still a long one. He has been on the ballot since 2012, but this is his first time as a semifinalist. Some of the other semifinalists include defensive ends Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, and Dwight Freeney, tackle Willie Anderson, receivers Torry Holt, Steve Smith, and Anquan Boldin, tight end Antonio Gates, and safeties Rodney Harrison and Darren Woodson. Barber is the only new semifinalist not in his first year of eligibility (Peppers and Gates are both eligible for the first time).
The current devaluation of the running back position can also hurt Barber. Although he is the Giants’ all-time rushing leader by nearly 4,000 yards, he ranks 27th on the all-time list and never won a rushing title. He did not pile up accolades and was a complementary back for most of his first few seasons. He also fumbled an excessive amount, posting at least eight fumbles four separate times and racking up 53 total.
The argument for Barber is just how dominant the second half of his career was, especially the last three seasons. Faulk, Eric Dickerson, and Walter Payton have the most 2,000 scrimmage-yard seasons in their careers with four. Barber posted three and had 1,984 in a fourth. He came that close to a rare feat, showcasing his two-way skills. His production was incredible because he had only six seasons with at least 200 rush attempts. He is also tied for 17th all-time among running backs (min. 750 carries) with his 4.7 yards per carry; among those ahead of him, only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders had more carries, and everyone else had at least 500 fewer attempts.
What Barber squeezed out of his six years as a starter was remarkable. He may not make it to the Hall of Fame this year, but when Eli Manning hits the ballot in 2025, perhaps Barber’s candidacy will gain some momentum. One way or another, he is truly an all-time Giant, especially on the offensive side of the football.
Does Tiki Barber deserve enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
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