Earlier today, I was watching the ESPN NFL Countdown tools talking about the Colts-Chargers game this evening, specifically, about LaDainian Tomlinson's injury, when Tom Jackson stated "Well, LT is right now a first-ballot Hall of Famer". I turned to a roomate and said I didn't agree with that, that he may be a HOFer right now, but he still has some work to do before he is a first-ballot guy. He disagreed, and the argument ensued.
(Let me preface this by saying that while I am a Colts fan, I am not a homer. I have an appreciation for sports in general and you can usually tell when I am intentionally showing my bias.)
I will not argue that LT is one of the most explosive and talented players that has ever played the game. For the past 8 years, he has consistently been the "best back in the game, today" (apologies to Adrian Peterson, the next big thing). He has an MVP and an impressive single season TD record that he seemed to achieve with frightening ease. But does this really qualify him as a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy? I would argue no.
For you to consider Tomlinson a first-ballot player, then that opens the door for two other current players who would have to be considered first-ballot worthy. First, Kurt Warner.
The problem with Warner is that he has been so hit or miss over the course of his career. He started off his career hot out of the gate, but injuries and politics have shadowed what has otherwise been a great 10 year career:
4-time Pro Bowler
2-time NFL MVP
1-time Super Bowl MVP
1-time Super Bowl Champion
How does that stack up with Tomlinson? Tomlinson has 1 MVP and 5 Pro Bowl invitations, along with the aforementioned TD record. If Tomlinson is a first-ballot HOFer, then certainly Warner is as well?
Ok, it can be tough to compare a RB to a QB with ease, so how about another back? How about Shaun Alexander?
3-time Pro Bowler
1-time NFL MVP
So Alexander doesn't necessarily match up stat for stat with Tomlinson, but (unfortunately for all of us) statistics aren't always the main factor in HOF voting. Voters do take stats into account, but they also include things like MVPs, Pro Bowl appearences, and, for better or worse, Super Bowls. Before Indianpolis won the Super Bowl, and Peyton had his 2 MVPs and his single season TD record, it didn't matter who you asked, Tom Brady the better Hall of Fame candidate. I will not argue that, but the underlying theme here is that although Pey-Pey had the stats, Brady had the the greater glory. That's important in Hall of Fame discussion. Coming back to the subject at hand here, Alexander has the same amount of MVPs as Tomlinson, held that same TD record one year prior to LT breaking it, and (gasp!) played in one more Super Bowl than LT. Is that fair criteria to judge with? Maybe yes, maybe no. But the fact still remains that at this point, there are players who are just as, if not more deserving the be a first-ballot Hall of Famer than LT.
As stated earlier, I will not deny that LDT is a charismatic and phenominal NFL player. He has achieved great success in his first 8 seasons that compare favorably with just about anyone you compare him with. He hasn't played in a Super Bowl (yet) and seems to be slowing down, but he is definitely Hall of Fame material down the road.
But does this make him a first-ballot material at this point in time? I would argue no.