Torching Tiki

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Image by jacorbett70 via Flickr

Apparently, this is criticism week here on Football Relativity. After pounding Ryan Mallett yesterday, we have a new target – ex-Giants running back Tiki Barber, who announced Tuesday he was going to try to come out of retirement and return to the field at age 36.

Barber’s announcement sent me into a bit of a Twitter tirade that I wanted to bring back here to start the discussion:

If Tiki Barber is trying to make sure his announcement makes a splash, making it while no other transactions are allowed is the way to do it
Does Tiki Barber really have a chance to make it back to the #NFL? Let me put it this way: I think I’d rather bet on Maurice Clarett
(After retweeting this from Ross Tucker: 3 reasons to un-retire: 1)Love the game. 2)Need money. 3)Crave relevancy/the spotlight again. I’m going with 2 & 3 for Tiki.) … Love @RossTuckerNFL ‘s 3 reasons to unretire. Taking it further: Favre has 1&3 (& maybe 2; who knows). Carson Palmer may not have any of ’em
Heard someone call Tiki Barber a Hall of Famer- No way. He’ll settle for @espnsmitty ‘s Corridor of the Capable. Enjoy your Formica Tiki

I’ll explain the Hall of Fame comment below. But first, let’s think about why Tiki is trying a comeback, and whether he realistically has a shot. And suffice it to say, I’m skeptical on both counts. Most running backs hit the wall at age 30, so it’s foolhardy to think that Barber at age 36 will be anywhere close to his prime years. While he hasn’t taken a pounding on the field in four years, there’s no way he still has the quickness or the durability he did when he was four years younger. And yes, Tiki’s twin brother Ronde is still playing and playing well, which speaks well to Tiki’s genetics. But coming back from being away is far different than keeping the body in shape for one more run, and playing cornerback is a lot less physical than playing running back. We’ve seen several cornerbacks – Darrell Green, Deion Sanders, etc. – play into their late 30s, but finding a late-30s running back is like spotting a unicorn.

If Tiki’s return is such a longshot, why is he doing it? Tiki left the game early in large part because he was ready to start a TV career. He had a great opportunity with NBC not only to be on Football Night in America every Sunday night but also to be a contributor to the Today Show. In many ways, Tiki was being groomed for the morning-show landscape. But he proved to be bland on camera, and then personal issues turned his blandness into outright dislike. Now it appears network TV isn’t an option.

That truth makes this announcement – perfectly timed, as I tweeted – at the very least an attention grab. It may also be a money grab, based on his costly divorce. But either way, it’s impossible not to be skeptical of Tiki’s motives. Tiki developed a reputation as a clubhouse lawyer, and this seems to be a natural move for a guy who’s all about himself.

For those reasons, if I were a team I’d consider Tiki as not worth the hassle. The Giants have already decided as much, saying they’re going to cut him free as soon as it’s allowed. That isa big-time sign about Tiki’s reptuation and his chances.

Now that the playing question is settled, let’s address the Hall of Fame question. Actually, it’s not much of a question. Barber falls significantly short of that level. While he played 10 years, his peak was closer to five years. And while he was a threat both running and receiving, he wasn’t the player recent electee Marshall Faulk was. I’d say Barber was 70-80 percent of the player Faulk was. Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, both running backs from Barber’s era, were left unelected this year, and I’d take both before electing Barber.

Instead, Barber belongs in the Corridor of the Capable. (That’s my term for Matt Smith’s idea of a Hall of the Very Good. It’s a place where the busts are made not of granite but of Formica and where, instead of getting a yellow blazer upon induction, you get a nice argyle tie. The induction dinner isn’t steak and lobster, just a perfectly acceptable chicken breast with some steamed vegetables.) So don’t hold your breath for Canton, Tiki. Instead, enjoy your Formica.

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2 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity

2 responses to “Torching Tiki

  1. Gut feeling is the best comparison between Tiki and another former player would be Roger Craig. Both have approximately the same career value. Roger hasn’t been elected yet, and I suspect Roger is slightly the better HoF candidate. Tiki’s peak production is a little superior.

    FnS.

  2. Pingback: MVN » Torching Tiki

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