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Making a Case for Charles Tillman's Hall of Fame Bid

While Charles Tillman didn't carry the same status as some of these first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees, he's carved his name into the game in a similar fashion.
Charles Tillman Peanut Punch Chicago Bears

Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Yesterday the Chicago Bears put out a tweet for the fourth anniversary of Charles Tillman's retirement.

It seems like just yesterday Peanut was at Soldier Field chasing down a backside play and punching the ball out of someone's hands. Charles Tillman's famous 'Peanut Punch' can often be imitated but never duplicated. He was a master of his craft, and this is a plea for his Hall of Fame bid.

The 2021 Hall of Fame Class is going to be stacked. Some of the first-ballot players include Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Logan Mankins, Jared Allen, Reggie Wayne, and Charles Tillman. Players like Charles Woodson and Peyton Manning are absolute locks to be first-ballot HOF selections. Even as a lifelong Bears fan, for some reason I don't include Charles Tillman in that next tier of players. Calvin Johnson would be, but why? Charles Tillman was known to be Calvin Johnson's kryptonite. The PFF article goes into various factors that gave Tillman the edge against Johnson, but at the end of the day, Tillman was the one covering him.

Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The chart below includes stats for Charles Woodson, Charles Tillman, Champ Bailey, and Ty Law. Ty Law and Champ Bailey are both members of the 2019 HOF class. Bailey was a first-ballot selection whereas Law had to wait five years. Both players undoubtedly deserve the honor of being in the Hall of Fame, but one waited much longer. Sometimes it's not always about numbers and talent. If that were the case, Terrell Owens would have been a first-ballot selection.

Some of my earliest NFL recollections include hearing about how fast Champ Bailey was. Specific media branding can also swing votes in a certain direction. When you think of Peyton Manning and you can hear the "Omaha" audible call, Deon is Prime Time, and then there's Revis Island, Megatron, and Champ Bailey running sub-4.3. But Ty Law was just a consummate professional that produced week in and week out. Well, so are the other guys. Maybe that's why Ty Law had to wait a little longer.

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Blue = 1st | Orange = 2nd

Blue = 1st | Orange = 2nd

Charles Tillman's numbers don't compare to the other three on the surface, but I took the liberty of breaking them down. Tillman's career was also the shortest and it's only fair to look at the numbers by game average opposed to combined statistics. Then things start to look a lot different. It's hard to compare many corners to Charles Woodson. Woodson's career was longer and more productive than the other three players in the chart. If Charles Woodson isn't a first-ballot HOF selection in 2021, then Charles Tillman has no chance to be either. But there are a few stats that encourage me about Tillman's chances of becoming a Hall of Fame inductee.

  • Charles Tillman forced 44 fumbles (most) in 164 starts (least)
  • Charles Tillman forced 3.4 fumbles a year; the next closest was Charles Woodson with 1.83
  • Charles Tillman had the most solo and combined tackles per game
  • Charles Tillman was the only player with a scoop and score
  • Charles Tillman had the second-most passes defended per G/S
  • Charles Tillman had the second most INT TD (8) with the fewest INT (38)
  • Charles Tillman finishes last in 3/16 categories that don't include years played, starts, All-Pro, and Pro Bowl nominations
  • Charles Tillman placed first or second in half of those 16 categories (5 - 1st; 3 - 2nd)

After looking a little deeper, I'm more impressed with Tillman than I ever have been. On a game-by-game basis, you can compare him to some of the best corners the game has ever seen. His interception production is the only thing that really doesn't compare to the others, but when you factor in the fumbles, turnover production starts to sway in Tillman's favor.

Charles Woodson has created opportunities for 115 turnovers. 65 of them are interceptions, 33 are forced fumbles, and 18 are fumble recoveries. Charles Tillman is the next closest, creating 94 turnover opportunities -- 38 interceptions, 44 forced fumbles, and 12 fumble recoveries. Woodson started 251 games and Tillman started 164. Tillman actually increased his team's chances of creating a turnover by more than 1.5%, although forced fumbles don't always result in turnovers, which does skew the numbers slightly. At the end of the day, some of his numbers are as good, if not better than a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer in Charles Woodson.

Even though he only recorded 38 career interceptions, Charles Tillman always competed with the best of them. Remember that one time with Randy Moss...

That was prime Vikings-era Randy Moss. Randy Moss comes down with that ball against 99% of corners. One would say Moss got 'Mossed' by Tillman. Think of that expression, 'Mossed'. It's a widely-used term in the NFL that didn't exist before Randy Moss played the game. 'Peanut Punch' has a similar connotation. While Tillman didn't carry the same status as some of these first-ballot HOF inductees, he's carved his name into the game in a similar fashion. He didn't get traditional style points. His grit eventually turned into style points. He embodied every quality that the Bears admire in a football player. He'll probably get the shaft in 2021, but hopefully he will find his way into Canton shortly after. Charles Tillman is a Hall-of-Fame talent in my book.