I don't think there's any question about Ed Reed's worthiness as a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What's missing from his resume? Nothing. He earned five first-team All-Pro selections and nine Pro Bowl invitations in 12 pro seasons. He ranks sixth on the NFL's all-time interception list with 64 picks. He earned the league's Defensive Player of the Year award in 2004 and earned a Super Bowl ring in 2012.
As soon as word leaked that Reed would sign a one-day contract and retire from pro football as a member of the Ravens Thursday at the Under Armour Performance Center, reminiscences and tributes filled the Internet. He delivered so many dazzling, unforgettable moments that his greatest-hits list is open to interpretation.
But I'm not going to remember Reed for a specific play, or even three. I'm going to remember something less quantifiable: the unique feeling of anticipation, almost dependence, that he generated among fans on Sundays when he was at his peak - the feeling that he would come through with something, anything, to win the game.
A pick. A blocked punt. A big return. Something.
Because Reed almost always did something.
If you've rooted for the Ravens for awhile, you remember the days when you wanted the defense on the field, rather the offense, because that meant Reed was on the field and -- shhhh -- the team probably had a better chance of reaching the end zone.
Take a look back at the historical 12-year career of the best ball hawk of all time.
Then there was that tingly feeling that would settle over you with the game on the line, the feeling that an "Ed Reed moment" was coming. Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome conceded at Thursday's retirement press conference that he and the rest of the front office felt it, too.
"We would all sense that it was Ed's moment," Newsome said. "He would make the pick or make the play that we would need."
Quite simply, Reed is one of the greatest players ever to patrol an NFL secondary. He shouldn't have to worry about whether he's elected to the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in five years.
Yet a few months ago, a round of speculation circulated about him possibly not being the lock we all imagine.
It doesn't have anything to do with his credentials. It's his position. Safeties have fallen off the radar of Hall voters. Only one of the last 147 enshrinees over the past 26 years has been a safety. (We're talking about pure safeties, not players who also played cornerback.) The only safety who made it was Minnesota's Paul Krause, who is the league's all-time interceptions leader yet needed 15 years of eligibility to get in the door.
"We have completely disregarded the safety position," wrote one of the 46 Hall voters, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
Another voter, Peter King of TheMMQB.com, wrote that the group "stinks at electing safeties."
It makes for interesting conversation now that Reed and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu have retired. Both were dominant, unique, game-altering players – no-brainer Hall selections, in my mind. But for them to make it, they might have to leapfrog several great safeties such as Cliff Harris, Kenny Easley and Dick Anderson, none of whom are in.
I'm not going to get into the fool's game of comparing great players. That's the worst part of deciding who belongs in any sport's Hall of Fame. (Full disclosure: I have a baseball vote.) As for why so few safeties have made it lately, all I can say is slam-dunk candidates at any position don't have to battle to get in, so the drought probably is attributable to more the vagaries of the candidate pool than anything else.
It's not as if safeties suddenly have become unimportant.
But none of that backstory should have any effect on Reed's case and whether he gets in along with his great rival from Pittsburgh. If you consider their cases separately, without factoring in the context of other candidates, there's no doubt. Newsome, a Hall of Famer himself, said as much Thursday, saying Reed would be in. Reed, though never one to toot his own horn, seemed to acknowledge the likelihood.
"One day, you know, one day I guess I'll be there," he said Thursday.
Is there even the slightest shred of doubt? I don't think so.