My enduring memory of Andre Tippett was not a sack, not a great tackle on 3rd down, not his steadfast refusal to leave the field during his teams slaughter in Super Bowl XX, it was on October 11 1987, at Foxboro Stadium, New England vs Buffalo. I was sitting with buddies in the corner of the Bills end zone, and Andre's linebacking partner in crime at that time was Don Blackmon. Blackmon,Tippett and Steve Nelson proved a formidable LB crew against strong AFC running games, and Blackmon had been hampered his entire career by injuries, specifically his neck. Blackman went around the end to make a normal tackle on a running play, only this time Don Blackmon didn't get up. He was still on the old Foxboro carpet. Who was the 1st player at his side? Andre Tippett. That was Andre Tippet the man, his teammates mattered the most, he fought, sweat and bled next to his teammates.
Andre Tippett was a force on the football field, as his speed and agility made every offensive player account for his whereabouts. Tippett defined the modern day outside linebacker as his combination of size, speed and athleticism made the mold still in place today. In his rookie season in 1982, Tippett started 9 games and didn't have a sack. However, over the next 10 seasons Tippett recorded a Patriots Team record 100 sacks. In 2 seasons, 1984 and 1985, Andre still holds the NFL record for most sacks over 2 seasons by a linebacker at 36. Jack Lambert doesn't hold the record, not Dick Butkus, not Mike Singeltary, Andre Tippett does. Remember that Tippett, while helping the Pats to the 1st Super Bowl that never happened (SB XX), also played on some bad teams. That never mattered to Andre, all that mattered was his being able to respect himself and leaving all he had on the field every Sunday.
Until this HOF class, Tippett had struggled to make the HOF cut. Since his 1st year of eligibility in 1999, 2007 and 2008 were the only 2 years he made the final consideration cut. While he is in now, it still irks me that intelligent football writers of America missed the impact of Andre Tippett's career. The biggest reason, of course, is that Andre played, and I stole this from Cold Hard Football Facts (go ahead sue me), Mario Lemieux to Lawrence Taylor's Wayne Gretzky. Tippett had the misfortune of playing at a time, in almost simultaneous seasons, with one of the best defensive players in NFL history (minus the cocaine binges and the breaking of Joe Theisman's leg). What LT did in the NFC, Andre Tippett was doing in the AFC. If you don't believe me, lets look at the stats again.
Taylor averaged 5.91 tackles per game. Tippett averaged 5.15.
Taylor averaged 0.77 sacks per game (including his “unofficial” 9.5 in 1981). Tippett averaged 0.66 sacks per game.
Taylor produced 20 turnovers. Tippett produced 18.
Each player scored 2 defensive touchdowns.
Now, there is no questioning that Lawrence Taylor was maybe the best LB in NFL history, and while Tippett didn't reach that level of domination, he wasn't chopped liver. Tippett also had the misfortune of playing on bad football teams in New England to LT's New York Giants. We forget that with the new era of Patriots football since The Big Tuna took over in 1993, the Pats played to half full houses and had non-supportive ownership. The media of the 80s just didn't like little old boring Andre Tippett in boring old Foxboro Stadium, and oh yeah, Andre Tippett wasn't hitting the nightclubs with a frenzy usually saved for the football field. As LT hit the Big Apple, Tippett went to karate classes, which doesn't put you on Page 6. It took Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson to finally put this to rest by saying Andre Tippett needs to be in the Hall of Fame. Finally HOF voters listened and looked past the harshness of stats and, for 1, Peter King of Sports Illustrated reminded voters of how much of a force Tippett had been. Tippett was a 5-Time All Pro and Pro Bowler, he was elected to the 1980's All Decade Team, he was co-winner, along with Howie Long, of the 1985 Newspaper Enterprise Association Defensive Player of the Year Award and was the UPI 1985 AFC Player of the Year. These stat totals aren't the end all be all either, you had to watch Andre Tippett play, which is what King said to his fellow voters, to appreciate his greatness, and I was lucky enough to see it firsthand. Finally, others, listened. While Don Blackmon's NFL career ended that day in October 87, with a severe neck injury, he will be celebrating with former Patriots players and New England Patriot fans alike, because Andre Tippett will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend. If you ask Blackmon, I'm sure he'll tell you he became a Hall of Famer in October of 1987.
Jeff Schools is the producer and co-host of the Sports Vortex on WJZF