Charles Tillman announced his retirement on Monday, marking the end of a remarkable career. From a game-saving interception (video here) during his rookie season to stop a Daunte Culpepper game-winning touchdown pass to Randy Moss, Tillman was known for delivering big plays in key moments for the Bears. But he will always be remembered for doing something cornerbacks don’t really do: or, given the rate at which he did it, maybe he should be remembering for intercepting passes at an abnormally high rate for a player who forced so many fumbles.
From 2003 to 2015, there were 49 players who recorded 20+ interceptions. During those same years, 52 players recorded at least 15 forced fumbles. Tillman had 38 interceptions and 44 forced fumbles. To put that remarkable figure in context, take a look at the graph below, which shows all 95 players with either 20+ interceptions or 15+ forced fumbles from ’03 to ’15:
Tillman made just two Pro Bowls in his career, but he will go down as one of the more unique players of this era. He also had eight pick sixes over that span, tied with Darren Sharper and Aqib Talib for second-most over those years behind Charles Woodson (nine). Is Tillman a HOFer?
It’s easy to craft the argument that he is not. In many ways, his career isn’t dissimilar from say, Rashean Mathis. Mathis also entered the league in ’03, played in 175 games and started 165 (Tillman finished at 168/164). Mathis was a one-time Pro Bowler and one-team first-team All-Pro, compared to Tillman’s 2/1 honors. Tillman had 85 points of AV, Mathis 83.
But numbers tell only part of the story, particularly at cornerback. So what say you?