One of the nice new twists to the ‘NFL Honors’ night before the Super Bowl is the unveiling of the next Hall of Fame class to be enshrined in Canton prior to the 2014 season.
In his first year of eligibility this year, it was widely expected that former Indianapolis Colts’ receiver Marvin Harrison would become a first-ballot electee into the Hall.
Yet when the names were announced, his was an extremely noticeable absentee.
This is not to suggest that the elected players are not worthy in the Hall; merely that Harrison’s career points very strongly to his inclusion at the earliest opportunity.
He will surely be enshrined in the future, but to even have to wait a year is a slight on what was a very impressive career by anyone’s standards.
Harrison himself has said all the right things and been politically correct in the face of his non selection, but privately he will be smarting. Having been selected by the Colts with the 19th overall pick in 1996, he became Peyton Manning’s favourite receiver in a career that lasted until 2008.
Over 13 seasons he hauled in 1,102 passes for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns. These are mightily impressive numbers and compare favorably to 2013 inductee Cris Carter. The former Vikings’ receiver totaled 1,101 catches and 130 touchdowns over his career.
Over the course of his career he averaged 84.77 receptions per year (including a season curtailed by injury that saw him restricted to five games and 20 catches) which is second only to Sterling Sharpe. His 143 receptions in 2002 remain an NFL record and he recorded eight consecutive 1,000-yard and 10 touchdown seasons between 1999 and 2006.
In fact in almost every major receiving category you can imagine he ranks highly, trailing only Jerry Rice in several of them. Being second to one of, if not the, greatest player to play the game should not affect his chances of reaching Canton.
He is criticized in some quarters because of the fact that for his entire career he was in tandem with Manning; yet this argument could easily be flipped on its head and be used as a factor in his favor. His play at wide receiver helped build Peyton’s legacy and, after all, Rice is not viewed badly for having caught passes from Hall of Fame quarterbacks in Joe Montana and Steve Young!
The biggest surprise in his snub is that he was overlooked in favor of another receiver in Andre Reed, who has been waiting several years to become a successful candidate in the annual Hall of Fame selection process. As a member of the Buffalo Bills team that reached and lost in four consecutive Super Bowls, Reed has pedigree as a top level receiver. Admittedly playing in a less pass happy league, his numbers nevertheless do not stack up in comparison to Harrison’s totals.
With 951 receptions for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns his position as a member of the elite in Canton is not one that stands out as an error, but his selection at the ninth time of asking over Harrison strikes as being one of sentiment rather than one based on merit.
Reed deserves his place, but not over Harrison. His long wait is primarily due to the high-caliber of receivers that he has been pitted against, with the likes of Art Monk, Michael Irvin, Carter and Rice all enshrined ahead of him.
Harrison has not made that list, but will surely join Reed and the rest in Canton in 2015. If he is overlooked again then serious questions will need to be asked of the selection process. Expectations must be that, like 2014 inductee Michael Strahan, his omission will be temporary and his candidacy will be successful at the second time of asking.