The 2014 NFL Hall of Fame class consisted of Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, and Aeneas Williams. Each player earned their spot in this exclusive club, but doesn’t it feel like something (or somebody) was missing? Perhaps a 1996 first round draft pick from Syracuse and half of arguably the greatest QB-WR duo to ever play the game?
This was Marvin Harrison’s first year of eligibility for the HOF, but instead of being rewarded he was shunned like a stray dog. Harrison undoubtedly should have a gold jacket hanging in his closet in the near future, but it is inconceivable that he was not included in this year’s group. Each member of this year’s class was HOF-worthy, and it is difficult to declare which players from different eras who played different positions are more deserving each year, but it is ludicrous that one of the single-greatest wide receivers to ever strap on a helmet was left on the sidelines.
Let’s put some of these players into perspective. This may seem like a peculiar way to compare this first player but I’m going to give it a shot. Pat McAfee, a fan favorite (and a tremendous swimmer according to the IMPD), is well on his way to establishing a HOF career, although most fans would probably believe that Harrison is more deserving of a HOF induction than McAfee by an overwhelming margin.
What does this have to do with this year’s HOF class? Ray Guy, a 13-year veteran of the Raiders, became the first punter to be elected to the HOF. It is difficult to compare McAfee and Guy since McAfee’s career is unfinished, but thus far he has exceeded expectations of being a 7th-round pick. Since McAfee is young it is unfair to compare personal awards since his most prominent accomplishment is being a Ray Guy award finalist in college (2008), but let’s go ahead and crunch some numbers.
Ray’s best statistical year was his final season when he averaged 45.3 yards per punt. McAfee has already bested that mark each of his last three seasons with averages of 46.6. 48.2, and 46 yards per punt. It is safe to say that McAfee has the potential to be just as great as Ray, and if we agree that Harrison is more deserving than McAfee, then it is with absolute certainty that Harrison is more deserving to be in the Hall of Fame right now than Ray.
I know I am going out on a limb in that last argument so let’s look at somebody more comparable to Harrison – Andre Reed. Reed, a 16-year veteran wide receiver for the Bills (1985-99) and Redskins (2000), had a remarkable career. Both Reed and Harrison have joined their respective teams’ HOF, but in my opinion, Harrison had the upper hand in their career accomplishments. Reed was a 7-time Pro Bowler and twice an All-Pro but despite those admirable credentials, Harrison trumped Reed’s accomplishments. Harrison was voted to 8 Pro Bowls and was a 3-time All-Pro. Reed competed in more Super Bowls, but Harrison actually got the job done by helping the Colts win Super Bowl XLI. When you take into account that Harrison had more touchdowns (+41), catches (+151) and yards (+1,302) and did so in 44 fewer games, it is proof that Harrison should be wearing a gold jacket right now instead of Reed.
Claude Humphrey, a defensive end for the Falcons and Eagles, waited nearly 30 years to receive his Hall of Fame enshrinement, but this year’s class included two first-year eligible inductees – Derrick Brooks and Walter Jones. I am not trying to downplay the success of Brooks and Jones – they were phenomenal players and worthy recipients, but the goal of the NFL Hall of Fame is to put together a class of the best available players. I believe Harrison fits that description.
Harrison now must wait, and it is difficult to determine for how long. 2015 will include some stiff competition from first-time eligible players Junior Seau, Kurt Warner and Orlando Pace. The wide receiver position is arguably the most difficult spot to earn in the HOF due to increased opposition. In the coming years Harrison will be competing with first-year eligible receivers Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, and Terrell Owens. Also, will the selection committee be willing to add another receiver so soon after electing one in two consecutive years? Especially when they selected Reed – who trailed Harrison in every major receiving category.
All we can do now is pray the 46-person selection committee understands and appreciates Harrison’s tremendous career and accomplishments the way us (slightly biased) True Blue Fans do.