Happy birthday Marvin Harrison

Image: Colts.com

Marvin Harrison is no longer a Colt, and likely won't be one again. In fact, it is very likely his career is over. Today is Marvin's 37th birthday, and wide receivers in the NFL rarely produce much past the age of 35. Still, Marvin has let it be known that he wants to play again, and while he has seemingly gotten some feelers from teams like the Vikings, Dolphins, and Titans, Marvin hasn't gotten any solid offers. Again, that's pretty normal. Jerry Rice, the last three years of his long career, was a shell of his former self. People were out-and-out begging Rice to retire. When he got demoted behind the immortal Ashley Lelie in Denver, Rice got the message.

This is not a league for old men.

So, even though we all know it is likely Marvin Harrison won't sign with anyone, why are people like Jason Cole writing such snippy little hit pieces bashing him on his birthday?

First off, I like Jason Cole. He is one of the better NFL writers out there. So, this isn't a Jason Cole is a douchebag-style article from us at Stampede Blue. This is a genuine WTF? article as to why people still feel the need to, essentially, rip Marvin Harrison when he has done nothing to warrant it.

As part of Jason Cole's Direct Snap, a series of articles Cole writes weekly for Yahoo! Sports, Cole decided to point out that today is indeed Marvin's birthday and that, at the ripe old age of 37, Marvin Harrison stinks... and no one in the NFL wants to sign him.

At least that’s the opinion of five NFL personnel men who were asked last week about the prospects of Harrison ending up on a roster anytime soon. While that’s hardly definitive (it only takes one team to have a need for Harrison to get a job), a lot of things are working against the second-leading receiver (1,102 catches) in league history.

"The biggest question I have is, can he really play anymore?" said one general manager. "When I watched the tape of him, he really didn’t look like he had that much left. You can see that the knee [injury from 2007] is still bothering him."

The consensus opinion about Harrison, who at 6-foot, 185 pounds has never been an overpowering receiver, is that he has lost a lot of quickness. That quickness allowed him to get away from defenders in the past. Without it, opposing teams regularly were able to cover Harrison, who averaged a career-low 10.6 yards per catch last season, with nickel and dime cornerbacks.

Cole goes on to note a another very important reason why teams have likely not signed Marvin: He can't contribute much on special teams. Likely, if a team wants Marvin, they will want him as a back-up to mentor younger receivers. Back-up WRs in today' NFL must be able to play on special teams. Marvin's 37. He can't do that.

Also, it's likely Marvin does not want to play the role of a back-up or mentor. If you know Marvin, or have watched him as long as I have, you know he is an introverted guy who rarely talks. His teaching is by example. He shows up early, works his butt off, catches everything thrown at him, and leaves. He doesn't shout at teammates. He doesn't call out his QB to the media. He doesn't insult his coaches, give fans the bird, or scream during games that he wants "the damn ball."

And no, Marvin Harrsion did not shoot anyone in Philadelphia in May of 2008. Them's the facts. Learn them, and shut up already about "Marvin the Gunslinger."

So, knowing that there is no market for Marvin, or (for that matter) any WR over the age of 35, why is Cole digging this up again? Why is he writing stuff like this:

In addition, there is a perception that Harrison had an attitude problem. Cleverly hidden for years behind Harrison’s Garbo routine is that he and quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t get along, which could be the fault of either player. However, there is a memorable exchange that an opposing coach once had with Harrison before a game in 2006. When the coach noticed that Harrison was catching punts in warmups, he walked over to Harrison to ask what was going on.

"Marvin smiled a little, just a little, and then said, serious as a heart attack, ‘It’s the only way to get the ball around here,’ " the coach said of a player who set an NFL record with 143 grabs in 2002, but was limited to just 80 the past two seasons.

Harrison has been deemed to be just as much a diva as a number of other receivers – without the high-profile public displays. That said, it allegedly annoyed plenty of people, which is why the Colts ultimately cut ties with him in the offseason.

OMG! Marvin and Big P weren't buddies all the time? Marvin made a comment in 2006 that he wasn't getting the ball enough? And, because he wanted the ball more, Marvin is a diva?

Seriously, what the hell is this?

Yes, folks. The chemistry between Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrsion was so bad they are only the greatest QB-WR combo in the history of the entire league. Let's repeat that, so we can place Cole's comments in their proper perspective: Peyton to Marvin is better than Montana-Rice, Young-Rice, Kelly-Reed, Unitas-Berry, Aikman-Irvin, and Fouts-Winslow. Is it possible that Marvin was not always "hunky-dory" with Big P? Yes. Did they have great respect for one another, and work hard every day to make each other better? No question.

And seriously folks, name me one WR who is not a "diva" by sports journalism standards. Wide receivers want the ball on every play. When they don't get it, they get upset. Since when did this become a "bad trait" of WRs? If you have a WR that does not want the ball in his hands on every play, cut the guy. He's wasting a roster spot. And in any case, with Marvin, he was a player who always wanted the ball, but always knew when he should have it. We all know the story of the final offensive drive by the Colts in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. It was Marvin who was screaming at Peyton and Tom Moore that the Colts needed to run the ball. They did, and chewed up a ton of clock in the process. Joseph Addai scored the winning TD, and the rest is history.

Apparently, Jason Cole doesn't know that story, or perhaps he's forgotten it.

And finally, the reason the Colts let Marvin go was because of his 2009 cap hit, not his attitude. I have no idea where Cole is getting his information, but Marvin's age and his bum knee did not warrant a $13.5 million dollar cap hit in 2009. Indeed, as we all know, the Colts made a strong push to keep Marvin, asking him to re-negotiate his contract down to something the team could manage. If Marvin had annoyed so many people to the point where the Colts didn't want him back in 2009, as Cole suggests, why did Jim Irsay, Bill Polian, and Jim Caldwell make such a strong push to keep him? Marvin and his agent ended up refusing to re-negotiate, and the Colts cut Marvin.

If Cole and others want to bash Marvin for that, I understand. It was a dumb calculation on Marvin's part. With a recession in full swing, NFL teams are more reluctant than ever to sign old WRs to big contracts. Players like Amani Toomer, who is three years younger than Marvin but in the same boat in terms of market value, had trouble all off-season finding an NFL team. Toomer recently signed with the Chiefs, but he may not make the final 53-man roster. Embarrassing for a guy who just two years ago was a big receiving threat for the world champion NY Giants. Another player in nearly the same situation is Joey Galloway. He was signed by the Patriots this off-season, but right now he is now likely the third or fourth WR on the depth chart. His deal with New England was for only one year. Gee, that's showing a lot of faith in the guy.

So, knowing all this, it just doesn't make any sense why someone like Jason Cole would write something so snippy about an over-the-hill great WR. If Marvin signs with someone, it's great! A future Hall of Famer is playing again. Yippee!

If he doesn't sign, so what? What more does Marvin Harrison have left to prove?

Only one guy is ahead of Marvin in all the meaningful receiving statistics, and his name is Rice. Unlike losers like Terrell Owens, Marvin has a ring. Owens hasn't won a playoff game since 2001. Marvin will have his #88 retired by the team he spent almost all his career with, and he will go down as the greatest WR of his generation. Anyone who suggests otherwise should check the stats and then kindly shut his pie hole. You can make comments about his playoff stats. You can say he wasn't flashy. But, show me another player not named Jerry Rice who has accomplished what Marvin has accomplished. Has Keyshawn, TO, Torry Holt, or Hines Ward had the kind of career Marvin has had in terms of wins and stats?

No. So, don't suggest that any of those guys are better.

I hope Marvin finds an NFL team who will sign him. He's got Tony Dungy working hard for him, it seems. And if he were to sign with a team like the Chicago Bears (the team Dungy is selling Harrison hard to), even at age 37 with a gimpy knee, he'd be the best WR on their roster. But, because he is old and because of that gimpy knee, people do not want to give him a two or three year contract. They'd much rather waste their money on rookies.

So, from us Colts fans, we wish Marvin a happy 37th birthday, and we still don't know why people continue to write prickly articles about him. Again, Jason Cole is a great NFL writer. I don't write that just to kiss his ass or anything. I mean it. But this bit from Cole about Harrison makes little to no sense. Even if it did, it just isn't warranted or necessary. All Marvin Harrison ever did was catch TDs and, after he did so, toss the ball to the ref. Why big media does not appreciate that, I don't know. I know we football fans sure as hell did.

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