Later today, seven members will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio and officially given the greatest individual honor that an NFL football player can receive. Derrick Brooks, Ray Guy, Claude Humphrey, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, and Aeneas Williams will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I don't want to take anything away from any of the deserving candidates.
But there's the elephant in the room, that of the Class of 2014 having one big, glaring omission: former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison isn't among them. It's not like any of the seven who are being enshrined today aren't deserving, nor is it that Harrison won't ever get in. But the goal of the voters for the Hall of Fame is to put the best group together possible from the list of candidates, and the voters didn't do that this year. If they did, Marvin Harrison would be enshrined in Canton tonight.
When the class of 2014 was initially announced, I ripped the voters for the lack of accountability, as they can just hide behind the fact that the ballots aren't made public. I wrote:
"The voters absolutely should get blasted for this - much more so than they will, regardless of how much they actually do. Maybe the voters went against what the voting criteria supposedly is - don't factor in off the field issues. But either way, Harrison wasn't ever charged with anything. Ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? Maybe Harrison was left out because he was never very good with the media - the very people that vote for the Hall. Maybe it was because everybody in the room got so tired of sitting in the room for 9 hours that they just threw the names in a hat and drew them out (because if any voter wants to tell me that they actually consciously left Harrison out, I'll laugh in their face while they lose all credibility in my mind). We're never going to get a perfect system, I understand that full well. But we can certainly improve on a system that is obviously very flawed. Very."
Much of the discussion centered around Andre Reed and Marvin Harrison, as they both are wide receivers. And really, the decision to put Reed in over Harrison is indefensible. Indefensible. The only reason why there is even the slightest case to be made for putting Reed over Harrison is because Reed had been waiting a while, but Harrison was a first ballot guy this past year. And that's why Reed is in this year. But that's messed up.
On the field, the case for Marvin Harrison is just too strong to ignore, and I wrote about that extensively earlier this year, looking at Harrison's career and then debunking the three largest objections to Harrison being in the Hall of Fame. It's worth a read. Here's a table from that article, showing the three wide receiver finalists for the Hall of Fame this year. Clearly, Reed looks like the third out of the three, but both Reed and Tim Brown pale in comparison to Marvin Harrison's production.
There's a very reasonable case to be made that Marvin Harrison is the second best receiver of all-time behind just Jerry Rice. It's a very reasonable argument to make. And yet Harrison has to wait to get into the Hall of Fame to join Rice among the league's greatest players ever. That doesn't make sense to me. It doesn't make sense to most people. Take NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, for example. Rosenthal wrote earlier this week about how Harrison belongs in the Hall of Fame:
"Marvin Harrison is a first-ballot Hall of Famer that will be forced to wait an extra year for induction for some unknowable reason."
Anywhere you look, Harrison's stats and numbers jump off the page and wow you. 1,102 catches. 14,580 yards. 128 touchdowns. 76.7 receiving yards per game. Eight consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards and at least 10 touchdowns, including four in a row with over 100 catches too (1999-2002). An NFL single-season record 143 catches in 2002 (nobody has ever been within 20 of that mark). 16 games with 10+ receptions, 59 games with 100+ yards, and 28 games with multiple touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in every single game he ever played in (190 career games). Harrison and quarterback Peyton Manning combined for 953 receptions, 12,756 yards, and 112 touchdowns - easily making them the most prolific duo in NFL history. And I could go on and on.
In the years since he retired, Harrison has become very underrated, not just by the national media and fans but by Colts media and fans too. It's because he always did it quietly. He never was a talker, and in retirement he's been out of the spotlight, except for rare appearances like when he went into the Colts Ring of Honor, when he attended Peyton Manning's homecoming last October, and when he announced the Colts draft pick this year. But Harrison has largely been unnoticed and forgotten since his retirement, and his public appearances have been few.
He should have been in the spotlight tonight, commemorating the career of one of the NFL's best all-time wide receivers. Instead, we'll be watching a class of well-deserving players go in, but not without thinking of the huge omission of Marvin Harrison. He'll get in next year, but it should have been this year.