The NFL is not a league of waiting in line. It's not backyard football anymore. If a player produces more than the others, he'll be the one playing, regardless of age. The best player will, most of the time, be the one starting. That's not the way the Hall of Fame works, however. No, it's not about putting the player who produced the most in the Hall of Fame - though that will happen eventually. It's rather about politics: age, wait time, and other factors. And because of that, Marvin Harrison is left waiting outside of Canton for another year.
Harrison's resume is incredible. I wrote about it yesterady:
The biggest snub was that Marvin Harrison did not make it for the second straight season, which is ridiculous. He is the Colts' all-time leader in receptions, yards, receiving touchdowns, and pretty much every other significant category. Not only that, but he's one of the best in NFL history as well. His 1,102 receptions rank third all-time, his 14,580 receiving yards are the seventh-most all-time, and his 128 receiving touchdowns rank fifth all-time. He holds the NFL record for most receptions in a single-season with 143 in 2002, and no one has come that close to breaking it either. He was named first-team All-Pro three times and second-team All-Pro five times, also being named to eight Pro Bowls. From 1999-2006 (eight seasons), he recorded at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in every single season. He caught at least one pass in every single game he ever played in (190) and recorded sixteen different games with 10+ receptions, 59 different games with 100+ yards receiving, and 28 different games with multiple touchdown catches. He led the NFL in receiving yards in two different seasons and led the league in receptions in two different seasons as well, while tying for the league lead in touchdown receptions in 2005. Harrison, along with Peyton Manning, holds the records for most career receptions, yards, and touchdowns between a quarterback and wide receiver. He's a member of the Colts Ring of Honor (inducted in 2011). Longtime NFL cornerback Champ Bailey said Harrison was the toughest receiver he ever had to cover. Another longtime corner in Charles Tillman said the same thing. Marvin Harrison is widely considered to be one of the best receivers in league history... and he didn't make the Hall of Fame in either of his first two years of eligibility. Why? It's simply about politics - last year Andre Reed had been waiting longer so he got in, and this year Tim Brown had been waiting longer so he got in. It's stupid, but that's the way the voters think. Marvin will get in at some point, but he should already be there. Instead, he's left waiting once again.
Harrison has been a finalist for the past two seasons now, and he's been left waiting for the past two seasons. You can point to his potential off-field issues (regarding the shooting and his possible involvement) or the fact that he was never very talkative with the media as reasons why Harrison was left waiting again, but those aren't the reasons. The reason is simply this: the voters wanted to put in the players who were waiting longer in the Hall of Fame first, and then put Harrison in. There's really no doubt whatsoever that Marvin Harrison will end up in the Hall of Fame, and every voter in the room would tell you that. It's just a matter of him waiting his turn.
Last year, it was Bills great Andre Reed who was put in the Hall of Fame over Harrison - with Tim Brown not even being among the top ten finalists. In 44 less games, Harrison caught 151 more passes, 1,382 more yards, and 41 more touchdowns than Reed. Harrison averaged 20.3 yards more per game, 1.7 receptions more per game, and 0.3 touchdowns more per game than Reed. Harrison was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a five-time second-team All-Pro, while Reed was named a second-team All-Pro twice and never was a first-team All-Pro. And Harrison made eight Pro Bowls compared to Reed's seven. There was absolutely no legitimate case for putting Reed in over Harrison - besides for one key point: Reed was a finalist eight times, getting in on the eighth try. Harrison was just in his first year of eligibility.
This year, it's Raiders great Tim Brown who was put in the Hall of Fame over Harrison. Brown's case compares more favorably to Harrison's, but still: in 65 less games, Harrison caught eight more passes, 354 less yards, and 28 more touchdowns than Brown. Harrison averaged 18.1 yards more per game, 1.5 receptions more per game, and 0.28 touchdowns more per game than Brown. Harrison was a three-time first-team All-Pro and a five-time second-team All-Pro, while Brown was named a second-team All-Pro once and never was a first-team All-Pro. And Harrison made eight Pro Bowls compared to Brown's nine. Brown's resume stacks up much better against Harrison's than Reed's did, but there still wasn't much reason to put him over Marvin - besides for one key point: Brown was a finalist six times, getting in on the sixth try. Harrison just finished his second year of eligibility.
It's pretty clear from this that the most important category that the Hall of Fame voters look at is how long a player has been waiting. They essentially had an unwritten agreement that they would put Cris Carter in, and then they would put Andre Reed in, and then they would put Tim Brown in. Marvin Harrison, likely a more deserving candidate than all three of the others, was left waiting because of the politics. It's as simple as that.
I expected to be more upset than I am. Last year, I was absolutely pissed off. This year, I'm disappointed, but I get it. That's just the way the Hall of Fame voters have decided to do it, and while I think that's stupid, Harrison will get in eventually. It does reflect poorly, however, that one of the greatest receivers in NFL history is still left waiting while others get in.
Hall of Fame voters will try to cover it up by using the all to familiar comeback, "well who would you have taken out?" Certainly, the Class of 2015 is a pretty strong one: Junior Seau, Jerome Bettis, Charles Haley, Tim Brown, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff, Ron Wolf and Bill Polian make up the newest class. But as the very question itself indicates, there will always be more than five (or eight) candidates deserving to get into the Hall of Fame, we all know that. The job of the voters is to determine the best of those candidates. That hasn't happened the past two years; instead, politicking has gotten in the way. Oh, and since the Hall of Fame voters would be sure to ask: I would have put Junior Seau in over Marvin Harrison this year, but that's it. There's no way Harrison wouldn't have been in the top five on my list.
Marvin Harrison will get into the Hall of Fame eventually - we all know that. It's a shame that it hasn't happened already, but that's unfortunately the way it is. He's left waiting because that's the way the Hall of Fame works, unlike the NFL.