Making the Hall of Fame case for Marvin Harrison seems strange in itself, considering the fact that most people agree that the former Colts wide receiver is absolutely deserving of the recognition. Yet Harrison is now in his third year of eligibility and his third year of being a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, hoping that the third time is the charm as the voters select the Class of 2016 this weekend. Is this the time Harrison finally gets in the Hall of Fame? If you look at his resume, it's hard to suggest otherwise.
Drafted by the Colts in the first round of the 1996 NFL Draft, Harrison spent 13 years in Indianapolis before quietly retiring after the 2008 campaign. He was an explosive playmaker who was routinely among the best in the NFL. In recent years, many longtime NFL cornerbacks made it clear: Harrison was the best they ever faced. Longtime Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey in 2014 on ESPN Radio with Mike and Mike said Harrison was the toughest to cover. Longtime Bears corner Charles Tillman told the MMQB the same thing in 2014, that Harrison was the best receiver he faced. This year, longtime Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson wrote on ESPN that Harrison was the best wideout he ever played against. Combined, those three have 47 years of experience, have played in 637 regular season games, have made 23 Pro Bowls, eight first-team All-Pro appearances, and occupy both starting cornerback spots on the NFL All-Decades team of the 2000s. That's quite an impressive list, and all three are on record as saying that Harrison is the best they faced. Injuries slowed Harrison down near the end of his career and the dropoff was quick, but in his prime he was phenomenal.
The numbers for Harrison are staggering. In 13 seasons, he played in 190 games and recorded 1,102 receptions for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns, averaging 13.2 yards per catch and 76.7 yards per game. He ranks third all-time in career receptions, seventh all-time in career receiving yardage, and fifth all-time in career receiving touchdowns. Furthermore, he ranks second among retired players in average yards per game in a career (he's eighth all-time, but the top six are all active). He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a three-time first-team All-Pro, a five-time second-team All-Pro, and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 2000s. In 2011, he was inducted into the Colts' Ring of Honor, and he remain the franchise's all-time leader in all major receiving categories, such as receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Together with Peyton Manning, Harrison is a part of the most successful quarterback/wide receiver duo in league history. He also holds the NFL record for most receptions in a single season, catching 143 passes in 2002. His 1,722 receiving yards that season still ranks seventh all-time as well.
One of the most amazing aspects of Harrison's career was his consistency - he was routinely among the best in the NFL. For a span of eight straight seasons (1999-2006), Harrison recorded at least 1,000 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns, while in four straight he caught 100+ passes. In other words, take what Antonio Brown has done over the past three seasons and imagine him doing that for five more and you come close to what Harrison did with the Colts. During that eight season span, Harrison was among the top ten in the league in receptions six times, among the top ten in the league in receiving yards seven times, and among the top ten in the league in receiving touchdowns eight times, and in most seasons he was in the top five in those categories. He led the NFL in receptions twice, in receiving yards twice, and in touchdowns once. If you're looking for a Hall of Famer, you're looking for a guy who dominated his position for an extended period of time, and that was absolutely Marvin Harrison.
The one thing that the Hall of Fame voters seem to value above all else, however, is how long a certain player has been waiting. That's why Cris Carter - a six-time finalist - was inducted in 2013. That's why Andre Reed - an eight-time finalist - was inducted in 2014. And that's why Tim Brown - a six-time finalist - was inducted in 2015. There's a method to the system, and it seems that there has been an agreement in place among the voters that Harrison would get in eventually - but he'd have to wait his turn in line. That's stupid and a joke, but that seems to be the way things go in that room (and, since nobody has to be held accountable for who they vote for or don't vote for, it will likely continue that way). With that said, however, even this area favors Harrison - a three-time finalist - over Terrell Owens, who is in his first year as a finalist. Those are the two receivers who are among the 15 finalists this year, and if the Hall of Fame voters stick to their previously established criteria, then even this stupid statistic favors Harrison.
In short, Marvin Harrison's chances at getting into the Hall of Fame are very, very, very good. He'll almost certainly get in at some point, and more than likely it will be this year. For a decade, Harrison was among the very best in football and played at a Hall of Fame level. He averaged 84.8 catches, 1,121.5 yards, and 9.8 touchdowns per season during his 13-year career and will go down in history as one of the best to ever play the position. At some point - probably this year - the voters will realize that and Marvin Harrison will be immortalized in Canton, taking his rightful place among the game's all-time greats.