The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2014 will be enshrined on Saturday. Each day this week, the Around the League crew will pick a player that we believe is also deserving of enshrinement.
Marvin Harrison is a first-ballot Hall of Famer that will be forced to wait an extra year for induction for some unknowable reason.
Other all-time greats have had to wait. Fran Tarkenton and Joe Namath both had to wait until their third year of eligibility. Mel Renfro made 10 Pro Bowls and had to wait 15 years. It happens.
Still, there’s no explaining the choice of Andre Reed over Harrison last year — other than voters who wanted to squeeze Reed in before it was too late. Even the Bills legend’s biggest backers would have a hard time making a sensible argument against Harrison.
It’s an honor to make the All-Pro first team. It says you are one of the two best receivers in the league in that given year. The Pro Football Hall of Fame already has named Harrison one of the best two receivers in an entire decade, choosing Randy Moss and Harrison as their first-team wide receivers from the 2000s.
It’s hard to know where to start when coming up with insane stats for Harrison. There was a four-year stretch where he averaged 117 catches, 1,580 yards and 14 touchdowns. And then Harrison gained at least 1,100 yards with 10 scores for another four years after that. He was first- or second-team All-Pro in all eight of those years.
Harrison still holds the record for receptions in a season with 143. Only Jerry Rice and Tony Gonzalez have caught more passes in the NFL than Harrison. But Harrison doesn’t often get mentioned in the same breath as those kind of players. Perhaps it’s because Harrison did things so quietly as a player. He never made headlines with his mouth like Moss or Terrell Owens — even his game was somewhat quiet. Harrison didn’t dominate receivers with his size or strength, but with smarts, route running, speed and mitts. Harrison seemingly was always open. He knew how to set up defenders, almost lulling them to sleep before exploding past them. Few receivers were better on the boundaries. Harrison’s hands snatched passes that looked headed out of bounds, and he had incredible body control.
It’s almost as if voters hold it against Harrison that he played with Peyton Manning. We see it another way. Harrison was the one teammate that could truly raise his game to Manning’s level. Their almost telepathic connection says a lot about Harrison’s football smarts. Not many players can be on the same wavelength as Manning, and back it up with a Hall of Fame skill set.
The mysterious story surrounding Harrison and a Philadelphia gunfight in 2008 has overshadowed his post-playing life. But the voters are not supposed to take any off-field factors into account.
Based on his playing career, Harrison is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, one of the 10 greatest receivers of all time. He should arrive in Canton next summer, even if it’s coming a year too late.
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