GREEN BAY, Wis. – Julian Edelman retired on Monday and immediately went to Canton to get fitted for his Hall of Fame gold jacket.
“Hell yeah!” said NFL.com’s Steve Smith, who will be Hall of Fame eligible in 2022. “When I think of Edelman, I think of a hard-nosed, tougher-than-snot wide receiver who played far above his draft standing throughout his career. When the Patriots needed to move the chains and Tom Brady needed a target, No. 11 always answered the call. Most important, he always showed up in the postseason. I'm not so sure the Patriots win Super Bowl LI or LIII without him; that's how much of a playmaker he was in those games. The sizable impact he had on the Patriots' dynasty over the last decade-plus should earn him a spot in football immortality.”
There’s a long line of receivers more worthy than Edelman – a list that includes former Green Bay Packers great Sterling Sharpe.
In a career cut short after just seven seasons due to injury, Sharpe caught 595 passes for 8,134 yards and 65 touchdowns. He started all 112 games, and was a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro. Sharpe set the NFL single-season record for receptions with 108 in 1992, then broke it with 112 receptions in 1993.
Edelman played 12 NFL seasons and caught 620 passes for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns. He started 85 games (27 fewer than Sharpe in five more seasons), and never was selected for a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team. Sharpe had 42 touchdowns in his final three seasons – more than Edelman in his entire career.
“I think what made (Sharpe) so special,” former Packers general manager Ron Wolf told Talk of Fame Network’s Clark Judge, “was he was really tough and really dedicated to the game in his way. He was not intimidated by anything … or anybody … or any situation. He’s a perfect football player. I don’t know what else to add to that.
“He could do everything you would want a receiver to do. He would go anywhere to catch a ball. He would go in and catch it. He would go out and catch it. He would run hooks, run outs, run ups. He was just an exceptional football player.”
Sharpe’s 20 years of Hall of Fame eligibility ended without even becoming a semifinalist. His case will now fall to the Coach/Seniors Committee, where his chances for election are somewhere between slim and none given the backlog of players who enjoyed longer, more productive careers.
Edelman was a high-quality player who was great in some key moments for the New England dynasty. Only Jerry Rice has more receptions and receiving yards in NFL playoffs history. He topped 90 receptions four times. Those are pretty good credentials. But he also fell short of 40 receptions five times, never started more than 13 games and never scored more than seven touchdowns.
Edelman was a good player on an exceptional team. Sharpe was an exceptional player on a team that was sometimes good.
“I’m sure every defensive coordinator that got ready to play the Packers said, ‘All we have to do is take Sharpe away, and we’ll beat them.’ Well, you know what? They never took him away. He led the league in receptions,” Wolf told Judge. “He was just a tremendous football player. Hard to believe that he was as good as he was, considering what he had around him as a team.”
Ultimately, neither had the sustained production to merit a gold bust in Canton. If Sharpe’s not good enough for the Hall of Fame, then Edelman sure as hell isn’t, either.
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