It wasn’t long after Julian Edelman announced his retirement Monday that the inevitable debate began. All together now: Is he a Hall of Famer?
People on both sides got involved, each with ammunition and each convinced the other side was wrong. So let’s try to settle this thing once and for all. Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer?
In a word: No.
The guy had a terrific career with Hall-of-Fame moments, but Hall-of-Fame moments don’t equate to Hall-of-Fame careers. Yeah, I know, he was a Super Bowl MVP. So was Hines Ward, and he’s not in. In fact, he’s never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist.
Now let’s dive a little deeper. Edelman’s 620 career receptions rank 75th on the all-time list, just ahead of Jordy Nelson. His 6,822 yards rank 156th, just ahead of Larry Centers … a fullback. And his 36 career receiving TDs have him off the charts, somewhere after the 215th-ranked pass catches at 37.
Now, what in there screams Hall of Fame to you?
“Playoffs,” his supporters say. “Look at his playoff numbers.”
They’re impressive. In fact, Edelman’s 118 postseason catches and 1,442 receiving yards rank second only to Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice. And that, his advocates argue, is enough to make him worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration.
“Edelman’s dominance when it mattered most should get him a gold jacket,” former wide receiver Nate Burleson said on NFL.com.
No, it shouldn’t. Gold jackets are not passed out on the basis of 19 career playoff games, which is what Edelman had. They’re made for players with Hall-of-Fame careers, and there’s a difference. A big difference.
Look, Julian Edelman was a terrific receiver who was a playoff star and three-time Super Bowl winner. But if he’s worthy of a gold jacket how come he was never named to a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro team? How come he wasn’t an all-decade choice? And how come we’re talking about him and not, say, Hines Ward or Sterling Sharpe?
Sharpe was so dominant that in seven years with Green Bay he was a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro. Three times he led the league in receptions. Twice he led it receiving TDs. And once he led it in receiving yards. He’s in the Packers’ Hall of Fame, but is he in Canton?
Nope. Never been a finalist or a semifinalist.
Then there’s Ward. He played on two Super Bowl champions. Edelman played on three. He had 1,000 career catches, or 380 more than Edelman. He had 12,083 career receiving yards, or over 5,000 more than Edelman. And his 85 touchdown catches are well over twice as many as Edelman.
Ward was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and, yes, playoff star. His 1,181 yards approximate Edelman’s total, and his 10 TD catches are twice as many as Edelman (5) ... in one less postseason game. He’s also a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time team, which includes two Hall-of-Fame receivers. In short, Hines Ward is the superior candidate, and, let’s be honest: It’s not close.
But he’s never been discussed by the Hall’s board of selectors in his five years of eligibility.
So let’s just call it like it is: Julian Edelman had a marvelous career with a marvelous quarterback, a marvelous head coach and a marvelous team. Yes, he was at his best in the playoffs, and, no question, he made unforgettable catches that left indelible memories. But, no, he didn’t separate himself from his peers during 137 regular-season contests. If he did, don’t you think he’d have been named to one Pro Bowl?
You know the answer. And so do I.
“You can have a great career,” tweeted former Patriot Damien Woody, now with ESPN, “and NOT be a HOFer … it’s ok.”