State Your Case: Torry Holt fighting old teammate and a bad knee on way to HOF?
Teammates are not supposed to fight over the ball but, in a sense, that is the Hall-of-Fame predicament facing Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
Both are Hall-of-Fame finalists. Both have career numbers that speak well of them. But the likelihood both will get in this year seems slim. So where does that leave Holt, whose career was cut short by a knee injury that precluded him from piling up as many career yards and touchdowns as his teammate?
It probably leaves him waiting for Bruce to become the fourth member of the St. Louis Rams' “Greatest Show on Turf’’ offense to reach the Hall of Fame before he gets his chance at a gold jacket.
Perhaps, but let’s do what Holt has publicly suggested Hall-of-Fame voters do before we reach that conclusion: Look a little deeper into those 11 years of his career, years that produced 920 catches, 13,382 receiving yards, 74 touchdowns and, interestingly enough, more receiving yards in the first five seasons of his career (6,784) than Randy Moss n his first five (6,743).
Certainly, if production is the measuring stick for a wide receiver, few can measure up to Holt, even in this era of inflated passing numbers.
“His first 10 years were the best in the history of the league of any receiver,’’ insists Mike Martz, Holt’s old coach and the designer of “The Greatest Show on Turf’’ offense that lifted Holt and the Rams to record-breaking heights between 1999 and 2001. “How does that not get him in, in and of itself?’’
That’s a good question, one Hall-of-Fame voters are facing this year and may for several more to come.
Holt is a Hall-of-Fame finalist along with Bruce, and the former’s case for induction is bolstered by Martz’s claim, which happens to be true. After all, Hall-of-Fame induction is supposed to be about production. Is it not?
Holt played 11 years in the NFL, the first 10 of which were with Rams' teams on which he became the only receiver in NFL history to put up six straight seasons of 1,300 or more receiving yards. He also became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 receiving yards and 11,000 receiving yards.
Had that knee injury not slowed and finally stopped him, one can certainly theorize he would have continued to reach landmark numbers faster than anyone else, especially when you consider that only Jerry Rice had more consecutive 1,100 receiving yard seasons (nine) than Holt (eight).
As Hall-of-Fame coach Tony Dungy has often said, part of ability is availability, and Holt was simply not available as long as Bruce (16 seasons), Rice or Moss. But 11 years of consistent production is certainly enough to establish a Hall-of-Fame career.
Just as remarkable as Holt’s aggregate numbers is the fact that the only seasons in which he did NOT have at least 1,000 receiving yards were his rookie year and his final season, an injury-plagued one in Jacksonville in which he was a shadow of what he had been the previous decade.
Twice Holt led the NFL in receiving yards (2000, 2003) and both times he AVERAGED over 100 yards per game (102.2 yards in 2000 and 106 yards in 2003). Not surprisingly, Holt’s yards per-game career average of 77.4 ranks sixth all time.
That is what production is all about.
Jerry Rice is universally considered to be the greatest receiver of all-time. Like Holt, the numbers Rice put up over a career that spanned nearly twice as long as Holt’s (20 seasons to Holt’s 11) are remarkable. But do Holt’s career numbers compare favorably to Rice’s in any way?
As a matter of fact they do.
Rice is the all-time leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns by a wide margin. But Holt holds the lead on him in two areas which, when you’re talking about Jerry Rice, speaks loudly for you. When it comes to receptions per-game played and yardage per-game played, Holt leads him in both.
Holt averaged 5.3 receptions per game to Rice’s 5.1 and 77.4 yards per game to Rice’s 75.6. That doesn’t make him Jerry Rice because Rice lasted nearly twice as long as Holt, but it just might make him a Hall of Famer.
And let us not forget, Rice spent most of his career running routes for Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young. Holt caught the bulk of his passes from Marc Bulger, not Hall-of-Famer Kurt Warner.
A member of the 2000 all-decade team and a seven-time Pro-Bowl selection, Torry Holt was one of that decade’s dominant players. When he retired he was in the top 10 all-time in receiving yards despite playing in an offense where, for much of his career, Martz spread the ball among Holt, Bruce, Hall-of-Fame running back Marshall Faulk and several other receivers.
Whether a decade of dominance is enough to win induction into pro football’s most exclusive club is a good question that will be asked on Feb. 1, when this year’s Hall-of-Fame class is announced. And it will be asked for as long as it takes for Torry Holt’s production to be recognized.
Until then he’ll look back on those years and know what it meant to set an NFL record for receptions in a single decade (868).
‘In my 11 years I was top five for a decade,’’ Holt once told the Talk of Fame Network. “I took pride in that.’’
Whether that translates to a Hall-of-Fame gold jacket remains to be seen. But his production speaks for itself.