It is hard to believe that after this past weekend’s Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions that only 21 receivers are currently enshrined in Canton. The latest was a no-brainer, first ballot enshrine in Jerry Rice. That discussion should have lasted all of 2 minutes as Rice’s stats dwarf everyone both active and retired.
Every year following the induction ceremonies, the talk begins of next year’s class as well as current players chances of one day getting a bust of their own. Several Steelers come to mind with the list being led by Jerome Bettis, Dermontti Dawson and Hines Ward. I have plenty of time to address both Bettis and Dawson, but wanted to dedicate this post to Ward with the season fastly approaching and the sports talk radio air waves buzzing with this arguement.
Ward is about to embark on his 13th season in the NFL and has totaled 895 catches for 10947 yards and 78 touchdowns. In 2009 he posted five 100-yard receiving games, giving him 25 for his career and tying John Stallworth’s team record. He also posted his club-record sixth 1,000-yard receiving season of his career. Another little known fact about Ward is that he has caught at least one pass in a Steelers’ record 178 consecutive games. The streak began on Nov. 9, 1998 versus Green Bay and ranks first among active players for consecutive games with at least one reception and sixth in NFL history. Jerry Rice (274) owns the top all-time record for consecutive games with a reception. Ward also ranks first in nearly every Steelers receiving category except for most receptions in a Single Game, single season receiving yards and most receiving yards in a game. Still most will tell he will have a hard time getting enshrined when he retires.
In the first table below, I have the stats of the current 21 receivers enshrined in the Hall and have sorted them by receiving yards as I feel it is the most important of all the stats. In the second table, I have compiled both retired and active players that are ahead of him in either receptions, yards or touchdowns. That list totals 15 and I have inserted Ward as well as a comparison and sorted them via receiving yards as well. As you can see, Ward has 15 players ahead of him in yardage, but ranks in the middle of the pack in both touchdowns and receptions. If you were to stack his numbers against current enshrines, you can see that his numbers certainly stack up, but the voters do not look at the stats that way. They look at the era, the player compared to others in his era and whether or not the player was a game changer. Then they look at the stats.
Current Hall of Fame Receivers
|Don Maynard||1958, 1960-1973||186||633||11834||18.7||88|
|Charley Taylor||1964-1975, 1977||165||649||9110||14.0||79|
Active & Retired Receivers Not In Hall of Fame
Based on his comparative era, you can see that retired players like Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter, Tim Brown, Isaac Bruce and Andre Reed will need to be enshrined before Ward gets in with his current numbers. It is just the cold hard facts. The best thing Ward has going for him right now is the fact he his coming off one of his better years in the NFL and plays for a competitive Steelers team that should continue to throw the ball in 2010. Ward also is signed through the 2013 season, but logic tells you he will only play 2 more season and 3 at the most. He also has two Super Bowl championships to his name and one MVP award as well. Lombardi’s seem to go over well with the selection committee.
In my honest opinion, if Ward puts up 125 catches for 1500 yards and 12 touchdowns over the next 2 seasons, he will bow out gracefully and take his chances with the voters. Those stats are certainly obtainable over the next couple of season and would put Ward in the neighborhood of 1000 receptions, 12500 yards and 90 touchdowns. Mix those stats with how Ward played the game, how he changed the rules of the game and how he ambassadored the game and I firmly believe there is no way he will be kept out of Canton. The voters might not let him in on the first ballot depending on who sits ahead of him on the waiting list, but 10 years from now, I fully expect to visit the Hines Ward bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.