Super Bowl weekend is about far more than the big game and all the hoopla surrounding it. The day before the Super Bowl, in the host city, 46 writers, sports reporters, and broadcasters meet to complete a process that started the previous year to elect 4 to 7 members to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame just prior to the upcoming season.
The problem is, the selection process is flawed and wide receivers are annually excluded from the Hall of Fame for several years before they finally get the call. From 1995, when Steve Largent was inducted 1st ballot, to 2010, when Jerry Rice was inducted 1st ballot, not a single other wide receiver got in on his first try. This is including 2 WRs, James Lofton and Art Monk, who held league records in receiving yards and receptions, respectively, at the times of their retirements.
The logjam at wide receiver has been an issue for years and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon with receivers like Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, and Randy Moss becoming eligible in the coming years. Andre Reed, Tim Brown, and now Marvin Harrison are all part of the final 15 to be voted on in NYC. At the very most, maybe 2 will get in this year but it’s more likely that only 1 will. If there’s only 1 to get the call, Andre Reed has to be that wide receiver.
Having retired following the 2000 season, Andre became eligible for induction to the Hall of Fame in 2006. Despite regularly making the cutdown to the final 10 candidates, he’s yet to get the call, being passed over in favor of Michael Irvin, Art Monk, Bob Hayes, Jerry Rice, and Cris Carter.
While Hayes was a seniors committee nominee and Irvin and Monk had already been waiting for the call when Reed became eligible, Rice and Carter both leap-frogged Reed into the Hall. In the case of Jerry Rice, regarded by most as the greatest wide receiver of all-time, the fact that he got the call in his first year of eligibility came as a surprise to no one.
Cris Carter, on the other hand, became eligible in 2008 and got the call in 2013. If Carter was forced to wait, the question is why he got the call ahead of Reed, especially when no receiver got the call in 2011 or 2012.
Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News recently indicated that it was in large part due to the fact that Carter put up 48 more touchdowns than Reed.
When it comes to numbers alone, Reed has the numbers that merit inclusion into pro football’s most exclusive fraternity. He’s one of only 2 WRs in NFL history, along with Jerry Rice, to have at least 13 seasons with at least 50 catches. In his final game for the Bills, he moved past Art Monk into 2nd place in receptions all-time and past Steve Largent for 4th place in receiving yards all-time.
His rankings in both areas have dropped to 11th and 13th respectively since his retirement but that should by no means lessen what he accomplished. The game has evolved since he left it and continues to with wide receivers putting up 100-catch seasons on a frequent basis, a rarity in the early 90s. Beyond the numbers alone is how he accomplished them.
Whereas Rice and Carter put up their impressive numbers in the more conventional 2-WR sets, the bulk of Reed’s career was spent in a 3-WR set with Hall of Fame WR James Lofton starting opposite him for 4 seasons as well and a HOF RB in Thurman Thomas.
Michael Irvin, with numbers inferior to those of the 3 receivers waiting, got in after only 2 years of waiting due, in large part, to how important a part he played in the Cowboys’ success in the early 90s.
While it’s true that Reed had more Hall of Fame players with him on offense than any of his other contemporaries at the position, it doesn’t change how important he was to the team. He had a habit of coming up with big plays throughout his career and when HOF QB Jim Kelly needed someone to make a big play, more often than not, he went to Andre Reed. Until Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison broke it, Kelly and Reed held the record for career completions between a QB and WR.
It wasn’t just Kelly that relied on him though as evidenced by the fact that, in the Bills’ most memorable game, The Comeback, Andre Reed accounted for the final 3 TDs thrown by Frank Reich in the come-from-behind playoff win. What endeared Reed so much to his QBs was his willingness to go over the middle. He’d frequently take a short pass in areas where hard-hitting linebackers and safeties lurked and turn it into a huge gain.
The Buffalo Bills of the early 90s won 4 straight AFC Championships and while some vital members of those teams are enshrined in Canton where they belong, there’s a significant absence there as well with Andre Reed missing. The WR position has long been under-appreciated by the HOF voters and it’s time for that to change. It’s time for the voters to make the right move and vote in Andre Reed in 2014. His stats, what he meant to the Buffalo Bills, and the work ethic he showed throughout his career demand it.
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