It was great to see the likes of Aeneas Williams, Ray Guy, and wide receiver Andre Reed inducted into this year’s Hall of Fame class, but former Indianapolis Colts superstar Marvin Harrison was a very notable snub. Maybe the voters felt that a veteran like Reed deserved to make it into the HOF over a first-ballot guy like Harrison, but both players should have made the cut this year. It’s a shame that we won’t get to call Harrison a “first-ballot” guy, because there is something special about being good enough to make it in on your first try. Harrison is good enough, and there’s no doubt that he’s one of the greatest receivers of all time.
You could say that he benefited greatly from playing with one of the greatest QBs of all-time, but you would also have to use the same logic to downplay the accomplishments of a guy like Jerry Rice, who played for two of the greatest of all-time. A receiver’s stats will obviously be magnified by a great quarterback, but great receivers like Rice or Harrison jump off the page when looking at their stats.
Harrison’s 1,102 receptions are good for the third-most in NFL history, he is seventh all-time in receiving yards, and his 128 receiving touchdowns are good for fifth. Nobody averaged more receptions per game than Harrison, whose 76.7 receiving yards per game are good for sixth on the all-time leaderboard. This is a guy who made the first-team All-Pro squad three times, and he led the league in a major statistical category five times.
But Harrison really stands out when you look at his incredible year-to-year consistency, and that trumps even his dream 2002 season in which he caught 143 passes (the most receptions in a single season) for 1,722 yards or his 1,633-yard season in 1999.
For the purposes of the following paragraph, his 2007 season will be thrown out, as he played in just five games. It’s quite remarkable looking back at his career and realizing that he missed just 18 games (several of them due to rest in Week 17, so he only missed 15 games due to an actual injury). Harrison never had less than five receiving touchdowns in a season, and he had eight straight seasons with at least ten receiving touchdowns. He never had less than 59 receptions in a year and had an amazing four straight seasons with at least 100 receptions. Not only that, but he also had eight straight seasons with at least 1,100 receiving yards, including four straight with over 1,400.
Harrison was such a dominant player, and he’s one of those all-time greats who was consistent throughout this career (whether he was a first-round rookie or a 36-year-old on his last legs, he made a significant impact on the team)- thus making him able to compile big numbers- and had an incredible prime in which nobody could stop him. The stats above paint the picture of both, and Harrison simply had every trait you look for in an elite wide receiver. He was fast, had hops, had an extremely high football IQ, was an excellent route-runner, and he was one of the most durable wide receivers of the era. Harrison was the star of some amazing Indianapolis Colts offenses, and he and Peyton Manning certainly helped each other carve out incredible legacies; it’s too bad Harrison won’t be a first-ballot Hall of Famer as well.