From T.O. to HOF?

 

Jerry Rice vs NY Giants cornerback (1995)

Should Terrell Owens make the Hall of Fame? And where does he rank among all-time receivers? This week’s news that T.O. suffered a torn ACL got us to thinking. We’ve already considered the way Owens’ career may have ended; now, let’s think about his place in history. (Hat tip to the Open Mic Daily guys for raising the questions and getting me thinking. UPDATE: Here’s the podcast of our conversation.)

We went to Pro Football Reference to look at the numbers. Going through the list, we considered 17 receivers from the top 20 in all-time receptions. (We left out No. 6 Tony Gonzalez, since he’s a tight end; No. 19 Larry Centers, since he was a fullback; and No. 20 Steve Largent, since he’s clearly from another era.) Of that group, only two are in the Hall of Fame – No. 1 Jerry Rice and No.  11 Art Monk. And Monk is the only guy on the list who played a significant portion of his career in the pre-Jerry Rice era (which began in 1985.)

Of these 17 receivers, we knocked out six – Monk, whose peak began before the era began, and five players who weren’t among the top 30 in receptions, yards, and touchdowns – Derrick Mason, Keenan McCardell, Jimmy Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Rod Smith. We then added in four others – Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, and Andre Johnson, who don’t meet the numbers thresholds yet but should soon; and Michael Irvin, who has made the Hall of Fame.

So we set out to compare Owens to the other receivers of his era.

Hall of Fame level: Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Cris Carter, Hines Ward, Michael Irvin, Marvin Harrison – We prefer Moss to Owens slightly, since Moss was the more dynamic threat, but both belong in the Hall. So does Carter, who may finally get over the hump now that Shannon Sharpe has gotten in to ease the receiver backlog. Ward has moved into the Hall of Fame level in the last few years as the leading receiver in the Steelers’ Super Bowl run; if Irvin is in, Ward should be in too. They’re equals. Harrison is an interesting case; his numbers say he’s in, but was he a really good player with a great quarterback, or a great player in his own right.

Current players: We’d also put Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson in this level at this point in their careers. They need to continue adding to their accomplishments, but they’re on track to get in. Reggie Wayne strikes us as a 50/50 case right now; could he eventually pass Harrison in line?

Just outside the HOF bubble: Tim Brown, Andre Reed, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Art Monk, Irving Fryar – Brown’s numbers are great, but he strikes us as a really good player who compiled great numbers. Bruce and Holt played in a WR-friendly system with the Rams; how could you choose between them for the Hall? Reed falls short, and we believe Monk should have as well. But if any of these players made the Hall of Fame, it wouldn’t be a travesty. We were shocked Fryar hit the numbers standards, but he did so just barely. He’s a level below the rest of the bubble guys.

Current players: Derrick Mason, Chad Ochocinco, Donald Driver, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, and Santana Moss have gaudy numbers but fall below the bubble as well. We don’t see any of this group crossing the HOF threshold.

Just missed the numbers thresholds: Keenan McCardell, Jimmy Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, Rod Smith – These guys were good but not great. They may be Hall of Fame finalists, but they won’t find their way in.

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2 Comments

Filed under Football Relativity, Pro Football Hall of Fame, research project

2 responses to “From T.O. to HOF?

  1. Pro Football Reference has their own career value stat they call approximate value, or AV, and IIRC, in the 90s is marginal HOFer, and 100 and more is HOF material. As an example, Orlando Pace scores in at about 105 AV.

    TO is #2 on all time TDs as a receiver. 14 years is a long career and one where he’s been effective throughout. His AV is 119 or so. Statistically, it’s a cake walk, though he might face some Lawrence Taylor like resistance for his colorful character.

    I don’t know when they added this, but PFR now has draft history pages where they give career stats and the AV of drafted players. It can be interesting mining those to look at hits and misses in the draft. I’m curious because I’m fascinated with draft error. And to bring that home, wasn’t TO a third round draft pick? What receivers were picked in front of him that year (checking – Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Marvin Harrison, Eddie Kinneson, Eric Moulds.. those just in the first round – deep draft for receivers) ?

    FnS.

    http://codeandfootball.wordpress.com

  2. Football Relativity

    That was a historic WR draft. First ever with six in first round, I believe. TO was a small-school guy, which likely influenced draft position. Now only Harrison from his draft is in his league, though others – Keyshawn, Moulds, Glenn, even Kennison – had good careers.

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