Can Wayne Catch Harrison?

Recently, Peter King commented that Marvin Harrison wasn’t a ‘lock’ for the Hall of Fame.  It’s something we’ve discussed before in reference to King and Harrison.  Given the fact that King is a voter, he’s automatically correct.  If an active voter for the Hall doubts the certainty of a particular candidate, that candidate cannot be considered a lock.

The bigger question is should Marvin Harrison be a lock?

Recently King was asked on Twitter if Harrison was a lock.  This was his reply:

What if RWayne’s numbers are close to Harrison’s when he comes up for vote in 2014?

King’s thinking on Harrison has been to wonder if just anyone could have put the prodigious numbers 88 did simply by playing with Peyton Manning. There are two parts to this equation:  1. He assumes it’s feasible that Wayne approaches Harrison’s numbers.  2.  He assumes that would somehow lessen Harrison’s Hall of Fame credentials.

First, let’s examine if it is even possible for Reggie Wayne to approach Harrison.  Wayne turns 32 years old in November.  In four years, he’ll be 36 and will have played 13 seasons, exactly the same as Harrison when he retired. These are Wayne’s numbers to date:

Catches Yards TD YPC Pro Bowls 1st Team All Pro 2nd Team All Pro Super Bowl Rings
Reggie Wayne 676 9393 63 13.9 4 0 2 1
Marvin Harrison 1102 14580 128 13.2 8 3 5 1

*We can argue the validity of Pro Bowls and Super Bowl rings in evaluating players, but there’s no question they have some weight in the process whether they should or not.

To catch Harrison’s totals, Wayne would have to AVERAGE 106 catches, 1297 yards, and 16 TDs a year each of the next four years. If he did all of that, not once, but four times after turning 32, it would be an astounding accomplishment.  Such averages would certainly help him match Harrison’s Pro Bowl total, and would close the gap in All Pro awards.

There’s just one big problem.  Wayne’s never had a single season like that in his entire career. His career high in catches is 104 (2007), he’s surpassed 1300 yards only twice (2006, 2007), and he’s never had more than 12 TDs in any season.  In fact, not only has Reggie Wayne never done that, only four players in the history of the NFL have even one season of 100 catches, 1250 yards, and 15 TDs. They are:  Jerry Rice, Chris Carter, Randy Moss, and some guy named Marvin Harrison.  Each did it once.  After turning age 30, there have been only six seasons of 100 catches, 1200 yards, and 10 TDs by a wide out.  Rice (twice), Carter, Harrison, Rod Smith, and Reggie Wayne each did it…but four of them only once.

In other words, King is offering up a nearly impossible circumstance that almost validates Harrison in and of itself. Reggie Wayne, one of the best wideouts in the league, would have to post FOUR of the all time best receiving years after age 32 to catch Marvin Harrison’s career totals.

If Wayne managed four more healthy seasons in a Colts uniform and continues on his current career averages, he can hope for 976 catches, 13,568 yards, and 91 touchdowns.  Excellent numbers to be sure, but still well short of Harrison’s.  Even so, it will be difficult for him to match his career production as he ages and his role in the Colts’ offense eventually changes.

Of course all of that ignores the fact that Harrison played two seasons before Peyton Manning came into the league, and one year with him as a rookie.  He also had an injury aborted 2007 season.  So the first part of King’s assumption: anyone could have put of Marvin Harrison’s numbers with Peyton Manning is demonstrably false.  Another outstanding, first round draft pick wideout playing his entire career with Manning (and benefiting from double coverage given to Harrison for half his career) won’t touch Marvin’s numbers without the most incredible stretch in NFL history.

Now that we’ve addressed how impossible it would be for Wayne to catch Harrison by 2014, let’s look at the second part of King’s question.  IF Wayne did the impossible and caught Harrison, essentially posting a similar career over 13 seasons, would that be a black mark against Harrison and argue against his induction?

Personally, should Wayne elevate his career to the next level, he would also become an obvious Hall of Fame player.  What would help Wayne’s case more than anything would be for the Colts to win another Super Bowl or two.  Ask Lynn Swann how much Super Bowl Rings matter when it comes time to vote on the Hall. Even so, I fail to see how a historic burst of production unlike anyone in NFL history by Wayne would work against Harrison.  Maybe it’s just me but I think 8 AP First or Second Team All Pro awards makes for a pretty compelling case in and of itself.

I suspect that King hasn’t looked all that closely at Harrison’s resume. He might not realize how well Harrison matches up against other wideouts of his time.  My guess would be that when 2014 comes around and King realizes that Harrison made more Pro Bowls than Moss or Owens and had more combined first and second team All Pro awards than either man in fewer seasons that he’ll realize how compelling his case really is.

Marvin Harrison should be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

The only reason he isn’t a lock for the Hall of Fame is simply because voters like King haven’t taken the time to consider his case carefully yet.

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