Debating Reed and Harrison’s Hall of Fame Credentials

The 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees will be announced this weekend, and with Tony Dungy and WR Marvin Harrison among the final hopefuls, this is a big weekend for Colts fans. Harrison's candidacy in particular has been dissected, with many people calling into question the quality of the eye-popping stats he amassed in his career. One of the players Harrison will be competing against is former Buffalo Bills' WR Andre Reed. 

With that in mind, I "sat down" with Joe from Bloguin's Buffalo Wins site to discuss each player's credentials. Our conversation, after the jump.

Joe: So we are about 24 hours away from the HOF vote and there seems to be a debate about who should get in first, Andre Reed or Marvin Harrison. Gotta love HOF debates. So, instead of me being bias and saying Reed should get in before Harrison, I wanted to reach out to Greg over at Colts Authority to see if he agrees with me that Reed should get in before Harrison..Come on, Greg. You know I am right!

Greg: Hey Joey, I agree that Andre Reed should make the Hall of Fame, but disagree that it should happen before Marvin Harrison, who happens to be one of the top-5 wide receivers of all time. Harrison is 3rd in career receptions (1,102), 7th in career yards (6th if you remove TE Tony Gonzalez) (14,580), and 5th in touchdowns (128). Andre Reed was an elite receiver, but before an injury prematurely ended his career, Harrison was on pace for stats that would have placed him comfortably at #2 on nearly all stat lists.

Joe: Marvin's numbers are impressive, but don't you think being in a pass happy era and having Peyton Manning throw him footballs had something to do with it? How did Marvin do his first two years with Jim Harbaugh and the immortal Paul Justin launching him ducks?  Manning makes everyone great. Just ask Denver and Brandon Stokley.

Also, look at how many skilled guys he played with. Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne are incredible talents. Andre Reed didn't come close to playing with pass catching guys like those. He had James Lofton for 3 seasons, but Lofton really was only good for like 1-2 of those years because of his age. During Reed's best season (90 catches in 1994), his 2nd WR option was Bill Brooks who was very mediocre.

In other words, when Kelly threw the ball, you knew where he was going. Teams could focus on Reed where as with the Colts, you guys had so many pass catching options that let Harrison get 1-on-1 matchups.

Greg: I'm not sure we should punish a player for playing with another good player. The Hall of Fame shouldn't be restricted to players who are perceived to have made the most of a bad situation.

That said, yes, Harrison did play with a hall of fame quarterback, one of the best players of all time, but Andre Reed did happen to play with one Jim Kelly, who also happens to have a bust in the Hall of Fame. He also shared a huddle with another Hall of Famer, Thurman Thomas. So while he never had a star wide receiver next to him, he did have a lot of talent around him.

Back to Harrison, he did eventually get to play with the likes of Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, but Wayne came into the league in 2001 and didn't become a major contributor until 2003.

Dallas Clark came into the league in 2003 and didn't catch more than 37 balls until 2007. I'm a huge Dallas Clark fan, but he had ONE elite season as a tight end, 2009 (after Harrison had retired). A lot of Clark's notoriety came from Manning's ability to use him in key situations, but he was the guy exploiting coverage, not the guy demanding it.

As far as Harrison's career taking place in a "pass happy NFL", that's true, passing offenses have seen an uptick since 2004, but there's one thing we need to consider: Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison were a HUGE part of why that shift occurred. The NFL is a copycat league, and as the Colts had more and more success with their offensive philosophies (and as their AFCCG loss to the Patriots was the game that lead the league to put emphasis back on fouls in the secondary) the rest of the league followed suit.

Punishing Harrison for the Era he played in would be punishing him for being one of the players who helped usher in that new era.

Joe: Those are very fair points and let me just say, I hate that we are having this conversation. I think both guys should be in the HOF and I hate how the writers have taken it upon themselves to discredit WRs. As far as Im concerned, if you are in the top 5 at your position for a decade or so, you should get in the HOF. Both these guys were and it is embarrassing that guys like Michael Irvin/Chris Carter had to wait as long as they did, but Im sure Eli Manning will be first ballot, even though he's not in the top 8 QBs of his era.

Obviously, we live in an era where people judge players on what they did in the playoffs and whether he's a clutch performer or not, and I think the biggest disparity between Reed and Harrison are the playoff numbers. Reed has played in 21 playoff games while Harrison has been in 16. Yet, Reed has 9 TDs to Harrison's 2.

Also, Reed is in the top 5 all-time in playoff  receiving numbers and is 2nd to Jerry Rice as far as catches/yards in the history of Super Bowls. On top of that, he was instrumental in the "Greatest Comeback game" when he had 3TDs. He also has 5 playoff games of 100-yards receiving to Marvin's one. Do you think playoff performance should be mentioned when debating these two?

Greg:  Should they be mentioned? I don't know. Will they be mentioned? Yes.  Full disclosure, I'm not a believer in "clutch" or "choker" or any of that. I don't think players "up their game in the playoffs" because that would imply that, for 16 games in the regular season, they aren't doing their best. These, in my mind, are all words used to romanticize sports, make it something more epic than it is (and I think football is pretty dang epic). To put extra emphasis on a 20-game playoff sample in lieu of 100+ regular season games seems… wrong.

That said, people will do it. The numbers don't lie. Marvin Harrison's playoff production suffered in the playoffs. Why?  

1) You've trimmed the fat in the playoffs. Every team you play has one of the better defenses in the league.
2) Those defenses are more capable of constructing a game plan that can take away a player.
3) As you alluded to earlier, the Colts had an offense that afforded Manning the opportunity to exploit coverages. So if a team was doubling Harrison, Manning wasn't forced to go that way. He could go to Wayne or Clark or Stokley or James, etc…

All of this is true, but make no mistake, Harrison's presence allowed others to find success. And if none of that works, then I guess I can fall back on the old media tactic: HARRISON HAS A RING!!!!

Joe: Yes..But Andre Reed has 4 Super Bowl appearances…and lost.,.Excuse me as I go cry now. What about the waiting game? Don't you think Reed should get in since he's been waiting 7 years? You have to feel a little bad for him. Also, consider that for most of the Bills heyday with Reed, they did run the football about 50% of the time where as Im sure the Colts passed the ball way more. For instance, Kelly averaged about 29 throws a game for his career while Manning had 35 a game. Do the math and that's about 100 more throws a year.

Also, I think Reed playing from 1985 to 2000 as a WR who was fearless when it came to going over the middle should matter. This was during a time when safeties would take your head off and it didn't bother him in the least. He's the man who was instrumental in having YAC being used at PFF.


Thanks to Joe for setting this up. You can read his post on the subject here. Good luck to Harrison AND Reed tomorrow. :)