In almost every sport, whenever a big-name player retires, social media seems to explode with discussions about whether or not they belong in the Hall of Fame. Last week, Julian Edelman’s announcement of his retirement was no different, with New England homers putting in their two cents and trying to argue his case for the Hall. Now, I’m not saying Edelman should or should not be in the NFL HoF, but I wanted to address a few arguments and comments I’ve heard regarding Edelman and other players that have retired over the past few years.
Julian Edelman in the playoffs: Second-most catches (118) & yards (1442) in history. Played in 5 Super Bowls, won 3 + has a SB MVP.
And he came in clutch over & over: TD pass to Amendola vs. Baltimore, go-ahead TD vs. Seattle, and the catch vs. Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/ZGHEHDgckB
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) April 12, 2021
Edelman’s case for the Hall is based solely on his postseason production, where he ranks second all-time behind only Jerry Rice in playoff receiving yards and receptions. He also has three super bowl rings and a Superbowl MVP to show for it. There’s no denying Julian was one of the biggest pieces in the 2010s Patriot’s dynasty. The case against Edelman is his regular-season stats, where he had always been a solid option for Brady but never considered one of the best receivers in the league. Again, I am not trying to argue that Edelman is a Hall of Famer based on his playoff production, but I do have to ask this question…Why does the consensus say Edelman is absolutely NOT a Hall of Famer while also saying that Eli Manning is?
I realize that Manning and Edelman play different positions and that quarterback is more valuable than a receiver. But, in the context of positional comparisons, I think this question is valid. Manning’s regular-season statistics are decent at best, with a brief highlight below.
- Career QB Record: 117-117
- Career Passer Rating: 84.1 (Worse than Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton)
- Career Completion %: 60.1% (Worse than Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick)
- Career INT %: 3.0% (Worse than Blake Bortles and Andy Dalton)
- Career TD %: 4.5% (Worse than Andy Dalton and Jay Cutler)
- Passing Yards per Game: 241.6 (Less than Carson Palmer and Kirk Cousins)
The only stat where he’s among Elite company is career passing yards and career passing TDs, where he ranks 8th and 9th all-time respectively. But today’s NFL is very different than it was 30 and 40 years ago. Passing is more prevalent and so almost every modern QB is going to have great passing totals. Steve Young is regarded as one of the greatest QBs of all time, Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick both have more passing yards than him. Carson Palmer has more career passing touchdowns than Joe Montana. So these counting stats are pretty irrelevant to me.
I’ve seen the argument that he was always great in the clutch, obviously winning two Superbowls, but also having 27 career 4th quarter comebacks. That’s pretty good when looking at all-time numbers, but he’s got seven QBs ahead of him, including Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers, among players from his era. So when compared to the guys he played against and the era he played in he was pretty average. I get it, the guy has two Superbowls, both against the greatest to ever do it in Tom Brady. But nobody ever mentions that in his other four playoff appearances he lost in the first round.
So my point is this…Eli Manning was an exceptionally average quarterback who stayed healthy and had a couple of great playoff runs. Is that enough to put him in the Hall of Fame? What if Alshon Jeffrey had caught Foles’ pass against the Saints in the 2019 playoffs and the Eagles went on to win? And then the Eagles beat the Rams (who Foles had already beaten earlier that season), then went on to beat the Patriots (who Foles beat in the Superbowl the year before)? That’s definitely a lot of “what ifs” but if it had happened I doubt anyone would be saying Nick Foles is a Hall of Famer. I think most people would agree with that, so by that logic shouldn’t we also agree that two Superbowl wins shouldn’t be an automatic qualifier to the Hall?
If you can’t tell, I personally don’t think Eli Manning makes the Hall of Fame cut. BUT, playing devil’s advocate, if people say Eli is in then I think you have to give Edelman serious consideration as well. Julian Edelman was an average wide receiver who elevated his play in the playoffs to be the second greatest receiver in playoff history. Do you want to make the argument that he had Tom Brady throwing him the ball? I’ll argue that Eli only has two Superbowls because of the Giants’ defense. They held the Patriots to 14 and 17 points, New England averaged 36 and 32 points per game in 2007 and 2011 respectively. A line needs to be drawn with regular-season numbers, it can’t just be automatic to put someone in the Hall based on rings.
The last arguments I’ve heard are things like “it’s the Hall of Fame, not the hall of stats’ or “you can’t tell the history of football without so and so.” I get that these arguments are catchy, and on the surface make you think, but realistically it clouds what the real point of the Hall of Fame is. The Hall of Fame was created to enshrine “exceptional figures in the sport of professional football.” Do I consider Eli Manning or Julian Edelman “exceptional figures?” Absolutely not, and I think starting to open up “Fame” to interpretation goes down a dangerous path. Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow, and Johnny Manziel have been some of the most polarizing and famous players to enter the league in the last 10 years. All for different reasons obviously, but can you “tell the story” of the last 10 years in the NFL without mentioning these guys? In the history of the NFL, only 27 Quarterbacks and 31 wide receivers have ever been selected to the Football Hall of Fame. There’s going to be a lot of guys who don’t make the cut who were famous and very good.
Ultimately, I think we as fans need to be stricter and more consistent on what we consider to be “Hall of Fame worthy.” We also need to stop comparing eras when the game and rules are so different now. It really needs to be a comparison of your position among the players you played against. In my opinion, if you’re not considered a top 5 player at your position among the guys of your own era, you’re not a hall of fame candidate. And if you want to put more weight on playoff and postseason greatness, that’s fine with me, but you can’t do that for some players and positions while ignoring others. So I personally wouldn’t have Eli or Edelman in. BUT if you are in the group that says Eli is in then logically you would have to discuss Edelman as well.