On Monday former New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman announced his retirement after 12 seasons in the NFL. The former seventh-round pick immediately drew praise from players and coaches around the league, and the official Twitter account of the Patriots characterized Edelman as “the ultimate competitor.”
Subsequently, some members of the media—including Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports—attempted to make the case for Edelman as a Hall of Famer. Even the Pro Football Hall of Fame sent out a tweet reminding everyone that Edelman will be eligible for induction in 2026, assuming he is really retired, of course.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) April 12, 2021
That led to a media backlash, in which the lion’s share of analysts decried the notion of Edelman possibly getting voted into the Hall of Fame, with Nick Wright of FS1 going so far as to call the idea “insulting” to other more deserving former NFL wide receivers, not to mention actual Hall of Famers.
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Hines Ward’s Hall of Fame Credentials Getting Another Look?
But the “Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Famer? debate” has also resulted in a re-examination of the career of former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, a 2021 semifinalist who has never made it to the final round of voting.
You may recall that Ward retired after the 2011 season after a 14-year career in which he made the Pro Bowl four times (2001-04), something that Edelman never accomplished. There is also a wide disparity between Ward and Edelman in terms of catches, yards and touchdown receptions (1,000 as compared to 620; 12,083 against 6,822; and 85 as compared to 36), with both players the recipient of a Super Bowl MVP award.
Moreover, Ward’s career numbers stack up pretty well in terms of where he ranks on all-time lists, as helpfully noted by CBS Sports.
How does Hines Ward not have a Gold Jacket?
88 REC (5th all-time)
10 REC TD (4th)
1,181 REC YDS (8th)
1,000 REC (14th)
85 REC TD (16th)
12,083 REC YDS (26th)
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) April 14, 2021
Never mind the fact the Ward was already in his seventh year before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger arrived on the scene, by which point Ward was already well into his prime. (Prior to Tommy Maddox and then Roethlisberger, Ward was catching passes from the likes of Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak and Kent Graham.)
Most notably, perhaps, Ward is also considered to be one of the best—if not the best—blocking wide receivers of all-time, not to mention one of the position’s hardest hitters. In fact, his vicious crackback block on Cincinnati Bengals rookie linebacker Keith Rivers (in 2008) led the NFL to outlaw that kind of block, which is why the rule is colloquially known as “the Hines Ward rule.”
That particular block, which broke Rivers’ jaw, is included among Ward’s career highlights, available immediately below:
5 Steelers Will Be Enshrined This Summer
But it might work against Hines Ward that there will be five former members of the Steelers organization enshrined in the Hall of Fame this August. The Class of 2020 includes former Steelers safeties Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell, as well as former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. The Class of 2021 features offensive guard Alan Faneca, as well as late scout/front office executive Bill Nunn. As such, voters might prefer to wait a few years before adding to the list of Steelers who are already members of the Hall of Fame.
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