ATLANTA -- Along with Super Bowl week, this week is Hall of Fame week. It is when the list of 15 finalists is narrowed down to six (five modern era and one veteran) for enshrinement into Canton, Ohio this summer. Two Pats players, Richard Seymour and Ty Law, are finalists and could be inducted this summer. 10 years from now there might be an interesting discussion about slot receivers. Last week, Jerry Rice (told the Athletic) that it might be time to consider slot receivers for the Hall of Fame. Bill Parcells spoke about the issue with Pats Maven Monday.
"It's kind of a specialty position," Parcells said. "The position did not begin recently. Tom Landry did that with his offense. In the Cowboys Super Bowl victory over the Broncos in the late 1970s, Butch Johnson caught a touchdown pass."
Parcells thinks that unless the slot receiver could play outside, he probably should not be considered for the Hall of Fame.
"There are a lot of specialty positions now like third down receivers. Do you consider Darren Sproles? He is a very effective pass catching running back. There are also nickel defensive backs. Should they be considered? My take is only if the slot receiver could go outside/play wide on a consistent basis should he be considered."
Parcells is impressed with the how the Patriots have had success with slot receivers, which started with Troy Brown (who Parcells coached), then Wes Welker and now Julian Edelman. Parcells called Brown the leanest receiver in Pats history.
"They have done an excellent job making those players flourish in their system and that is what good coaching is," Parcells said. "Matching the talent to the system."
Parcells does not dismiss the production of these players, but is just not sure they are Hall of Fame caliber.
"Production is production. The Hall of Fame is supposed to have a standard of being dominant at your position. The receiver position is not just being able to play in the slot. The real great receivers play anywhere," Parcells said.
Parcells also think other receivers from years past like former Pats WR Stanley Morgan and Arizona Cardinals WR Roy Green deserve consideration. Morgan and Green have a much higher average yards per catch than most modern day receivers. Morgan averaged 19.2 yards per catch and Green averaged 16 yards per catch. Edelman has averaged around 10.8 yards per catch for his career. Green used to keep Parcells up at night (fondly calling him a son of a b***) when Parcells coached the Giants and Green was in his division.
"Green was my nemesis," Parcells said.
Parcells notes that those receivers played in era when there was a lot more man-to-man coverage and tighter coverage at the line of scrimmage. In overtime of the AFC Championship Game, Edelman received two free releases at the line of scrimmage on his two third-and-10 catches in overtime.
"Gotta give credit to the design of those plays, but he (Edelman) wouldn't get that if it was against me," Parcells said.
The Pats are likely thankful for the change in the rules that have allowed receivers to get more free releases. For a a six-year period, Welker led the league in receptions and he is a big reason why the Pats won 11 games in 2008 behind a pedestrian QB in Matt Cassel. Edelman's impact on the Pats offense this season cannot be understated. When he was suspended the first four games, the Pats were 2-2 and struggled to score points in two bad road losses.
Since returning, Edelman has 90 catches (74 regular season catches and 16 playoff catches). He had three catches for 55 yards on the Pats final two drives in overtime last week against Kansas City. Edelman now has 105 playoff catches - second only to Jerry Rice with 151 career playoff catches. Edelman has played in far more playoff games (17) than most players do in their career.
"That is in theory the highest level of competition," Parcells said. "But I don't think that is the best indicator because some guys received a lot more opportunities."
Edelman had a slow start to his career. His rookie year he caught 37 passes. Then in 2010 and 2011 he had only 11 catches combined. In 2012, he had only 21 catches. Edelman was a free agent and the Pats showed little interest. Edelman received a minimum salary type offer from the Pats and Giants.
He chose to return to the team he was familiar with - the Patriots. Starting in 2013, Edelman emerged as a top-flight receiver with 105 catches and and in 2014 he had 92 catches. Edelman had a great playoff run. Against the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoffs, he had eight catches for 74 yards to lead the team.
Edelman, however, made a play that will live in Patriots lore. Trailing 28- 21 in the second half, Edelman caught a lateral from Tom Brady and thew a 51-yard touchdown pass up the left sideline to Danny Amendola. Edelman continued the strong play in the Super Bowl against Seattle where he caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Seattle. Two years later, Edelman had five catches for 87 yards in the Super Bowl against Atlanta - including a 23-yard catch that bounced off several defenders on the game-tying drive at the end of regulation.
Parcells said the increased production of receivers is a function of the NFL's desire to have more scoring.
"That is what sells and that is what the owners want - nothing wrong with that," Parcells said. "But can you really compare Stanley Morgan who averaged 19.2 yards per catch to a player today who averaged 13.1 yards catch?"
The debate surely will continue for a long time.