Talk of Fame Network
For Andre Reed, the time couldn't be better to make it to Canton -- and here's to the Hall of Fame for understanding.
The best receiver on one of the best teams in the last two decades, the former Buffalo star waited patiently for the call -- with the Hall responding last February on Reed's eighth shot as a finalist. Reed said then that he was grateful, and he should have been. Because now is the right time for him to be recognized for what he was -- an extraordinary player who made big plays in big games.
Look, Andre Reed belongs in Canton. I think we can agree on that. But had he not been selected this year, he might've gotten lost in a queue that is beginning to include guys with prodigious numbers -- and the envelope, please.
Marvin Harrison was one of 15 finalists in his first year of eligibility. He holds the league record for catches in one year (143), eclipsed 100 receptions four times in his career and had 90 or more in six seasons. He also had eight straight years with 10 or more TDs and 1,100 yards in catches.
Then there are Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, both of whom are eligible for the next class. Bruce had 119 catches one year; Holt had 117 and six seasons with 91 or more. They're followed by Terrell Owens in 2016, with Randy Moss one year later, and I don't need to tell you what they did.
In short, there's a gridlock waiting to happen of talented receivers with numbers inflated by a pass-happy league.
And that's where Reed comes in. His best year for receptions was 1994 when he had 90, and I know what you're thinking: Big deal. Well, yeah, it was. It was nearly twice as many as the next best Bill, Hall-of-Famer Thurman Thomas (50), with Reed's eight TDs one more than the rest of Buffalo's wide receivers combined.
Reed broke 80 catches three times and 70 five times, but in an era where more seems better ... where five receivers caught 100 or more passes last season and 24 had 1,000 or more yards ... his numbers today begin to dim by comparison.
Of course, had you seen him play you'd know he was about more than numbers. One of the game's best "yards-after-catch" receivers, he could, as teammate Steve Tasker said, "turn a nothing 5-yard completion into a 65-yard touchdown" and often did it making catches where others would not -- over the middle where safeties and linebackers lurked. In one of Buffalo's most memorable victories, a come-from-behind 41-38 defeat of Houston in the 1992 playoffs, it was Reed who scored three times to turn a 35-3 halftime deficit into an improbable victory.
But while I said Reed was about more than numbers, he had the numbers, too. In fact, when he retired, his 951 career receptions ranked third in league history, and his 13 seasons (including nine straight) of 50 or more catches was second only to Jerry Rice. But those achievements seem less significant in an era where, say, Wes Welker produces 100-catch seasons as readily as McDonald's produces fries. Welker has six seasons with 111 catches or more and 841 receptions in nine years -- or an average of 93.4 per year -- yet he's not what you'd consider on a Hall-of-Fame track.
Reed was. And thank goodness he's in the Hall now. Because the longer he waited (see Tim Brown) the more he risked getting swallowed in the wave of wide receivers that's about to descend on the Hall of Fame's board of selectors.
Reed's patience was rewarded -- and just in the nick of time. Maybe life is fair after all.
Follow Clark Judge on Twitter at @clarkjudgeTOF
*Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills