(Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)
As per usual, my Twitter timeline was set ablaze over the last 48 hours because of an NFL take. Julian Edelman, the ever reliable and tough as nails receiver for the New England Patriots, announced his retirement. It was an unfortunate end to a career that flashed promise every year he suited up healthy. And to know that his career ends with a failed physical d
esignation means Edelman truly left it all on the field, grinding until he decided his body didn’t deserve further beatings every year. But, for some reason, and I have no earthly idea why, there was a collective voice begging the question, “Is Julian Edelman a Hall of Fame player?”
Simply put, in the most succinct way I can put it: HELL no.
Now, this isn’t meant as disrespect to Edelman. He’s honestly one of my favorite receivers from the last decade because he played hard, tough and was such a reliable outlet for the legendary Tom Brady. Edelman’s story is remarkable, and truly an amazing journey that characterizes the tireless work ethic and earned respect that comes with rising to the top of the sport. But it is ENTIRELY unreasonable to even consider Edelman a Hall of Fame player because it’s disrespectful to the Hall and the players enshrined in it already.
As Woody alluded to, Edelman’s career is certainly commendable and admirable. He’s arguably a legendary player at least in Patriots’ history, especially considering his 12 year career was spent entirely in New England. But there is simply no argument to be made about his career being immortalized as recognition for the game’s elite talents.
Edelman, at no point in his career, was a game-changing receiver (like former teammate Randy Moss) who demanded a defense’s best defender or double-coverage from week to week. He started his career slowly, like many players in the league, but was never considered top five or even ten at his position during the entirety of his career.
In addition, statistically, Edelman isn’t comparable to players who have heard their name called for a gold jacket. There is a host of players in NFL history that are not enshrined that arguably deserve it more than he. To that point and to make it clear,, here’s a list of receivers that are not in the Hall of Fame, but certainly have a case to be, especially if someone like Edelman is being given consideration:
Cliff Branch: Played for 14 years, all for the Raiders between both Oakland and Los Angeles. He finished his career as one of the best deep threats in history, earning 501 catches, 8, 685 yards and 67 touchdowns. He has three Super Bowl titles.
Gary Clark: Played 11 years, mostly with Washington; he finished his career in 1995 with an amazing 699 catches, 10,856 receiving yards and 65 touchdowns. He has two Super Bowl titles.
Torry Holt: A member of the greatest show on turf; 11 year career (10 with the Rams, 1 with the Jaguars) finishing with 920 receptions for over 13,300 yards and 76 touchdowns. He won one Super Bowl title.
Chad Johnson: Exceptional and unique personality/player; easily a top NFL WR; 11 year career (10 seasons with the Bengals, 1 with the Patriots), finishing with over 770 receptions for over 11,000 receiving yards and 67 touchdowns.
Herman Moore: Played 12 seasons (11 with the Lions and 1 with the Giants); three-time All-Pro, lead league in receptions twice and eclipsed 1,200 yards in four straight years; racked up 670 receptions for 9174 yards and 62 touchdowns total (never played with a Pro Bowl quarterback).
Sterling Sharpe: Played only seven seasons after a severe neck injury ended his career. Was arguably one of the best, if not the best, receivers in the game of football. Finished his seven seasons with 595 receptions, 8,134 yards and an absurd 65 touchdowns.
Jimmy Smith: Played 12 seasons, mostly with the Jacksonville Jaguars; finished with 862 receptions, 12,287 yards and 67 touchdowns. He was a part of the Jaguars very first season in existence, one of their best players in history.
Otis Taylor: Played 11 seasons (all with the Kansas City Chiefs) and notched 410 catches, 7,306 yards and 57 touchdowns. He’s a legendary Chief that made two defining plays during their journey to a victory in Super Bowl IV. He has one Super Bowl title.
Now all of these former players have several things in common: they’ve played around the same amount of time as Edelman, have racked up far superior statistics in that time, and were each finishers with multiple records at the time and Super Bowl championships. Even counting Edelman’s impressive playoff statistics, his numbers don’t come close to any of the above players.
In his 12 regular seasons, Edelman has 620 catches, 6,822 yards and 36 receiving touchdowns. He’s never accrued double-digit receiving touchdowns in a season and has only reached the 1000 yard mark three times, with the most being 1,117 yards (which was good for 18th in the league that year despite being fifth in catches). Looking at the postseason, it adds an impressive 118 catches for 1,442 yards and five touchdowns (75.9 yards per game average) along with three championships and one Super Bowl MVP.. So all together, his total career numbers are 738 catches, 8,264 yards and 41 receiving touchdowns plus the hardware. Simply put, his resume is, at most, sort of comparable to only a handful of players mentioned above, and many of those played in a very different era in which running the ball was the priority and passing concepts weren’t nearly as advanced.
The final point to be made about why this argument should be shut down is that a former Patriot actually claims a similar career arc and accomplished a lot of the same. Deion Branch, a former second round pick out of Louisville, played 12 seasons as well, with seven years coming with New England and five with Seattle. In total, he’s accumulated 518 catches, 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns. His postseason totals are 64 catches, 948 yards and four touchdowns including two championships and a Super Bowl MVP as well, with eight trips to the postseason compared to Edelman’s 11. So here’s a side by side comparison:
620 catches, 6,822 yards, 36 rec TDs (reg.)
118 catches for 1,442 yards. 5 TDs (post)
738 catches, 8,264 yards, 41 TDs (total)
11 straight playoff appearances
3x Super Bowl Champion; Super Bowl MVP
518 catches, 6,644 yards, 39 TDs (reg.)
64 catches, 948 yards, 4 TDs (post)
582 catches, 7,592 yards, 43 TDs (total)
8 playoff appearances
2x Super Bowl Champion; Super Bowl MVP
Would you say Deion Branch is an NFL Hall of Fame player? The answer is a resounding no. As a matter of fact, his eligibility window closes soon, and he’s never been a finalist.
Edelman has played with a Hall of Fame quarterback, for a Hall of Fame coach, and saw the postseason literally every single year of his career until 2020 because the Patriots made it from 2009 through 2019. So, even with an amazing playoff career taken into account, he’s had a hell of a lot more opportunities to accumulate those stats than the average player. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a dominant receiver that commanded attention from opposing teams and should be immortalized.
Again, this isn’t to criticize or roast Edelman in any way. He’s played and accomplished much more than I ever have as an athlete and his story is one that youth should know about so they don’t ever quit on their dreams. But to those that are making this argument, believing that he somehow should be enshrined, you’re slapping the Hall of Fame in the face, along with many of the players yet to be enshrined despite putting in the same blood, sweat, and tears for a long career.
Congratulations to Julian Edelman, a fierce offensive weapon and let him enjoy his accolades and accomplishments without hearing a debate that he didn’t ask for.