While it may be a rather ridiculous thought that we must each season compare receivers who are worthy of the Hall of Fame, alas it must be done. Why? Because there are certain positions which Hall of Famer voters don't like to vote more than one in at a time - wide receiver being one such position.
This year, there are two wide receivers in the list of 15 modern era finalists - Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison.
Brown has been eligible for a few years now and he usually gets among the finalists or semi-finalists before getting cut in favor of others. Last year it was Cris Carter who got his ticket punched for the Hall of Fame.
This is Harrison's first year eligible and many look at his numbers and say he is a shoo in to be inducted on his first ballot. If he does, that most likely means Tim Brown will not. So, it makes sense that we now compare the two as far as their credentials for the Hall of Fame.
Here's how the stack up in several pertinent categories:
|Tim Brown||Marvin Harrison||Advantage|
|Career receiving yards||14934||14580||Brown|
|Career yards per catch||13.7||13.2||Brown|
|Career yards per start||73.9||77.5||Harrison|
|Career All-purpose yards||19679||14800||Brown|
|Playoff yards per game||48.4||55.2||Harrison|
|Playoff All Purpose ypg||60.8||55.2||Brown|
|Super Bowls (in/won)||1/0||1/1||Harrison|
|QB Pro Bowls||5||9||Brown|
If you go based solely on the score of this chart, Tim Brown wins 10-6 over Harrison. Let's talk about some of these measurements.
Tim Brown has the advantage in NFL seasons. Longevity is important in the NFL and to the Hall of Fame. Playing 17 seasons is pretty amazing, really, especially at a high level. He was productive right up until his final season in Tampa Bay where he had just 200 yards receiving. That's when he hung them up.
Harrison started 14 fewer games and edged out Brown in career catches. He had just eight more career receptions than Brown and also edged Brown out slightly in yards per game started. That being said, Brown had a slightly higher yards per catch average than Harrison.
Brown may have played four more seasons than Harrison, but with just 14 more starts. That has some to do with one of those seasons, Brown was injured for all but one game. Over the next two seasons he was primarily a return specialist, starting just one game. Then he started just four games in his final season for the Buccaneers as his career came to a close.
Both players put up their 1000-yard receiving seasons consecutively. Brown's nine 1000-yard seasons edged out Harrison's eight. Brown also had 9 Pro Bowl bids to Harrison's 8.
Whenever talking about Tim Brown, it's important to mention all-purpose yards. People tend to forget his contributions as a kick and punt returner, but he was once one of the best in the game. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie because of his return abilities and had three career return touchdowns. This is an area Harrison can't touch as he was almost solely a receiver. Brown already had more receiving yards and he had over 5000 more all-purpose yards than Harrison.
Harrison also beat Brown in career touchdowns by a pretty sizable margin -- 128 to 105.
Another key in Hall of Fame voting is how a player performed on the big stage aka the playoffs. You might be surprised how well Tim Brown holds up against Harrison in that category.
Harrison had slightly more playoff yards per game than Brown. But once again, once you make it all-purpose yards, Brown takes it. Also, despite playing in 12 playoff games to Harrison's 16, Brown had more playoff touchdowns. Harrison had just two touchdown catches in 16 playoff games.
Both players appeared in one Super Bowl. Harrison got a ring out of it; Brown did not. But, as we know, Super Bowl rings are weighed most heavily on quarterback credentials (unless your name is Jim Plunkett).
For all 13 of Harrison's NFL seasons, he had NFL all-time leading passer, Peyton Manning, throwing him the ball. The duo was downright lethal and helped Harrison to join Manning as an All Pro three times. Manning himself was named to the Pro Bowl for nine of their seasons together. In this regard, what Tim Brown was able to accomplish was far more impressive.
While Harrison caught passes from probably the greatest QB in the history of the game his entire career, Brown was the very model of consistency in an entirely inconsistent quarterback situation. Up until Gannon came onboard late in Brown's career, a Raiders quarterback made the Pro Bowl just once - Jeff Hostetler in 1994. And the list of different quarterbacks from whom Brown caught passes is not pretty.
Harrison was a great receiver, no question. But you cannot deny he was placed in an ideal situation to put up big numbers. That's what Peyton Manning can do for an offense. Unless you think Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas are Hall of Fame receivers because both of them have put up over 1000 yards receiving each of the past two seasons with Peyton Manning. Decker had over 1200 this season and Thomas over 1400. Neither put up even half those totals in the season before Manning arrived.
And despite all the disadvantages Brown had, he still had better numbers in more categories than Harrison. This is also Brown's fifth year as a Hall of Fame finalist, while it's Harrison's first.
There are currently 15 modern-era finalists for the Hall of Fame and as of February 1st, that number will be trimmed to between four and seven as the 2014 Hall of Fame class. If a receiver is to be one of them, Tim Brown has the credentials to be the one to don the yellow jacket this time around.