Getting your career immortalized in Canton is the biggest accomplishment a football player can possibly dream of. These players didn’t just make the NFL, they dominated to such a level that they exceeded most others.
The best competitors to ever play the sport are rewarded with the label of a Hall of Famer. However, only the best of the best earn this title, and the casting of votes from media personnel to team executives awards it. This may sometimes leave some capable players behind.
Enter Julian Edelman. Patriots’ emergency exit, playoff stud, and Finals MVP. When he revealed he was retiring in 2021, it surprised some, as his last full season in 2019 ended in a career-high 1117 receiving yards and a respectable 6 touchdowns. His up and down career sparked the discussion on whether he deserves to have his bust in Canton. However, as of recent, he teased a possible return to the league, re-igniting the long-lost debate.
His playoff success is his biggest accomplishment, but his in-season numbers leave much to be desired. He had one of the best catches in Super Bowl history, but few accolades to show it. His case for Canton really lies in the voters’ beliefs, whether it be just stats or the impact he made on the field while playing. Regardless, Edelman has his supporters and his doubters, so let’s lay out the facts and make the decision ourselves.
The Edelman Case
The highlight of Edelman’s career was undoubtedly the playoffs. In all of his appearances, he gave New England a better chance to win. He had a Super Bowl winning touchdown against the Seahawks (although heavily overshadowed by the Malcolm Butler interception), and his almost superhuman reflexes in his incredible catch against the Falcons.
Even without the tape, Edelman’s stats are written in bold print. 118 postseason catches and 1,442 postseason yards put him second in the leaderboard, only trailing arguably the best wide receiver of all time, Jerry Rice.
Along with this, in a close defensive game against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, he had 10 catches for 141 yards, winning him the Super Bowl MVP. This is unbelievably rare at the wide receiver position, only happening 8 times in Super Bowl history.
For all of the success he achieved in the NFL, there was a fair share of downfalls that left him behind. Whether it be an injury, usage rate, or even just flat-out production, Edelman has been almost like a light switch.
His in-season statistics are impressive for the average NFL receiver, but not even at a pro-bowl record. In fact, even in his best statistical seasons, Edelman did not get voted into the pro-bowl a single time.
He has 620 career receptions, putting him at 81st place all-time. The player behind him by 3 receptions is Danny Amendola with 617 in 82nd place. Danny Amendola has never been a number one receiver and wasn’t even in the conversation for any accolades.
He has 6,822 career receiving yards, placing him in 164th place all time. Amari Cooper has more than a 200-yard lead on Edelman, and he’s only been in the league for 6 years! Even with that being said, there are fans in the NFL that believe Cooper isn’t a number one wide receiver. What does this say about Edelman?
I love Edelman. Growing up in a Patriots household, I remember the highlights and rise of one of my favorite players of all time. Julian Edelman was a very good football player, even a great one.
Not Canton good. Although his postseason stats are elite, he had the best quarterback and head coach of all time on his sideline, and when a ball is thrown right in the bread basket every time, even the worst receivers in the league will make the play.
Do I think Edelman was one of the better receivers of his time? When healthy, yes. Was he ever a top-five receiver at any point in the regular season? I don’t think so. His first seasons in the league were overshadowed by the star Randy Moss into 2010. Deion Branch played well all the way into 2012, and even he is close to Edelman in career receiving yards.
Actually, I think Deion Branch is the best comparison. Another Patriots Super Bowl MVP receiver with almost the exact same amount of receiving yards, 0 pro-bowls but had a steady pace of receiving yards even when missing some games. Deion Branch is not in the conversation for the Hall of Fame. If an almost statistical mirror of this Edelman didn’t get his bust in Canton, I don’t believe he should either.