Super Bowl LIII was anything but an offensive showcase, but one player did show out on the biggest stage. That player, who fans named Super Bowl MVP after his performance, is New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman had 10 catches for 141 yards, over half of Tom Brady’s 262 total passing yards. Eight of those ten catches went for first downs, including all three third-down conversions that Brady threw for.
Sunday night’s performance was nothing new for Julian Edelman, who always plays his best when the lights shine brightest. Two weeks ago in the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs, Edelman had six catches for 97 yards. A week before that against the LA Chargers, he had nine catches for a ridiculous 151 yards. While Edelman has consistently been great in the playoffs, he hasn’t had the same kind of success in the regular season. So does winning a Super Bowl MVP help put Edelman in the Hall of Fame?
The Case for Putting Julian Edelman in Canton
The Julian Edelman Hall of Fame case starts and ends with his postseason production. Overall in his playoff career, Edelman has played in eighteen games. However, in four of those games, he did not start, including the entire 2011 playoffs when he barely played and in three games, had a grand total of two catches on five targets for 19 yards.
For his career, Edelman sits at second in career postseason receptions with 115, 36 behind the great Jerry Rice. He is also second in career postseason receiving yards with 1,412, over 800 yards behind, again, Jerry Rice. After 18 playoff games, at age 32 (same as Edelman currently) Rice sat 100 receptions with over 1,500 yards. (Although Rice started all 18 of those games while Edelman has only started 14). Now, of course, this is not a comparison between Edelman and Rice, because they are not even in the same stratosphere as pure receivers. However, these numbers put into perspective just how incredible Edelman’s production has been in the playoffs.
Yes, Julian Edelman has Tom Brady throwing him the ball, but many of his catches are not Brady fitting the ball in tight windows. Edelman is able to create separation and get wide open; In the Super Bowl, he consistently beat Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib when they covered him one-on-one. Against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, he made an incredible catch during the game-tying fourth-quarter drive, keeping the ball just from touching a blade of grass. In Super Bowl XLIX, he had nine catches for 109 yards; most importantly, he created separation and caught the eventual game-winning touchdown with just about two minutes left in the game.
Edelman came into the league as a miniature quarterback out of Kent State. Now, he has turned into one of the best players in the NFL when the games matter the most. Since he has been on the Patriots, they have made five Super Bowls. In the three in which Edelman played and started, the Pats are 3-0. In the two that Edelman did not play in, either due to injury or coach’s decision, New England in 0-2. Julian Edelman has three championships, a Super Bowl MVP, and is second all-time in playoff catches and receiving yards. Players are evaluated by their ability to shine when their team needs them the most, and Edelman has shown a knack for doing that. He is an NFL playoff legend. Shouldn’t that be enough to put a player in the Hall of Fame?
The Case Against Edelman Making the Hall
The opposite argument is that no, simply performing at great levels in the playoffs is not enough. While the playoffs and Super Bowl are what people remember after each season, a true Hall of Fame receiver can be considered one who consistently beats his man and can be counted on week in and week out. Edelman has not had any terrific seasons and is a good, but not spectacular, receiver in the regular season.
In fact, Julian Edelman has zero Pro-Bowl appearances (even as an alternate) and zero All-Pros on his resume. He has a grand total of two 1,000-yard receiving seasons, with a career-high 1,106 yards in 2016. No player who played their entire career after 1950, when the Pro Bowl started, has ever made the Hall of Fame without making a Pro Bowl. Not even one. There are some receivers such as Bob Hayes from the Cowboys or Lynn Swann and John Stallworth from the Steelers who made the Hall because of postseason heroics. However, all of them made at least three Pro Bowls and appeared on at least one All-Pro team.
A Julian Edelman Hall of Fame bust would be unprecedented. He simply does not have the consistent impact that a Hall of Fame player is expected to have. In addition, because his case is such a conundrum, there is another angle to bring in. Earlier this season, the NFL suspended Edelman for four games after finding performance-enhancing drugs in his system. He lost his appeal and had to serve the suspension, so even though he denies it, the records state that Edelman was a PED user. He is not a clear cut Hall of Famer and does not have either the career peak or overall statistics to definitively put him in. The performance-enhancing drug suspension, therefore can and should be held against him to keep him out of Canton, Ohio.
Julian Edelman’s career is not over and at age 32, he might have another four to six years of football left. If he can keep piling up the postseason statistics, his case will only improve. If he can do that with a quarterback other than Tom Brady (assuming the ageless Brady retires), that would make Edelman’s argument all the more convincing. The problem is that the NFL Hall of Fame is hard to get into and making it requires great play both throughout a player’s career and on the big stage, not just one or the other.
Putting Edelman in the Hall of Fame due to essentially one full season’s worth of games would be tough. However, Edelman will have a great case if he can stay healthy and have a couple of good seasons. All he has to do is make a couple of Pro Bowls or one All-Pro team. At that point, the playoff success will do the rest of the talking. Right now, the Patriots receiver has a borderline case for the Hall of Fame, leaning towards no. But either transferring his playoff greatness to the regular season or continuing to pile on postseason stats without Brady would shift the needle towards enshrining Julian Edelman in Canton.
Featured image by USA Today
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