Lofton: This is how I determine who's a HOF wide receiver
(Photo courtesy of the Buffalo Bills)
Talk of Fame Network
It took former wide receiver Andre Reed eight tries before he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It took Cris Carter six. And it took Tim Brown six, with the former Raiders’ star inducted in August.
So what makes a Hall-of-Fame receiver? Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce are waiting. Terrell Owens is up next year. Randy Moss is up in 2017. There will be … and already is … a glut of decorated receivers with big numbers – numbers that may dwarf prior inductees.
So the question becomes: What constitutes Hall-of-Fame material? We asked Westwood One radio’s James Lofton, a Hall-of-Fame receiver himself, and he had a ready explanation.
“It goes back to the eyeball test,” he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “When Andre Reed was up, and Tim Brown was up … because they were my teammates and friends of mine … I got asked about them a lot. (And) it made me develop my Hall-of-Fame criteria for the wide receiver position.
“(You start with) length of a career. Did you ever consider this guy one of the three or four best league players at his position while he was at the height of his career? And did he give his team a chance to win championships? Everybody’s not going to win Super Bowls. We’ve seen that with a lot of great players. But when you’re watching greatness it’s pretty hard to deny it.
“The other thing about playing wide receiver is that it’s the glamor position right now, and the numbers are there. So they leap frog over the great linebacker. They leap frog over the great safety. They leap frog over the great interior offensive lineman. So, from that standpoint, it’s OK to make guys wait a little while. It’s OK to take a step back and not just anoint them because, oh, well, he has seven 1,000 (yard) seasons. It’s not as big of a deal as it once was.”
That’s because today’s game is a passing game. Which means wide receivers are targeted more than ever. Which also means they’re hit more than ever. And that could … and in some cases will … affect the longevity and productivity of players at that position.
Lofton, who played 16 seasons in the NFL, knows all too well.
“We’re trying to force these wide receivers to come into the league and take a pounding; get hit a lot,” he said. “We’re trying to, in our mind, make them the fantasy-football players, the leaders of their teams, the faces of the franchise at ages 32, 33, 34. (But) if they were Olympic athletes they would be past their prime – just in running down the field with nobody hitting them. So to think that guys are going to be playing exceptionally well and not tail off once they get into their 30s … you’re wishing upon a star.”