Former Indianapolis wide receiver Reggie Wayne is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, and some people believe that, while he won’t be elected in February, it’s only a matter of time before he calls Canton home.
I’m not so certain.
Don’t get me wrong. Wayne is worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration. The guy was a Super Bowl champion, six-time Pro Bowler, thee-time All-Pro and 2007 leader in receiving yards. Moreover, he ranks 10th in career yardage, just behind former teammate Marvin Harrison, and is within shouting distance of Harrison in career catches.
Harrison was named to the Hall in 2016.
It’s just that I’m not sure Reggie Wayne is worthy of Hall-of-Fame admission, and here’s why: Issac Bruce and Torry Holt. Both are Hall-of-Fame candidates … and have been … for years, but neither has moved the needle.
Granted, both have been semifinalists the past five years, but only Bruce has made it to the Final 15. And he’s done that the past three years.
But then his candidacy stalled, with the former Rams’ star unable to make the first cut from 15 candidates to 10. Bruce doesn’t understand it, and neither do his supporters. Whatever the reason, voters haven’t warmed to him.
And that’s a warning to Wayne.
Because Isaac Bruce checks all the boxes. Like Wayne, he was part of a Super Bowl champion. Unlike Wayne, he made the game-winning catch. Neither was an all-decade choice, though Wayne was named to more All-Pro teams (3) than Bruce (1). Nevertheless, both are among the league’s career leaders in significant departments.
Let’s start with all-time receiving yards. Wayne is 10th; Bruce is fifth. Now let’s go to catches. Wayne again is 10th; Bruce is 13th. Finally, we’re on to touchdowns. Bruce is 12th;; Wayne is 24th.
Advantage: Isaac Bruce.
Now let’s look at Torry Holt, who hasn’t been a finalist once. He’s 16th in receiving yards, 21st in receptions and 36th in receiving TDs.
Advantage: Reggie Wayne.
Except … well, except Holt’s career was shorter. And in that time, he was an all-decade choice, where Wayne and Bruce were not. Like them, he was a Super Bowl champion. Unlike them, he was a seven-time Pro Bowler. He also was a two-time All-Pro, twice led the league in receiving yards, once led it receptions and was the fastest receiver in league history to 10,000 and 11,000 yards.
So now we have three receivers, two of whom have been waiting, ahead of Wayne but who are unable cross the finish line to Canton. And that’s a problem, especially with a fourth wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, joining the party in 2021.
Wayne, of course, was the complement to Harrison, where Holt was the complement to Bruce. Both were extraordinarily productive, with each putting up eight 1,000-yard seasons. Wayne had eight more TDs but played in 38 more games. And where he averaged 13.4 yards per catch, Holt averaged 14.5.
Yet Holt hasn’t graduated to the finals since becoming Hall-of-Fame eligible in 2015. And Wayne? We’re about to find out.
History would tell you the odds are against both. Bruce has more traction with voters than Holt – at least thus far – and he and Holt went to two Super Bowls in three years. Wayne went to two in four seasons. Yet it’s rare for a modern-era team that won one Super Bowl or NFL championship and went to no more than two to have two Hall-of-Fame wide receivers.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Bobby Mitchell and Charley Taylor were teammates on a Redskins’ team that didn’t go to a championship game while both were active. Cris Carter and Randy Moss were teammates on the Minnesota Vikings and never made it past the conference championship game.
So it’s possible. It’s just not common.
The question, of course, is: How much conviction voters have in Reggie Wayne? Do they believe, for instance, that he was better than Holt or Bruce? To help answer that question I consulted John Turney of Pro Football Journal, who ranked Holt, Bruce and Wayne by per-season averages throughout their careers.
And this is what he found:
-- Isaac Bruce averaged 74 catches for 1,091 yards, a 14.7-yard average and seven TDs per 16 games.
-- Holt averaged 85 catches, 1,238 yards, a 14.5-yard average and seven TDs per 16 games.
-- Wayne averaged 81 catches, 1,088 yards, a 13.4 yard average and 6 TDs per 16 games.
“I think Ike (Bruce) is a step above Holt and Wayne,” he said, “and Calvin (Johnson) is above all of them.”
Maybe. All I know is that Reggie Wayne was an extraordinarily productive receiver on a successful team, and that’s a good way to start a conversation punctuated by a gold jacket. But it’s not Reggie Wayne who determines what happens next. It’s the receivers in line ahead of him.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF