HOF Bubble: Hines Ward
With the Steelers in the midst of a two-in-four year SB Title run and Ward's career winding down, it is a fair question to ask whether or not Hines Ward will one day end up in Canton.
The Standard Bearers:
Taking into account all players who are in the HOF that played at least a chunk of their careers in the 1980's or later, here is where the current bar is set:
Player Catch Yards YPC TD Pro Bowls
Monk 940 12,721 13.5 68 3 Pro Bowl
Irvin 819 13,089 16.0 100 5 Pro Bowl
Joiner 750 12,146 16.2 65 3 Pro Bowl
Lofton 764 14,004 18.3 75 8 Pro Bowl
Stallworth 537 8723 16.2 63 4 Pro Bowl
Largent 819 13,089 16.0 100 7 Pro Bowl
Average = 771 12295 78 TD 5 Pro Bowls
Compare that to Ward's current stats:
Current 800 9780 12.2 72 4 Pro Bowls - SB MVP, 2 SB wins
And where he'll be with 3 more semi-productive seasons:
Projected 1000 12000 12.2 87 4 Pro Bowls
Ward already has enough catches to match HOF production. His yardage is still too low. He needs at least 2220 more yards to get to that 12,000 yard mark that seems to be the benchmark.
Projecting Ward to average about 65 catches for 775 yards and 5 TD's per year over the next 3 years, brings his catches, yards, and TD's well within range of current HOF receivers from the modern era.
The Waiting List:
Also, it is important to compare Ward to recently retired players awaiting a HOF call. They are:
Rod Smith 849 11389 13.4 68 3 pro bowl
K Johnson 814 10571 13.0 64 3 pro bowl
J Smith 862 12287 14.3 67 5 pro bowl
K. Mccardell 883 11373 12.9 63 2 pro bowl
Current 800 9780 12.2 72 4 Pro Bowls
Projected 1000 12085 12.2 87 4 Pro Bowls
Again, Ward already is in the range with catches and with 3 healthy years he eclipes all of these guys. He also already is ahead of these players in regards to TD catches, titles, and Pro Bowls. With a few more solid seasons his yardage will firmly place him ahead of these recently retired players.
Now let's look at Ward's peers. This is the group that he will be compared to and could block his entrance into the HOF.
I. Bruce 1003 14944 14.9 91
T Owens 951 14122 14.8 139
Moss 843 13201 15.7 135
Harrison 1102 14580 13.2 128
T. Holt 869 12660 14.6 74
Ward 800 9780 12.2 72
Harrison and Bruce look to be just about done, maybe they squeeze in one more year. Moss, TO, Holt, and Ward still have some years left. Ward's stats even with a few more good seasons will leave him 6th on the waiting list for a call to the Hall among his peers. Holt, Bruce, and Harrison all have won SB titles as well as Ward. This will likely be the biggest barrier and strongest argument against Ward getting into the Hall.
Other Factors Supporting Ward's Candidacy
1. Peter King. King has the ear of many members of the media with a vote. He is already on record as saying he'd put Ward in. His influence goes a long way.
2. Playoff Production. None of Ward's peers have a SB MVP. None of them can even come close to his playoff stats. Ward has 76 catches for 1076 yards 8 TD's, which equates to another full year of production. Marvin Harrison had 65 catches for 883 yards 2 TD's, Randy Moss has 42 catches for 817 yards and 10 TD's.
3. Running and Blocking. Ward has an additional 430 rushing yards while his peers have a fraction of that. Ward's blocking and toughness are well documented in a era where many WR's won't block or play physical. This element to his game may be what puts him over the top.
4. Championships. The Steelers will have won 2 or more titles during Ward's tenure, and that means multiple players from this team will likely make the HOF. Ward would certainly be at the top of that list.
In summary, if Ward retired today his numbers simply don't get him in. He's stuck with the group of guys like Rod Smith and Keyshawn Johnson that had good careers but not enough on paper to get them to Canton. However, if Ward can stay healthy and produce for 3+ more years, he will eclipse most WR's currently in the Hall and those currently waiting on the bubble. The stats when paired with his style of play and Championships cretainly would be enough to qualify him for Canton. Hopefully we can see him reach that goal.
On a side note, the pre-season kicks off tomorrow. One thing that always annoys me at home games is people wearing stupid jerseys. For your reference here is my list of Game Day Attire Commandments:
1. If you are going to wear a retired player jersey, make sure it was a legend. People show up to games with a Bubby Brister, Troy Edwards, or Bam Morris jersey just look stupid. Wearing an old beat-up Jack Lambert jersey you've had since the 70's is vintage and acceptable. An old Cliff Stout jersey however, not so much.
2. Forget the players college jersey or Pro Bowl jersey idea. I hate going to games and seeing somebody is a red and white Miami of Ohio Big Ben jersey when the Steelers are about to the Patriots for instance. Do you realize you have no black and gold on and do have on the opponents colors? Same for Pro Bowl jerseys. If it isn't Black & Gold, leave it at home.
3. Don't wear a players jersey that is still in the NFL but no longer a Steeler. Lots of Joey Porter and Plaxico Burress jerseys still out there. We play their teams, drop their jerseys.
4. Don't put your own name or nickname on the damn jersey. You just look like a douchebag. We all know you don't play for the Steelers, as we can see you in the stands. Having your own name and #69 on a jersey = uber-douchebag!
5. Don't wear autographed jerseys to the game. If you are lucky enough to get a premier player to sign your jersey, display it in a case. Don't wear it around until the ink fades off.