For a decade, Charlie Joiner ranked in the top 3 in career receiving yards, including a first- or second-place ranking from ’84 through ’90. As of the end of the 1986 and 1987 seasons, it was Joiner who was the all-time leader in receiving yards. Joiner was passed over by the Hall of Fame four times, before being inducted on his fifth try.
James Lofton ranked in the top 3 in receiving yards from ’90 to ’06. He ranked 1st or 2nd in each year from ’91 through ’01, and 1st in 1992, 1993 (the year he retired), and 1994. Lofton did not make the HOF until his fifth try, too.
And then there’s Don Maynard. On December 1, 1968, Maynard caught 7 passes for 160 yards and 3 touchdowns in front of the home fans at Shea Stadium. In the process, he broke Raymond Berry‘s career record for receiving yards. A month later, the Jets would win the Super Bowl. It wasn’t until October 6, 1986, 18 years later, that Joiner finally moved Maynard out of the top spot in the record books. Yet it took Maynard nine years to get inducted in the Hall of Fame. Here’s a record that won’t ever be broken: it wasn’t until 19 years after he broke the career yardage record that Maynard was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Howton, Joiner, Lofton, and Maynard all were the career leaders in receiving yards at one point in their careers, and none of them were inducted into the Hall of Fame on their first, second, third, or fourth ballots. So while Terrell Owens is a deserving Hall of Famer, it’s hard for me to call this an unprecedented oversight that Owens — who has ranked 2nd in career receiving yards since 2010 — didn’t make it to Canton on his first or second try.
The table below shows all players (minimum 8,000 receiving yards) who have ranked in the top 5 in career receiving yards since 1963, when the Hall of Fame opened its doors.
|Player||Highest Rk||HOF||Years||Last Yr|
|Randy Moss||3||No||not el.||2012|
|Tony Gonzalez||5||No||not el.||2013|
Joining Owens as men not in the Hall of Fame but who ranked 2nd in career receiving yards are Harold Jackson (1983), Isaac Bruce (2008, 2009, until Owens passed him). And Tim Brown, who ranked 2nd in career receiving yards from 2002 until Bruce passed him in ’08, didn’t get inducted until his sixth ballot.
It’s easy to say things like “But Owens was better than Jackson or Bruce or Brown, and even Howton, Joiner, Lofton, and Maynard.” Maybe he is, but that’s not relevant. Each player has to be judged in his time, against his own standards. Someone will come along some day and nudge Owens out of 2nd place, but that doesn’t diminish what Owens did. When votes said no to Maynard and Howton and Joiner and Jackson, they weren’t comparing those guys to Owens. Receiving numbers have been climbing for decades, which has always caused problems for the Hall of Fame come induction time. Owens will get in to Canton at some point, just like Joiner and Lofton and Maynard and Brown and Marvin Harrison, who was snubbed twice, too. And then we’ll move on to the next wide receiver snubbed by the Hall of Fame.