I often wonder if the voters really keep era in perspective. In the 1990s, there were only two receivers more dominant than Cris Carter: Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. While the Vikings only won three playoff games – one each in 1997, 1998 and also 1999 -, Carter’s dominating run from 1992-2000 featured eight playoff appearances in those nine years and a streak of eight consecutive 1000-yard seasons.
I would have made Faulk wait a year in place of Cris Carter. Yes, Faulk was even more statistically dizzying during his peak but his peak was only five years long and only got him one ring. As great as some of the numbers he put up as a Colt were, it’s hard to ignore that season in 1996 that stuck out like a sore thumb and these numbers:
1. Marshall Faulk helped get his team playoff berths in 1995 and 1996 but only touched the ball 13 times for 51 yards and no scores as they got knocked out in one game each time.
2. Faulk left Indianapolis after five productive but not dazzling seasons. I know he was capable of putting up huge numbers just as he would have been during the last year of his peak, 2002, when the Rams had injury issues. That said, we’re talking about his Hall of Fame case.
3. Faulk finally got to 20 total TDs in a season in 2000 and 2001, his seventh and eighth seasons, when he had 26 and 21 respectively. Maybe Faulk – with his receiving ability – was by far the best running back in football for three straight years (1999-2001). I won’t dispute that.
I don’t think this is an issue of preference. It’s not about choosing a RB/WR with sustained good stats or one like Faulk that was so good for five years, you couldn’t tell the story of the NFL without mentioning him. Whether you look at the lopsided stats (five years that he had both 1400+ yards from scrimmage and 10+ TD; finished with a four-season streak where he didn’t hit both of those plateaus and scored 26 total TDs in that span) or not, you have to ask yourself: Was Marshall Faulk so good that he deserves to be first ballot? The answer, for me, would actually be “yes” in an average year but not in one where Cris Carter has waited this long.
The only receivers other than Rice and Tim Brown that come close to Cris Carter’s stats in his era are Irving Fryar (eight-year run) Henry Ellard (nine-year run), and they aren’t in the Hall of Fame either. And Carter actually brought his team to the playoffs and won three times.
Should he have gotten first ballot Hall of Fame honors with a pretty good career because of 3 years of amazing dominance while Cris Carter waits year after year despite being 4th all time in receiving TDs?
Between 1991 and 2000, Carter made the Pro Bowl eight times and was in the top 10 in receptions eight times. He was in the top 5 in receptions six straight years and that was with four different quarterbacks finishing as the top starter for the Vikings.
Carter doesn’t need Hall of Fame status to validate his story of overcoming substance abuse to become an icon synonymous with big catches, great routes and great hands. The Hall of Fame, however, needs to include him to validate their operation and it better not take as long as it did for another Chris this weekend: former Redskins LB Chris Hanburger got in on his 28th year of eligibility.
Note: I’m too young to remember some of the other inductees (Sharpe impressed me more than Faulk; I’m not sure about Prime), so it’s possible that – if I were on the panel – I would find that I might leave off someone else and put both Faulk and Carter in.
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