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The chatter started almost immediately after Julian Edelman won Super Bowl MVP.
In one of the biggest duds in the history of the NFL's championship showcase, Edelman tallied 10 catches for 141 yards to lead a stumbling New England Patriots offense in a 13-3 Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams.
He was the best performer on the field that day. He rightfully earned MVP honors over Patriots stalwarts like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. What he didn't earn against the Rams was Canton consideration — as hard as some in NFL media insisted that he did.
Edelman didn't warrant Hall of Fame consideration then
Edelman's career resume on that February 2019 Sunday didn't remotely resemble that of a Pro Football Hall of Famer. At that point, he'd tallied 499 catches for 5,930 yards and 30 touchdowns, nowhere near the neighborhood of the top 100 all-time in any category. Yet his name was repeatedly mentioned as a Canton candidate with advocates citing his postseason numbers as justification.
Retirement renews Hall conversation
Fast forward to 2021. Edelman added two more seasons of production before announcing his retirement from football Monday. Battling a knee injury at 34 years old, Edelman concluded that the wheels had "finally fallen off" before making the painful decision to hang it up.
It's a bittersweet moment for Edelman and Patriots fans as they watch their beloved franchise move another step further from an unprecedented two-decade run of NFL dominance that produced six Lombardi Trophies, three of them with Edelman in tow. It's a moment that calls for reflection and admiration mixed with a tinge of sadness for the New England faithful.
What it doesn't call for is more Hall of Fame talk. Yet there it was all over social media Monday as if it's a legitimate topic for discussion. It wasn't in 2019. Two largely unremarkable seasons later, it still isn't.
Edelman still not a Hall of Famer
Let's reset the numbers now that Edelman has officially called it a career.
In 11 seasons — all with the Patriots — Edelman tallied 620 catches for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns. That works out to career averages of 56.4 catches for 620 yards and 3.3 touchdowns per season. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in three different seasons and never caught more than seven touchdowns in a single season.
If you're thinking to yourself, that looks like fine but unremarkable production over the course of a lengthy NFL career, you'd be correct. Edelman never made the Pro Bowl. He was never once noted by his peers, media and fans among the best at what he does — much less considered for the higher bar of All-Pro status.
Here are some WRs who aren't in the Hall of Fame
When considering Edelman's peers standing outside Canton, the case is even more daunting. Take Torry Holt. The St Louis Rams great made seven Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl while tallying 920 catches for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns. He's not in the Hall of Fame.
Consider Gary Clark. The Washington great made four Pro Bowls while tallying 699 catches for 10,856 yards and 65 touchdowns in an '80s and '90s era with considerably less passing. He won two Super Bowls and caught touchdowns in both. He's not in Canton.
Sterling Sharpe is another standout. Few argue that the five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro wasn't among the greats of his era. Injuries cut his career short at 29 years old, so he doesn't garner consideration for Canton. His numbers — 595 catches for 8,124 and 65 touchdowns — are largely better than Edelman's in four fewer seasons.
Wes Welker was better than Edelman — by a lot
Perhaps the most damning comparison for Edelman's Hall case is that of a contemporary — fellow Patriots slot wizard Wes Welker. In 12 seasons, Welker compiled 903 catches for 9,924 yards and 50 touchdowns. He made five Pro Bowls and was twice named All-Pro. He revolutionized the slot position.
Yet nobody is making an outsized case for Welker's Canton credentials because he doesn't possess the postseason hardware that Edelman does. Welker's career includes an unlikely and unfortunate eight-year window of catching passes from Brady and Peyton Manning that didn't come with a Super Bowl ring.
Edelman belongs among the greats in Patriots lore. He deserves applause for his postseason success. His 180 catches for 1,442 yards and five touchdowns across 19 playoff games are worthy of admiration. But awards already exist to acknowledge those contributions. They're called Super Bowl rings. And a Super Bowl MVP trophy.
The Hall of Fame presents an entirely different hurdle for Edelman to clear. He doesn't even belong in the starting blocks.
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