The NFL is a brutal game. You can’t guarantee a 10-year career. But greatness is undeniable, even if it’s fleeting.
Sterling Sharpe didn’t play long for the Green Bay Packers. He lasted just seven seasons, being forced into retirement due to a neck injury before he turned 30. But anyone who watched Sharpe knew he was one of the best receivers of his era, or any other era. It was undeniable.
Sharpe took a step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Thursday. Sharpe was named one of 12 senior committee semifinalists. Up to three of those semifinalists can be selected for final consideration for Hall of Fame induction. A high percentage of senior committee finalists are inducted into the Hall. The other semifinalists this year are Ken Anderson, Maxie Baughan, Roger Craig, Randy Gradishar, Joe Jacoby, Albert Lewis, Steve McMichael, Eddie Meador, Art Powell, Otis Taylor and Al Wistert.
This seems like a good year for Sharpe to get his due and a ticket to Canton.
Sterling Sharpe was a dominant receiver
Terrell Davis was an important figure in the Hall of Fame induction process.
Davis was a regular season MVP and Super Bowl MVP. He was a three-time All-Pro. He was as dominant in the postseason as any non-quarterback not named Jerry Rice. But he played in just 78 games, and 17 of those came after an ACL injury that effectively ended his prime. It took a while for him to break through and get into the Hall of Fame. Finally, Davis was a part of the Hall’s Class of 2017.
That opened the doors for other players who were among the best in the NFL but had their careers cut short by injury to be considered by the Hall of Fame.
Sharpe didn’t have the postseason accolades of Davis, but he was dominant. For years, opponents knew that Sharpe was getting the ball. They were helpless to stop it.
“He was an unstoppable, remarkable receiver,” Ron Wolf, who was GM of the Packers and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, told the team’s site. “When you review what he accomplished, it’s truly legendary. He was the only offensive weapon we possessed yet the opponent’s defense couldn’t stop him. He should be in Canton. He’s much better than most of the people that have gone in recently at his position.”
When it’s asked which eligible player not in the Hall of Fame deserves most to be in, Sharpe is a common answer. He played at a Hall of Fame level for seven seasons. Why hold a neck injury against him?
Sharpe was still in his prime
Sharpe was still in his prime in 1994, his final season. He had 94 catches for 1,119 yards and a NFL-best 18 touchdowns. Sharpe led the NFL in touchdown receptions twice, led the league in receptions three times (once setting an NFL record) and in receiving yards once. He was a three-time All-Pro. And in 1994, he was still one of the best in the game.
He suffered the neck injury on a routine play, run blocking against the Atlanta Falcons. A career can end that fast. Had Sharpe kept playing, with a young star quarterback named Brett Favre, on a team that would win a Super Bowl two years later, his Hall of Fame case would have never been in doubt. But he had to retire and then wait on the Hall of Fame as lesser players made it in ahead of him. You have to wonder if Sharpe not being cooperative with the media during his playing days was a factor.
Davis played 78 games. Sharpe played 112. Like Davis, Sharpe was unquestionably a Hall of Fame-level talent. It’s time he gets his bust in the Hall.