To know me is to know that there are very few guys I go against the grain for. However, Sterling Sharpe is one of those guys. I remember the first time I saw him up close, he was at a football camp in Fayetteville, NC that Redskins safety Brad Edwards was having and listening to him talk about football made me a believer in him. I was already a fan but listening to him describe why to a little kid showed me that he was passionate about his craft.
That being said, Sharpe had his career cut short by a neck injury that could have left him paralyzed if he would have tried to continue playing. Sharpe was already a superstar but when his career was cut short, he lost out on the opportunity to have a legitimate quarterback throwing him the rock for the next 6 – 7 years.
Sharpe’s brother Shannon made the Hall a couple of years ago and he even admitted in his speech that he wasn’t the best football player in his family. Let’s not get it twisted, Shannon is deserving of the Hall, but in comparison to his brother, he’s not even close talent wise.
Domination of your era is one of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s requirements. To enter arguably the most select Hall in sports you must not merely compile numbers. You must have been dominate in your time. Few wide receivers were more dominate between 1988-1994 than Sterling Sharpe.
The only player who had better stats than Sharpe during his time in the league was Jerry Rice. Rice held an advantage because he had consistency on his side. Sharpe played with five different quarterbacks prior to the arrival of Brett Favre in 1992. One, Don Majkowski, was a skillful but oft-injured passer who played only one full season with Sharpe in the four years before Favre’s arrival while Rice was playing the bulk of his career with back-to-back Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young.
That in itself may be looked upon by some as of non-importance but consider what happened upon Favre’s arrival. In their three seasons together, Sharpe averaged 105 receptions, 1,285 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was 29 when his career ended, a time when Favre was only beginning to enter his prime and develop an understanding of what he was truly capable of.
During those three years, Sharpe twice led the NFL in receptions and receiving touchdowns and once led in yards. In their first year, he set a then NFL record with 107 receptions and the following year broke it with 112, making him the first receiver in NFL history with back-to-back 100 catch seasons. In their final season, Sharpe had 94 catches, 1,119 yards and led the league with 18 touchdowns. Obviously, it is not much of a leap to see what was likely to happen had that connection remained intact.
I often get asked who’s the best wide receiver I’ve ever seen and Sharpe is the first name that comes to mind when I respond. Maybe I’m a little biased but I just knew I was watching greatness when I watched him play.
When you put his 7 year numbers up side-by-side with Jerry Rice, Sharpe’s 595 receptions were second only to Rice. His 65 receiving touchdowns were second only to Rice. His 8,134 yards were third only to Rice and Henry Ellard. The thing is, he was doing it in an era where teams were run first and pass second. If both were to play in today’s game, they might have doubled their output as pass happy as the NFL is now.
Sharpe is one of a few guys that we never got to see reach his full potential but you can’t argue with the production at all. Are 7 seasons enough? I think so. Look at Sayers. He played 7 and he’s in. I think Sterling deserves the same treatment. Time will tell.