I want to start by acknowledging that this is likely a very unpopular opinion, and as a Green Bay Packers fan, one that I wish I did not have. With that being said, let’s rip this Band-Aid off right away: Sterling Sharpe does not belong in the NFL Hall of Fame.
For those that don’t know, Sterling Sharpe is once again among the 12 semi-finalists for the Hall of Fame’s Senior Committee and could be one of three players selected this year. Packers fans recently saw Jerry Kramer properly enshrined in Canton in 2018, which would be the same process for Sharpe. However, there is a stark difference — Kramer was snubbed long ago while Sharpe just isn’t quite in the same category.
Sterling Sharpe Shouldn’t Make the NFL Hall of Fame
Again, I want to be clear, this is not a personal attack on Sterling Sharpe. I am sure he is a great guy, and he was a great player. However, one of the biggest knocks against Sharpe is that his career was ultimately too short. In his seven impressive seasons, he hauled in 595 catches for 8,134 yards and scored 65 touchdowns. He led the league in catches in 1989, 1992 and 1993, in yards in 1992, and in receiving touchdowns in 1992 and 1994. All very impressive feats considering where the NFL was in the early 90s.
All of this led to the Packers making the playoffs in 1993, and ultimately in 1994 when Sharpe suffered his career-ending injury in the regular season finale. In that time, the Packers had one playoff with Sharpe actively on the roster, as well as a Wild Card win in 1994 without him. Sharpe would have a fourth-place finish in the NFL MVP voting and eighth in 1993. However, if we are being honest, one playoff win in three seasons does not warrant a Hall of Fame nod. It also does not help that the Packers would go on to win Super Bowl XXXI in the 1996-97 season and reach Super Bowl XXXII without him. As often is the case, when the brightest star receiver is not available, quarterbacks have to spread the ball around more, which ultimately would help Brett Favre’s development, leading to multiple MVPs as well.
Sterling Sharpe’s Accolades Fall Short
Another piece of this puzzle is how hard it is for wide receivers to get inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Pro Football Reference has a tool called the Hall of Fame Monitor (HOFm), which calculates a player’s Hall of Fame chances, with a combination of Pro Bowls, All-Pro selections, championships, and other statistic milestones. This tool has the average NFL Hall of Fame WR having one Super Bowl, two First-Team All-Pro nominations, six Pro Bowls and 12 statistic milestones. The all-time leader with this tool is Jerry Rice who had a Hall of Fame metric of 311.99 whereas the average NFL Hall of Fame Wide Receiver comes in at 104.
Sharpe falls at a score of 72.25, with no championships, three All-Pros, five Pro Bowls and seven statistic milestones, falling short in three of the four categories of the average Hall of Famer. This doesn’t doom him by any means, as there are a few players with a lower HOFm rating, such as Lynn Swann and Bob Hayes. However, there are also players above Sharpe who score higher in the metric that have yet to be enshrined, such as Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt in recent memory. By no means is this metric an “end all, be all,” but it does give considerable perspective to Sharpe’s career.
It’s Not the Hall of Very Good
One of the worst trends in the sports world has been turning the Hall of Fame into the “Hall of Very Good.” Sterling Sharpe was well on pace to be in Canton prior to his career-ending injury, which quite frankly sucks. Fans of Sharpe will point to guys like Terrell Davis and even LeRoy Butler as guys who had their careers cut short by injury but have been inducted. However, these guys both do have championships.
For single-season Packers receiving seasons, Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson and Robert Brooks have all had seasons with higher receiving yards, Davante tied Sharpe’s single-season touchdown record and has bested his receptions record twice. Still, Davante is far from a lock in the NFL Hall of Fame as it stands today, with his HOFm metric at a score of 54.33 as he continues to play and look for his first championship. Brooks is not an NFL Hall of Famer, nor is Jordy Nelson, and that is perfectly okay to say. It is not an indictment on their careers. These guys should all be Packer Hall of Famers and be remembered fondly by the Titletown faithful.
At the end of the day, there is a decent chance that Sterling Sharpe is eventually enshrined in Canton. As a Packer fan, I do want to continue to add Hall of Famers to our historic franchise. But I don’t think the NFL Hall of Fame should be awarding short careers that were on pace to be great. With Jerry Kramer and LeRoy Butler now enshrined, Cheeseheads are clamoring for another Hall of Fame candidate to get behind. Coach Mike Holmgren or Boyd Dowler (who is actually right behind Sharpe in HOFm rating) may be a more worthy cause to rally behind.