Cris Carter

Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

Rand: The Cris Carter conundrum

  • February 7, 2012 - 6:28 AM

You don't know the angst the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee faces until you spend a perfectly good Monday afternoon trapped in the vortex of NFL wide receivers. Do so, and the Cris Carter outrage -- and there has been plenty over the ex-Vikings WR getting passed over for enshrinement over the weekend -- becomes a bit muted. Because trying to determine the best wide receivers in NFL history, aside from the obviously elite like Jerry Rice, is a near-impossibility. For every fact that points to Carter as a sure-thing Hall of Famer and a top-10 all-time receiver, there is another group of players or numbers lurking that cast a doubt. For instance:

• The Pro Football Hall of Fame includes 21 modern-era wide receivers. Carter, with 1,101 catches, has more career catches than all but one of them (Rice). Carter is also fourth all-time in receiving touchdowns and eighth in receiving yards. So, case closed. Top 10, Hall of Famer. Except ...

• Seriously, 1,000-catch receivers are going to be like the opposite of 300-game winners in MLB. Carter played at the front end of an era in which wide receivers started catching a boat-load of short passes. Carter merely managed to get to the finish line first. Marvin Harrison -- not yet eligible for the HOF -- passed him in receptions. Anquan Boldin and Roddy White could approach or pass Carter in receptions. Do you consider them HOFers? However ...

• Carter's 130 TD catches rank fourth all-time, and that total is impressive regardless of the era. When it comes to intangibles, Carter had one of the greatest set of hands we've ever seen. He was part ballerina and part super glue. Unfortunately ...

• Carter never played in a Super Bowl. If you want to see the influence of playing in the Big Game, look no further than Hall of Famers John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Michael Irvin (just to name a few). None of them can touch Carter statistically. But they have rings, so they're in Canton. One player Carter is battling for induction -- Andre Reed -- can boast of four Super Bowl appearances. Isaac Bruce and Hines Ward, both of whom reached 1,000 career catches and eventually will loom on the horizon for induction, played starring roles in Super Bowls.

• In the final analysis, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In Minnesota, we remember Carter's contortionist acts and his crazy fingertip grabs. We combine our memories with his numbers and say it's a no-brainer that he was one of the greatest and belongs in the Hall of Fame. But objectively, was Carter better than Terrell Owens? How does he fit in with the 21 receivers already in the hall, along with Reed, Harrison, Bruce and Tim Brown ... not to mention Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson? The best thing to do if you're a Vikings fan is to feel good about Chris Doleman and hope voters recognize Carter before even more hopefuls cloud the picture.


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