Another Reason to Argue for Hines Ward's HOF Candidacy

Earlier this week, maryrose blessed us with this excellent post on Hines Ward's growing claim to HOF consideration. The only thing he did not highlight in that post was Hines's excellent ranking in terms of playoff receiving stats. I had written this post a couple of weeks ago (and drinkyourmilkshake linked it in a Six Pack), but Blitz and I thought it would be a good followup to 'rose's fine piece. Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed maryrose's.

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Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans are already convinced that Hines Ward deserves to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he retires. Currently, in his 12th season in the NFL, he is ranked 17th in career receptions, 31st in career receiving yards, and tied for 28th in career receiving TDs. Some would, and have, argued that he doesn't have HOF worthy statistics, and you can't just say he should be in because he is the greatest blocking receiver in NFL history. If he retired today, and that were the extent of his accomplishments, I would agree. But, he should play another 3 or more years, including this season. Currently, he is on pace for about 100 receptions and over 1400 yards this season. Although he has yet to catch a TD pass this year, based on his productivity in past years, it's reasonable expect at least 5 receiving TDs this season. Those numbers would put him at 11th in career receptions, 22nd or 23rd in career receiving yards, and 22nd or 23rd in career TD receptions. Just a couple more years of what would be mediocre production for Ward would put him in the top 10 in every receiving category.

I think that those numbers would be enough to get him in when you consider his other accomplishments: 2 Super Bowl rings (more to come?), a SB MVP, and a rule named after him. When the NFL Network announced the most recent round of HOF candidates a couple of weeks ago, they had two HOF voters on the show. One said that she believed that a major consideration for whether a player is HOF worthy is whether you could tell the story of the NFL without them or not. I think it's clear that you cannot tell the story of the NFL without Hines Ward. His blocking down the field is so physical that they had to change the rules because of the hit he put on Keith Rivers in the 2008 season, breaking his jaw. The hit was legal then. Anyway, that was a long introduction to get to my latest piece of evidence in favor of Hines Ward being HOF worthy.

Hines_medium

 (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Over at Pro-Football-Reference.com, they have added an awesome new set of tools under their Play Index page. Under the Player Game Finder, you can run queries for a variety of lists, but the one that interested me the most right now is query that allowed me to list all players with greater than 1000 career playoff receiving yards. This just happened to show the top 10 WRs in playoff receiving yards.

 
Rk Player G W L Rec Yds Y/R TD
1 Jerry Rice 28 17 11 151 2245 14.87 22
2 Michael Irvin* 16 12 4 87 1315 15.11 8
3 Cliff Branch 19 15 4 73 1289 17.66 5
4 Andre Reed 19 10 9 85 1229 14.46 9
5 Fred Biletnikoff* 16 9 7 70 1167 16.67 10
6 Paul Warfield* 18 11 7 58 1121 19.33 5
7 Drew Pearson 22 13 9 67 1105 16.49 8
8 Hines Ward 14 10 4 76 1064 14 8
9 Art Monk* 15 10 5 69 1062 15.39 7
10 John Stallworth* 17 12 5 57 1054 18.49 12

 

As we can see, Hines Ward is one of only 10 WRs in NFL history with over 1000 receiving yards in the playoffs. He is 8th on this list, and that is with the fewest number of playoff games played. As you can see here, he is also tied for 8th in playoff TD receptions. And, here you see that is tied for 4th in playoff receptions. He also compares very well with these players in terms of yards per game, ranked 3rd:

 
Player Y/G Rk
Michael Irvin* 82.19 1
Jerry Rice 80.18 2
Hines Ward 76 3
Fred Biletnikoff* 72.94 4
Art Monk* 70.8 5
Cliff Branch 67.84 6
Andre Reed 64.68 7
Paul Warfield* 62.28 8
John Stallworth* 62 9
Drew Pearson 50.23 10

 

And, in receiving playoff touchdowns per game, ranked 4th:

 
Player TD/G Rk
Jerry Rice 0.79 1
John Stallworth* 0.71 2
Fred Biletnikoff* 0.63 3
Hines Ward 0.57 4
Michael Irvin* 0.5 5
Andre Reed 0.47 6
Art Monk* 0.47 7
Drew Pearson 0.36 8
Paul Warfield* 0.28 9
Cliff Branch 0.26 10

 

He does come in last in this list in terms of yards/reception:

 
Player Y/R Rk
Paul Warfield* 19.33 1
John Stallworth* 18.49 2
Cliff Branch 17.66 3
Fred Biletnikoff* 16.67 4
Drew Pearson 16.49 5
Art Monk* 15.39 6
Michael Irvin* 15.11 7
Jerry Rice 14.87 8
Andre Reed 14.46 9
Hines Ward 14 10

 

But, considering this list, I don't think that's a knock on him. Anyway, for Hines Ward to be included in this list shows that although he has not put up the monster numbers of some of his contemporaries, like Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, he has been extremely productive in the playoffs for the Steelers. As Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth can attest, the playoffs are where you really make your mark on the NFL, unless you're Dan Marino, throwing for numbers nobody thought possible at one time.

 Add to this the fact that it's highly likely that Hines Ward would have higher receiving totals if he had played on a team that threw the ball more in his career, and his Hall Fame credentials are very solid in my mind. I may be a homer here, but I do believe that the accomplishments and playoff numbers support it very well.

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