If history tells us one thing it's that Andre Reed will eventually be a member of the Hall of Fame, just not in 2010.
Reed, the Bills' all-time leader in every receiving category, has been a hotly contested candidate since he became Hall eligible. This is Reed's fourth year as a finalist. He was one of the first fives names eliminated last year in balloting when the voters whittled the finalist list from 15 to 10. With the addition of first-year candidates Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, it may be harder than ever for Reed to crack through this year.
This Saturday the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, consisting of 44 NFL writers from across the country, will determine the fates of this year's Hall of Fame finalists. At least four candidates must be elected from the list of 17 (fifteen modern era plus two Senior's Committee finalists) but the total class cannot number more than seven (maximum of five modern era plus both Senior's finalists). In order to be elected they must receive 80% (36 writers) of a yes/no vote. Even if voters feel Reed is worthy of the golden jacket, he may not supplant others on the list.
The biggest hindrance to Reed's 2010 candidacy is the stiff competition at wide receiver. Rice is a lock to get in. He holds every receiving record in the book. The "second-tier" of wide receiver candidates involves three prolific receivers from the 90s - Cris Carter, Tim Brown and Reed. Unfortunately for Reed he ranks behind both Carter and Brown in receptions, yardage, touchdowns, and yards per game.
After doing some considerable number crunching, Pro Football Reference's Chase Stuart had this to say:
Reed? A great receiver, but he didn't stand out among his own team or his peers at the position. It won't be an injustice if Reed is inducted, but I would put him squarely behind the other two [Carter and Brown].
The committee is allowed to select up to five of the modern era candidates. Rice and Smith, the league's all-time leading rusher, are locks leaving only three spots available to the rest of the field. The three wide receivers discussed previously are joined by; Coach Don Coryell, RB Roger Craig, C Dermontti Dawson, DE Richard Dent, OG Russ Grimm, DE/LB Charles Haley, LB Rickey Jackson, DT Cortez Kennedy, DT John Randle, and TE Shannon Sharpe.
Several members of the list could present strong cases for enshrinement this year ahead of Reed. Richard Dent was close last year according to voter Peter King. He thinks Dent will be elected this year. He also thinks former Redskins guard Russ Grimm will be elected this year. Then King mentions that Shannon Sharpe and Cris Carter will likely have to fight over the last spot. That leaves Reed not only on the outside looking in, but not even in the ballpark.
The Golden Era Bills
Those closest to Reed during his playing years may be preventing his enshrinement in Canton. James Lofton, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Bruce Smith are all teammates of Reed's that have already been enshrined in Canton. They are joined by Reed's coach, Marv Levy, and his owner, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. There have been many great teams through the years but opinions exist that say Reed's numbers are inflated from playing alongside Lofton and Thomas and catching throws from Kelly.
For Reed's sake the best he can hope for this year, short of a surprise election, is to see Rice and at least one of his fellow wide receivers get elected in 2010. The less direct competition Reed has from Carter, Brown, and Rice, the more votes he is likely to receive in the future.
The vast majority of finalists have eventually been enshrined in Canton. Art Monk waited 13 years for enshrinement. Reed might be in for that kind of wait.