Is There Room in Canton for Torry Holt and/or Reggie Wayne?
Two WRs from the same team are rarities in the Hall of Fame
Reggie Wayne is a strong candidate for the Po Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 with his 1,070 career catches. Torry Holt is an even stronger candidate, having been selected to the 2000’s NFL all-decade team.
But the larger debate is this – are two wide receivers off the same team that managed to win only one championship worthy of Canton?
Wayne teamed with Marvin Harrison for eight seasons on the flank of the Indianapolis Colts from 2001 through 2008. Harrison led the NFL in receiving in 2000 and 2002 and was named to the 2000’s NFL all-decade team. Wayne never led the league in receiving nor was he named to any all-decade team. Harrison was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016 in his third year of eligibility. He ranks fifth all-time in receptions, Wayne 10th.
But in the inflated era of NFL statistics, you can’t judge receivers strictly on their numbers. You must factor in their impact. Football is a team game. You play for the rings, not the receptions. The Colts went to two Super Bowls during the eight seasons Harrison and Wayne were catching passes from a Hall of Fame quarterback (Peyton Manning) and took home just the one Lombardi Trophy.
There’s only one historical comp for Harrison and Wayne. That would be Tom Fears and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch of the Los Angeles Rams. They are the only tandem of wide receivers to play eight seasons together and retire with Hall of Fame busts. Fears was named to the NFL all-decade team for the 1950s and Hirsch was named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team.
What was their impact? The Rams went to four NFL title games in their eight seasons together (1949-56) and captured two championships.
Holt teamed with Isaac Bruce for nine seasons from 1999-2007. Bruce was elected to the Hall in 2020 in his sixth year of eligibility. Holt was named to the 2000’s NFL all-decade team and went to more Pro Bowls (7) than Bruce (3) in their time together. Holt also led the NFL in receiving in 2003. Bruce never led the NFL in catches nor was he ever named to any all-decade team. But Bruce ranks 13th all-time in catches, Holt 22nd.
Again, what was their impact? The Rams went to two Super Bowls with Bruce and Holt catching passes from a Hall of Fame quarterback (Kurt Warner) but claimed just the one Lombardi Trophy.
There’s only one historical comp for Bruce-Holt. That would be John Stallworth and Lynn Swann of the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are the only tandem of wide receivers in NFL history to play nine seasons together and retire with matching Hall of Fame busts. In those nine seasons the Steelers went to four Super Bowls and took home the Lombardi Trophy each time.
In a team game, that’s impact. Swann was a Super Bowl MVP and the two Steelers are the only two players in Super Bowl history to average better than 40 yards per catch in a single game. Swann did it in the 1976 Super Bowl against the Cowboys and Stallworth in the 1980 game against the Rams.
Only one other set of wide receivers played as many as seven seasons together and retired with matching Hall of Fame busts. Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie caught passes for the Cleveland Browns from 1946 through 1952. Both were named to the 1940s NFL all-decade team. Impact? The Browns went to the championship game all seven seasons they played together and claimed five titles.
Fair or not, winning matters to the Hall of Fame selection committee — 69.1 percent of all those enshrined in Canton won championships. And quantity championships translate into quantity representation in the Hall.
The 1960’s Green Bay Packers went to six NFL championship games and won five of them. Those Packers have 12 players enshrined in Canton plus the coach. The 1950s Cleveland Browns went to seven championship games and won three of them. Those Browns have 10 players enshrined in Canton plus the coach. The 1970s Steelers, as noted above, won those four Lombardi Trophies. They also have 10 players enshrined in Canton plus the coach.
The more a team wins, the greater the rewards. Which is why Holt and Wayne now find themselves on a precarious bubble with single rings.