Sterling Sharpe deserves to be in Canton
By Brian E Murphy, PackersInsider senior editor
~As current Packer fans still sulk (rightly so) about Nick Collins‘ neck injury taking him away from a potential Hall of Fame career, right at the prime of his game, it’s time to look back at a player who clearly was playing at a Hall of Fame level for his whole career as a Packer.
Sterling Sharpe played seven seasons in the NFL, starting every game for the Green Bay Packers.
A rookie in 1988, he was part of the great 1988 draft class that had him, Michael Irvin, and Tim Brown all taken in the top 10 of the draft.
In Sharpe’s seven seasons, he had 595 catches, 8,134 yards, 65 TD’s.
Sharpe suffered a career-ending neck injury at the end of the 1994 season. He was right there neck & neck with Jerry Rice at that time, and I still remember being on the radio airwaves coast to coast debating that topic with Bobby Kemp. It was a close call. Just look at the production, and who each had as their QB in their career, which obviously is a fair factor.
Remember the Packers just got Reggie White, and were climbing to the top under Mike Holmgren, when Sterling was shut down after that 1994 season.
In those same 7 years that Sterling put up the above numbers, Irvin put up:
416 catches, 6,935 yards, 40 TD’s.
Tim Brown: (I gave Brown an extra year, 1995, because he missed almost all of his 2nd season)
405 catches, 5,076 yards, 46 TD’s.
Those WR’s were all good, clearly, by the end of their seventh seasons (Brown an 8th season).
Sterling Sharpe was great.
He was on pace for Canton for sure, as his numbers indicate. Plus, he had Favre there just emerging as a superstar.
His second season, he led the league with 90 receptions, the first Packer to do so since Don Hutson in 1945, and he broke Hutson’s records for receptions and receiving yards in a season.
A few years later, in 1992, Sharpe and the new quarterback, Brett Favre, teamed up to become the top passing tandem in the league. In the final game of that season he and Favre hooked up for Sharpe’s 107th reception of the season which broke the NFL’s single-season receptions record.
That season, Sharpe became one of only seven players in NFL history to win the “Triple Crown” at the receiver position: leading the league in receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, and receptions. Jerry Rice also did this once, in 1990.
In the 1993 season Sharpe subsequently broke his own record, with 112 receptions; this also made him the first player to have consecutive seasons catching more than 100 passes. In 1994, his 18 touchdown receptions were the second most in league history at the time, behind Jerry Rice’s 22 in 1987. Sterling was only getting better, as was his young quarterback, and the overall team. Glory was on the way. Sharpe had already come up with some playoff heroics with a last-second game-winning long touchdown pass to win at Barry Sanders’ Lions team, in the loud Silverdome.
However, Sharpe’s reign as an All-Pro wide receiver was cut short by a neck injury suffered during the 1994 season, ending a career in which he was named an All-Pro five times (1989, 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1994).
Then he had the neck injury, similar to the one Irvin had almost six years later.
Flip-flop those injury dates, and the Cowboys don’t win three Super Bowls from 1993-95 and the Packers win more than the 96 Super Bowl. Remember, it was those Cowboys who ended the Packers playoff march all three seasons there. Irvin’s glory came in the Super Bowls. Had he gotten the neck problem when Sharpe did, and not Sterling, it could very well have been Sharpe who was in the spotlight of a bunch of Super Bowls.
In his final three seasons, the three with the young, emerging Favre, Sharpe averaged 105 catches, 1285 yards, and 14 touchdowns.
Since he was unable to continue playing, and was not on the Packers team that won the Super Bowl in 1996, his brother Shannon Sharpe gave him the first of the three Super Bowl rings he has won.
Later, when Shannon, not Sterling, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Canton in 2011, Shannon made sure the world knew how great Sterling was. He said:
My big brother, Sterling, I’m the only player of 267 men that’s walked through this building to my left that can honestly say this: I’m the only pro football player that’s in the Hall of Fame, and the second best player in my own family.
If fate had dealt you a different hand, there is no question, no question in my mind we would have been the first brothers to be elected to the Hall of Fame. The 44 men and women that I thanked and congratulated earlier for giving me and bestowing this prestigious honor upon me, all I do is ask all I can do is ask, and the most humblest way I know how, is that the next time you go into that room or you start making a list, look at Sterling Sharpe’s accomplishments.
For a seven year period of the guy’s that are in the Hall of Fame at the receiver position, and the guys that have the potential to be in this building. That’s all I ask. I don’t say, hey, just do that. The next time you go in that room, you think about Sterling Sharpe’s numbers for seven years. That’s all I ask.
Sterling, you are my hero, my father figure, my role model. You taught me everything I know about sports and a lot about life. I never once lived in your shadow. I embraced it.
Shannon Sharpe was most definitely not the best Sharpe in the NFL those seven years. In fact, I remember going to the game in about 1993 in Green Bay on a TNT Primetime game between Elway and Shannon’s Broncos against Sterling and Favre’s Packers. Sterling was the man, Shannon was the kid brother. But it was fun.
In the end, as Shannon said, it was bad fat that stopped Sterling’s assault on the record books, but in my opinion, what he did for seven years was pure greatness, and that’s what the Hall of Fame should be about, greatness, not longevity.
Shannon was right, Sterling Sharpe should be in the Hall of Fame.