The Crazy and Curious Case of Cris Carter

Cris Carter played his last National Football League game a little more than six years ago, a game that many Viking fans will remember.  Carter, who was a member of a Miami Dolphins team that was in the driver's seat for the #1 seed in the AFC playoffs, rolled into the Metrodome to take on a Viking team that sat at 3-10 and was simply playing for pride.  The defining image of Carter from that game was of him going up and down the Miami sidelines, telling his teammates that Vikings' kicker Gary Anderson "couldn't kick it that far" as he lined up to attempt a 52-yard field goal.  Anderson did, indeed, kick it that far, and gave the Vikings a 20-17 win.  The loss sent the Dolphins into a tailspin that ultimately found them on the outside looking in at the AFC playoffs.

While that might have been the final image of Carter at the Metrodome, it was far from the most memorable.  When Carter retired a couple of weeks later, he had more catches, yards, and touchdown receptions than any player in the history of the National Football League not named Jerry Rice.  Six years after his retirement, he still finds himself in the top 10 in all three of those categories (3rd in receptions, 4th in touchdowns, and 7th in yards).

Yet, this past Saturday, he was again denied entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  I'm completely confused with this development.

I'm not sure who the man has angered or whose dog he ran over or whose girlfriend he slept with at some point or what the case is here, but the fact that Cris Carter wasn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer was ludicrous enough. . .the fact that he was denied entry on his second attempt at the Hall is damn near inexplicable.

Here's a list of all the wide receivers that have made it into the Hall of Fame in the "modern era," which according to the Hall of Fame's website is defined as beginning in 1946.

Lance Alworth
Raymond Berry
Fred Biletnikoff
Tom Fears
Bob Hayes
Elroy Hirsch
Michael Irvin
Charlie Joiner
Steve Largent
Dante Lavelli
James Lofton
Don Maynard
Tommy McDonald
Bobby Mitchell
Art Monk
Pete Phios
John Stallworth
Lynn Swann
Charley Taylor
Paul Warfield

Give me five names on that list that you look at and say, "Yep, that guy is definitely better than Cris Carter, no question about it."  Hell, give me three names on that list that meet that criteria.

You won't find them, because they simply aren't there.  Jerry Rice played until 2004, so his name will come up for eligibility next year, and he's as close to a mortal lock as it gets for Canton, but he's not on the above list yet.  Hell, guys like Lynn Swann were never even the best wide receiver on their own damn team (Swann couldn't carry Stallworth's jock, quite frankly, and never had a single 1,000-yard receiving season), yet they get into the Hall of Fame ahead of one of the five greatest receivers to ever strap on a helmet.

And I don't want to hear the "but Carter never got a ring" argument, either.  Because, by that criteria, Dan Marino isn't a Hall of Famer and Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer are.  Super Bowl rings are a team thing. . .the Hall of Fame is a recognition of individual accomplishment.  Very few wide receivers have accomplished, individually, what Cris Carter has.

In many cases, the performance of a wide receiver is directly related to consistency and talent at the quarterback position.  Guys like Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison spent (or are spending) their entire career catching passes from guys that are either in the Hall of Fame or will be going there.  If you look up and down the leaderboards for wide receivers, you'll find that a lot of the guys up towards the top have had a lot of stability at that position, and/or constantly played with guys that were incredibly talented.

And then there's Cris Carter.

Carter, as a member of the Vikings, had eight consecutive 1,000 yard seasons from 1993 to 2000.  Here, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, was the Vikings' leading passer in each of those seasons.

1993 - Jim McMahon
1994 - Warren Moon
1995 - Warren Moon
1996 - Brad Johnson
1997 - Brad Johnson
1998 - Randall Cunningham
1999 - Jeff George
2000 - Daunte Culpepper

In those eight 1,000-yard seasons, the man played with six different primary quarterbacks.  There's one Hall of Famer on that list in Warren Moon, a guy that Carter played with towards the tail end of Moon's career.  None of the other guys on that list are going to the Hall, and frankly none of them are close.  Not to mention the transitions at QB that were made in those years (the change from Moon to Johnson in 1996, Johnson to Cunningham in 1998, Cunningham to George in 1999).

I simply don't understand how this guy has been locked out of the Hall to this point.  Yes, it's only been two years.  Cris Carter deserved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, not a guy that's still searching for his spot in Canton on his third try after becoming eligible.  I don't know what sort of message the Hall of Fame voters are attempting to send here, but quite frankly, either you're a Hall of Famer or you're not.

And if Cris Carter isn't, I truly have no idea who is.

The man is the greatest non-Jerry Rice wide receiver in the history of the National Football League, he possessed what might have been the greatest set of hands in the history of the league (and I'll include Rice in that category, too), and he did it without having a truly great quarterback to work with during his time in the NFL.  There should be two Vikings going to Canton this season. . .but, sadly, there's not.

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