Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter generated the bulk of the stats that put him into Canton while playing for the Vikings. But the only NFL coach he mentioned during his Hall of Fame induction speech was the one from Philly who cut him.
In 1990, Buddy Ryan opted to give Carter the ultimate wake-up call at a time the player was dealing with off-field issues fueled by substance abuse. Gruffly explaining that Carter was cut because “all he does is catch touchdowns,” Ryan protected the player even after giving up on him.
Carter called the decision the “best thing that ever happened” to him, and he shared what Ryan’s wife told the coach the night before Ryan made the decision.
“Don’t cut Cris Carter,” Ryan’s wife said. “He’s gonna do something special with his life. So Buddy Ryan and his wife, I thank you. You’re going into the Hall with me tonight.”
Carter brought others into the Hall of Fame with him, from family to friends to the high-school coach who persuaded Carter that football, not basketball, was his future.
“Son, you have a better chance to be Lynn Swann than Isiah Thomas,” Carter, who was previously playing football only to stay in shape, said Bill Conley told him.
Carter never became Lynn Swann, whose place in Canton was cemented not by regular-season receptions but by four rings and a performance for the ages in Super Bowl X. But Carter’s career numbers dwarf Swann’s, and Carter arguably had the best hands of anyone who ever played the game.
At least Swann got a mention during Carter’s speech. But for the quartet of Hall of Fame teammates Carter played with in Minnesota (Randall McDaniel, Gary Zimmerman, John Randle, and Warren Moon), not a single player or coach from his 12 years in Minnesota was acknowledged. Not any of the quarterbacks who threw him the ball the 10 seasons Moon didn’t, not any of the coaches, and not his notorious protege with Hall of Fame credentials, Randy Moss.
Carter said he always played on good teams, but the clear sense coming from his speech is that he now has a new team: The Hall of Fame.
While they can’t win the championship he never earned on the field, the Hall of Fame will always be undefeated.