James Harrison to Canton will be a very hard sell

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With linebacker James Harrison retiring after 16 NFL seasons, a listener posed this question to the PFT PM podcast on Monday: Is Harrison a Hall of Famer.

On the surface, it’s an intriguing question. The 2008 NFL defensive player of the year and the winner of two Super Bowls with the Steelers, Harrison played at a very high level. The problem, however, is that Harrison didn’t play at a high level nearly long enough.

He racked up 16 sacks in 2008. For the rest of his career, Harrison had 68.5 sacks. It’s a total of 84.5 career sacks, putting him at 52nd on the all-time list, behind the likes of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Smith, Leonard Little, Trent Cole, Trevor Pryce, Robert Porcher, Mario Williams, Joey Porter, and plenty more.

Although guys like Warren Sapp and Cortez Kennedy made it to the Hall of Fame without 100 or more career sacks, they weren’t primarily pass rushers. Harrison was. So he needs to generate a high number of sacks to show the kind of sustained excellence that will get him to the Hall of Fame.

Kevin Greene had to wait for years to get in, and he had 160 sacks — nearly twice Harrison’s total. So it’s highly unlikely that Harrison ever gets in. He’ll probably never even be a finalist for consideration.

36 responses to “James Harrison to Canton will be a very hard sell

  1. And yet there Terrell Davis and Kurt Warner are. Based on the requirement precedent last years class set, it seems you just need 4 good seasons, a SB win and to be a media darling to get a gold jacket. Not that I’m saying Harrison belongs.

  2. He probably won’t make the Hall but he played when football was football and would knock the snot out of the opposing QB. Plus that return in the Super Bowl was ridiculous. I had seats in that corner of the end zone in Tampa where he scored. I could close my eyes and still see Fitz almost catching him at the goal line. That’s one awesome football moment on the biggest stage. Hall of famer or not he was exciting to watch.

  3. I’m not saying he shouldn’t get in, but you’d have to look at his entire body of work and not a single statistic. I think he’s in the Hall of Very Good. And some of his games and plays deserve enshrinement, but that doesn’t mean he should get in.

  4. He has an impressive resume. DPOY. The return in the Superbowl. And his value EAD often more in holding the edge vs the run than rushing the passer. Ultimately what will probably keep him out – he was surly with the media.

  5. Carl Banks was a 2 time Super Bowl winner who was voted to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade team. Same voters as for the Hall of Fame. Despite that, Banks is not in the Hall of Fame, and never even seems to have gotten to the final round of consideration. That doesn’t mean Banks has been cheated out of being in the Hall of Fame or that he doesn’t deserve to be in the Hall Fame. It just means that a player with somewhat similar credentials to James Harrison didn’t get close to getting in.

  6. He’s not a hall of famer but it’s so dumb for the Hall of Fame to evaluate them just on sack totals. There’s a lot more to the position than logging a sack, and if you only chase that stat you’ll end up with a Hall of Fame full of guys who just went after the passer every snap and never had to set the edge, or ignore pressures and other disruptive plays.

  7. HOF or not, I loved this guys attitude on the field. I would have loved to see him in a Packer uniform.

  8. If the comparisons are Waren Sapp, Kevin Greene and Cortez Kennedy he certainly has a case when you look at the entire body of work. Certainly, the characterization that Harrison wasn’t an all around player is incorrect. He was an every down player who anchored a line that was often one of the best against the run and had several clutch game-changing plays often at the biggest of moments on the biggest stages:

    Harrison – Tackles 793, Sacks 84.5, Int – 8, Forced Fumbles 34, Passes Defensed – 24

    Sapp – Tackles 569, Sacks 96.5, Int – 4, Forced Fumbles 19, Passes Defensed – 29

    Greene – Tackles 669, Sacks 160, int – 5, Forced Fumbles 23, Passes Defensed – 0

    Kennedy – Tackles 668, Sacks 58, Int – 3, Forced Fumbles – 11, Passes Defensed – 0

  9. If we used logic like that then Jim Plunkett among others never would of made the HOF. Everything needs consideration. Marty Schottheimer had his teams ready to go no matter where he coached but we can blame him for Byners fumble, or Brees injury in the playoffs ect, ect. The man is top 7 all time wins behind Shula, Halas, Belichick, Landry, Lambeau.
    If anyone deserves to be in the HOF more than him I want to know who it is.

  10. By the time he is eligible for the Hall, he will have somewhere near 10 more guys pass him on the all-time sacks list (14 or so within 20 sacks). He only has 3 double digit sack seasons & only 2 triple digit total tackle seasons. Doesn’t have a whole ton of turnovers either. Was fun to watch & had some great moments, but he just doesn’t have the numbers overall, not just sacks. And there are way too many players to count with 2+ SB rings.
    Unless he gets the Steelers/Swann treatment, he (like a lot of recent Steelers) will probably end up in the Hall of Great, but not the HOF.

  11. Wow. Wrong. Just plain wrong. James Harrison was basically a pass rusher only? Harrison was a very good pass rusher, but he may the greatest run stopping 3-4 linebacker of all time. His anchor at the point of attack was simply second to none. Name 2 3-4 linebackers that you would rather have in their prime to battle a physical running offense. Go ahead, genius. You can’t because your understanding and appreciation of the game is pedestrian at best.

    While dropping into coverage was not his strong suit, he was effective doing that as well. Look at the game tape Florio. Your analysis here is simply awful. To say Warren Sapp was a more well rounded player is crazy.

    Harrison has comparable stats and was a more rounded player. You, on the other hand,

  12. riverhorsey says:
    April 16, 2018 at 7:53 pm
    If we used logic like that then Jim Plunkett among others never would of made the HOF.
    —————————
    Umm Jim Plunkett ISN’T in the NFL HOF…

  13. Compare him to one of his competitors in the game now.

    Suggs
    14 Full seasons (one on IR)
    Tackles 812
    Sacks 125.5
    Int 7
    Forced fumbles 34

    Harrison
    14 full seasons (2002 and 2017 only 2 games played total
    793 Tackles
    84.5 sacks
    8 Int
    Forced fumbles 34

    Both were DPOY. Suggs was DROY as well.

    Very similar number of games but Suggs has 40 more sacks in the same timeframe. They both played SAM LB in a 3-4.

    James Harrison was a very good football player. I take nothing away from him. He used to routinely hurt the Ravens especially after Ogden retired. They both set the edge really well. But he isn’t Suggs when it comes to the biggest stat of their position. And I think Suggs is an easy HOF player.

    Even though I hate the Steelers, I respect their players. Best rivalry in football IMO. Harrison belongs in the HOVG, but he is at best a borderline HOF ballplayer.

  14. hawdog says:
    April 16, 2018 at 6:19 pm
    And yet there Terrell Davis and Kurt Warner are. Based on the requirement precedent last years class set, it seems you just need 4 good seasons, a SB win and to be a media darling to get a gold jacket. Not that I’m saying Harrison belongs.
    ————

    Predicted as soon as both were added to NFLN that they would ensure that both got into the HOF so that the network could make all these “Hall of Fame” claims on the show. They even created a segment for them since Warner got in. It’s all about politics and that other word.

  15. imkennypowers says:
    April 16, 2018 at 8:48 pm
    Wow. Wrong. Just plain wrong. James Harrison was basically a pass rusher only? Harrison was a very good pass rusher, but he may the greatest run stopping 3-4 linebacker of all time. His anchor at the point of attack was simply second to none. Name 2 3-4 linebackers that you would rather have in their prime to battle a physical running offense. Go ahead, genius. You can’t because your understanding and appreciation of the game is pedestrian at best.

    While dropping into coverage was not his strong suit, he was effective doing that as well. Look at the game tape Florio. Your analysis here is simply awful. To say Warren Sapp was a more well rounded player is crazy.

    Harrison has comparable stats and was a more rounded player. You, on the other hand,
    ————

    Lawrence Taylor >

    But your bar has been set and your point is valid.

    Still don’t think he gets in, when Taylor had 50 more sacks (technically 56.5 more) serving the same function and doing everything (pass rushing, run stuffing, two gapping, pass coverage) substantially better.

    But that’s really the bar for 3-4 pass rushers on the weak side. Truth be told, there aren’t that many who exclusively rushed and run stuffed from that side. Guys like Kevin Greene were Bucks on the other side.

  16. Harrison’s tackle totals should show you how he compared as a player to other greats like Kevin Greene. Harrison was a pass rusher, true, but his main duty was setting the edge. Most of those “TV Moments” people are talking about happened when he was dropping into coverage, because that’s what Dick LeBeau wanted him to do. I won’t be miffed if he didn’t make it, but to say that he doesn’t deserve consideration is strange. I mean, whom do we consider the great defensive players of the 2000s? I would wager that Harrison would be on most peoples’ lists-and to say that that is true and yet that he does not deserve consideration is very strange.

  17. Honestly I don’t care and won’t die for an argument of whether he should be in HOF or not; that play he made in the super bowl vs Arizona was an incredible moment, easily a top 3 super bowl play of all time. That’s just fine for me.

  18. Harrison was not elite! if he was the Steelers wouldn’t have cut him how many times?? I can’t even remember. He was a GOOD pass rusher, not a great one! Andrew Whitworth owned him regularly!! Great player no doubt, and a game changer from time to time when he wanted to be but not consistently. Againg he was a great player but not a HOFer.

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