SIMPLY AN OVERSIGHT. "I love your column and look forward to reading it every Monday. However I have to ask why you left Chad Ochocinco off your list of potential HOF receivers? He is the only receiver to ever lead his league in receiving four years in a row. Always puts up good numbers (minus 2008) and is a seven-time Pro Bowler. That sounds like HOF type attributes to me." --Ben Indino, Colorado Springs, Colo. I blew it. There were about 30 receivers whose stats I was looking at and I simply forgot to include him. He certainly is among those who has a chance to catch 1,000 balls and have his case heard for Canton one day. I apologize for the oversight.
The reference is to King’s MMQB column from the previous day, in which he talks about an upcoming "logjam" of Hall-worthy wide receivers. At his current average of 76 catches a season, Chad would need just over four more seasons to reach King’s 1,000-catch mark.
Setting aside the question of whether he can or will catch 1,000 balls, Chad doesn’t look like a Hall of Famer -- yet. That could easily change, but I see at least three factors working against him right now.
First and foremost is the Bengals’ current image. Thanks to the Lost Decade, the team is firmly cemented in the "loser" category in the minds of many pundits and sportswriter, a fact many (including myself) have recently lamented. That’s a huge anchor around not just 85’s neck, but anyone else on the team who may eventually generate Hall of Fame talk.
Second, while Chad’s stats are very good, so far they fall a touch shy of great. In his best year, 2005, he had 97 catches, 1,432 yards and 9 touchdowns. Compare that to the best years of the current and eligible Hall of Famers in King’s list:
Jerry Rice, 1995: 122/1,848/15
Cris Carter, 1995: 122/1,371/17
Tim Brown, 1997: 104/1,408/5
Andre Reed, 1994: 90/1,303/8
Art Monk, 1984: 106/1,372/7
One thing that jumps out at me is that everyone but Reed has at least one 100-catch season. Chad has yet to do that. And though not reflected in the above numbers, everyone but Monk has at least one season with double-digit TD receptions, another hurdle Chad hasn't jumped. So, if we are setting statistical benchmarks, I would say Chad needs to ring a few more bells to get attention from Hall voters.
The third factor is Chad himself. His showboating rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and I think 2008 will ultimately come back to haunt him. Leadership is one of those factors looked-for in Hall of Fame players, and that’s never been Chad’s thing.
All of that said, Chad has virtues that should appeal to Hall voters, too. In an era when it seems like a different NFL player is in trouble with the law or getting suspended for alcohol or drugs every other day, Chad is a straight arrow. For every person his endless self-promotion annoys, there’s another who can’t get enough. And then there are those times when he surprises everyone.
If Chad can stay healthy and focused -- both things that people question these days -- he may get his chance at the Hall. But the bottom line is, he still needs to step up his game to do so, which means less Dancing With the Stars and OCNN, and more dancing with Carson Palmer and OTAs. Otherwise, the closest he'll come to that coveted yellow jacket will have been his sideline gag.