It’s Time for Former Packers WR Sterling Sharpe To Enter the Hall of Fame

There is little doubt that Sharpe was one of the best players in the NFL during his seven-year NFL career.

Green Bay Packers fans have seen a lot of former Packers finally earn overdue recognition from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in recent years. LeRoy Butler will be indcuted in a few weeks after waiting too long for the honor. Bobby Dillon was finally added to the hallowed halls of Canton in 2020 while Jerry Kramer's long wait ended in 2018.

But one player who definitely deserves to be inducted into Canton but is still on the outside looking in is wide receiver Sterling Sharpe. There is little doubt that Sharpe was one of the best players in the NFL during his seven-year NFL career that was cut short by a career-ending spinal injury after the 1994 season.

The short career is really the biggest reason Sharpe hasn't been voted into the Hall of Fame yet. But there are other players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who had short careers like Sharpe but were still selected by the committee to be in the Hall. Players like Gale Sayers and Terrell Davis didn't play longer than Sharpe but they have been inducted. The reason is dominance.

Sayers also played seven years in the NFL. He was dominant for five of those years before injuries shortened his career. Sayers was a five-time All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler. He gained more than 1,000 yards in a season twice and averaged 5.0-yards per carry and gained 4,956 yards on the ground during his NFL career. He was also an elite return man who twice led the league in average yards per return and added eight total touchdowns on kick and punt returns.

Davis also played seven seasons in the NFL but was dominant for four of those years. He earned Pro Bowl and All Pro honors three times. In 1998, the Broncos star had one of the greatest seasons by a running back ever when he gained 2,008 yards and ran for 21 touchdowns while leading Denver to their second straight Super Bowl win. 

Davis also shined in the playoffs and Super Bowl. In 1997, he gained more than 100 yards rushing in each of the four playoff games the Broncos won. He also picked up 157 yards and scored three touchdowns against the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII despite missing a quarter of the game due to migraine headaches and was named the MVP of the game.

A year later, Davis gained more than 100 yards in all three of the Broncos playoff victories including 102 yards in the Super Bowl and 199 yards in the first round win over the Dolphins.

But Sharpe was just as dominant as Sayers and Davis. In five of his seven seasons, Sharpe was named to the Pro Bowl and three times he was named All Pro. He topped 1,000 yards in five of his seven seasons and never had fewer than 791 yards and 55 catches in any year of his career.

Three times, Sharpe led the NFL in catches and twice he led the league in touchdown passes. In 1992, he set a new NFL single-season record with 108 catches. One year later, he broke that record by catching 112 passes. Sharpe also caught 10 or more touchdown passes in four of his seven campaigns including a career-best 18 in his final season in the league. 

In 1992, Sharpe won the receiver's triple crown, leading the league in catches, yards and receiving touchdowns. Only seven players have done that in the history of the league.

Sharpe also had his moments in the postseason. While his career ended two seasons before the Packers reached the Super Bowl in 1996, Sharpe did shine in the playoffs in 1993, the only season he appeared in them. In 1994, he was injured in the season finale and never played in the NFL again.

Against the Lions in the Wild Card round, Sharpe caught five passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns. That included the game-winning score on a 40-yard pass from Brett Favre in the game's final minute. Sharpe was playing through pain in that game due to an injury. He became only the ninth player in league history to catch three touchdown passes in a playoff game.

The following week, the Packers lost the divisional playoff game in Dallas 27-17 but Sharpe shined, catching six passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.

Sharpe was 29 when his career ended and because he was not as reliant on raw speed for his success, he likely would have remained effective for several more seasons had he not been injured. With Favre as his quarterback, he would have put up outstanding numbers.

Sharpe's brother Shannon was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011. Here's what Shannon had to say about his brother. "I'm the only player of 267 men that 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 I'm the second best player in my own family."

Sterling Sharpe was a dominant performer during his NFL careeer and was clearly one of the best players of his generation. The time has come for him to join his brother and be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (13)

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 02, 2022 at 12:32 pm

There is no question that Sterling was sterling in his years in the NFL There is no question that he deserved his Pro Bowls etc. However, the writer, like others here, makes the mistake of comparing Sharpe to players in the HOF as a measuring stick while obviously omitting a very important distinguishing factor, and that factor is both Sayers and Davis altered the destiny of both of their teams when playing, Sharpe did not. Yes, the stats Sharpe put up were great, but his case ends there as nothing came from it team-wise. The Packers remained, less the one playoff game with him, nothing different than they were his entire career with them. I guess selections to the HOF may change to even greater degrees that will incorporate the use of stats only, but stats today seem more of a personal thing for players and not the good of the team, like winning Championships because of those stats., with case in point, a podcast here talking about whether Rodgers can get a 5th MVP. I couldn't care less about that bs award, but rather, how about that 2nd SB we've been waiting for. Which is more important to the team, an SB or another MVP for Rodgers. No, Sharpe got his stats and the recognition deserved, but his numbers did nothing to change the team's success. If the injury didn't happen, I'd be sure that with a few more years with Favre, he'd have been the SB MVP and a HOF door wide open and welcoming.

I know, I'm on the Dark Side.

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LeotisHarris's picture

July 02, 2022 at 09:10 pm

"... and that factor is both Sayers and Davis altered the destiny of both of their teams when playing, Sharpe did not..."

Tayrn, let's take a look at the mighty Bears records from 1965-1971. Sayers deservedly won many individual accolades, but as a team, well, the Bears, you know, sucked. Their lone winning season came in his rookie year when he was ROY and MVP.

1971 6-8-0 3rd -- NFC Central
1970 6-8-0 T3rd -- NFC Central
1969 1-13-0 4th -- NFL Central
1968 7-7-0 2nd -- NFL Central
1967 7-6-1 2nd -- NFL Central
1966 5-7-2 5th -- NFL West
1965 9-5-0 3rd -- NFL West

The Bears went 11-1-2 in 1963 and won the NFL Championship. So, did Sayers elevate his team? Doesn't look that way to me.

Sharpe wasn't dominant like Sayers, true, but we know players need not have to have played on a championship team to be inducted into the Pro Football HOF. Is Sharpe deserving? Maybe. Maybe not, but there are players in the HOF with similar careers and stats and they did not carry their teams to a title.

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TarynsEyes's picture

July 02, 2022 at 11:23 pm

Yes, you're correct on that point.

I should have made it about who made the game more exciting for the League, and we all know that league growth is always a frontrunner. Sayers was the national interest, while Sharpe and GB were lost inside their own community. Maybe that's not right or fair to Sharpe, Favre put GB back into the media and national eye, and perhaps Sharpe would have also had he not been injured, but he was and didn't. I'm not dismissing Sharpe's talent and his play, it just wasn't enough to bring GB into the national eye., and we know that matters especially for the Media angle, and Sharpe was his own worst enemy there because the League and team need the media.

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John Funchess's picture

July 03, 2022 at 01:13 am

There is no maybe in the question of Sharpe being deserving of the HOF. Sharpe was as dominant as both the players mentioned even though I think Davis was on a far superior team than Sharpe ever got to play for. Sharpe's stats speak for themselves and when he was playing and in his prime the only other receiver you would possibly say was better would be Jerry Rice and even at that time there would be debate. Sharpe is long overdue and I hope his name is called soon.

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LeotisHarris's picture

July 03, 2022 at 02:37 pm

Michael Irvin, Henry Ellard, Andre Reed and Andre Rison would like a word.

I'm a fan of Sharpe, no doubt, but there is a maybe. Did you see Gale Sayers play?

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Coldworld's picture

July 02, 2022 at 02:10 pm

It’s a bit like Nick Collins: was he good enough at his peak to become a Hall of Fame inductee? Definitely. However, unfortunately, injury robbed him of the chance to extend that performance sufficiently.

In the case of injury, should we just assume continued progression or at least a period of sustained dominance? How would that address those who could still play to some lesser extent as opposed to suddenly having their career terminate, or others who shone brightly and faded for other reasons?

In my view, such players deserve recognition for their careers but did not manage to turn them into Hall of Fame ones. Celebrate their peak and prowess, yes, but the Hall of Fame should be reserved for those who made a sustained impact on the game over multiple years.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 02, 2022 at 02:21 pm

I certainly don't put Sharpe in the same category as LeRoy Butler. Butler was outstanding and he was outstanding for a long time. He made a difference on the Packers team as a player, in the locker room, and in the community. I never met Sharpe personally, but I did see his interaction with a young fan at Lambeau Field after one of the training camps. I was standing close enough to hear the conversation when a younger girl, about 9 or 10 years old came up to him and politely asked him for his autograph and in a not so polite reply Sharpe said "I don't sign autographs". That is Sharpe's privilege, but it was not kind and it was not done in a kind manner. The worst part was that he walked away with the young girl crying.

Contrast that to another incident I witnessed at a training camp at Lambeau when about 15 youngsters surrounded Reggie White for autographs. Pleading with the youngsters that he had to get home as he backed toward his Jeep (I think it was a Jeep), he wound up against his Jeep and stayed there until he signed every one of the autographs and then he drove off with everyone happy.

Sharpe also didn't give interviews to the media and then after he retired, he became a member of the media asking for interviews of players. Quite hypocritical, don't you think.

It's apparent that I don't put Sterling Sharpe's entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame into the same urgent and deserving category as Jerry Kramer, Bobby Dillon, LeRoy Butler, and certainly not in the same stadium with a great Green Bay Packer Receiver named Don Hutson.

Sterling Sharpe was a talented receiver, no doubt, but we are talking about the Hall of Fame which should be reserved the the truly GREATEST of all time.

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John Funchess's picture

July 03, 2022 at 01:39 am

Are you putting how he was with fans and the media as a measure of his greatness? I'm not understanding you on that if you are. I am going to assume you are as big a fan as I am, but Green Bay has not had a receiver the caliber of Sharpe since the guy who just left and I put Sharpe ahead of him. I will say this...You put Sharpe on our team last year with Davante and we have another trophy. Sharpe unfortunately was all the offense we had for the 7 years he was in the league. Adams had Nelson, Cobb, Jones, Cook, and any RB during his tenure. Please name me the offensive talent Sharpe had opposite of him and I didn't even mention QB's. Now you cant come at me with Chumura, Brooks, or Bennett as while Sharpe did play with them they were Rooks or second year players and no where near their prime. I have long maintained that if Sharpe never got hurt we would have gotten to the super bowl in 1995. I'm just saying Sharpe was GB's passing offense and if you look it up you will see that he accounted for 45%+ of the receiving yards. If I factor in our mediocre rushing attack then Sharpe accounted for much much more considering we went 9-7 his last three years when he was dominating. He was and is a hall of fame player and it is a shame that he has not been inducted.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 03, 2022 at 10:25 am

johnkwesif, I agree that Sharpe was a superior player and likely if his career had not been cut short by an injury, he would be in the Hall of Fame. I've been an avid Green Bay Packer fan, perhaps before you were born. When I was a kid I and other kids used to chat with some of the old time players like John Martinkovic who was just a 6th round draft choice and played for the Packers from 1951-1956. He worked during the off season selling used cars and we used to stop by and he would talk to us when he wasn't busy. These players were just like workers in Green Bay, making a living and being close to ordinary guys and we were just kids.

Sterling Sharpe seem to be the opposite of guys like old John Martinkovic as I pointed out in my comments. I knew Bart Starr as did a number of Packer fans and Bart was the antithesis of Sterling.

One last thing I will mention about Sterling which I would imagine many of our younger Packer fans will not know. His last year of playing with the Packers, Sharpe told the team a few days before the start of the season that he would not play if the Packers did not immediately give him a new contract making him the highest paid receiver in the league. To my chagrin, the Packers acquiesced and felt they had to give him that contract. Not a nice thing to do in my opinion.

Again, Sharpe was a special talent on the field based upon physical talent likely would have been in the Hall of Fame had his career lasted longer. But, there have been great talents who are not in the Hall of fame like Greg Cook who was a 1st round pick of the Bengals. He was a great talent and reminded me of players like John Elway of Denver and Andrew Luck of the Colts, but only played a couple of seasons before an injury ended his career. Thus, the point is longevity is one of the criteria used in selecting those chosen to be in the Football Hall of Fame and players like Sharpe and Greg Cook and others with that God given talent may not be selected because of that reason.

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joel_wall's picture

July 03, 2022 at 11:06 am

How in the world can you say Sterling Sharpe didn’t alter the destiny of his team? Without him Farve would have most likely been a hot mess! We missed the playoffs in 89’ due to a worse conference record than the Vikings. Without Sterling there is no magical season to bring us out of the darkness that was the 70’s and 80’s. Once he and Brett got cooking they were a playoff team. You can’t win a Super Bowl if you don’t make the playoffs! The man was unstoppable and he was Farve’s crutch during his early years learning how to become a dominant NFL QB. He never missed a game in his NFL career until that ill fated day, playing through achilles, turf toe and broken ribs injuries throughout his career. There is zero doubt in my mind that his path to the hall of fame was cemented in his career up to that point and anything else would have been gravy on the taters! It’s a damn shame that he sustained such a devastating neck injury in his prime and even more so that we’ll never know what might have been beyond that 94 regular season. Sterling Sharpe belonged in the HOF a long time ago and I hope one day his little brother is the one to tell the world. That would be an inauguration for the ages! Thank you Sterling Sharpe, you were a man among boys. Off the field you may have been all business but on it you were all smiles and I’ll always remember the hope you gave me on sundays back then that at least we had a chance.

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chaka's picture

July 04, 2022 at 10:42 am

Sharpe was a primadonna. Favre forced the ball to him like Rodgers with Dropante Adams. The team was way better when Sharpe was gone because the ball got spread out to all players instead of just one.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

July 06, 2022 at 11:46 am

I view Sterling Sharpe as an outstanding player who is destined to reside in the HALL OF THE OUTSTANDING PLAYERS along with other outstanding players like an old Packers receiver, Billy Howton who is now in his 90's; Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall; quarterback Ken Anderson; and Steve Tasker who was a wide receiver for the Bills and a 7 time pro bowl player. All of these guys were super players, but I prefer to reserve the Hall of Fame for guys like Reggie White, Bart Starr, Don Hutson, Payton Manning, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Barry Sanders, and Chuck Bennarik as examples that come to mind. Every professional football player is an excellent athlete to make it to the professional level and Sterling Sharpe is one of the better wide receivers to play the game. I would like to have seen the Hall of fame committee be even more judicious over the years to have limited the selection to perhaps only two or three members each year and if none truly met the stringent requirements I would have been satisfied to have only one or none in any particular years if those standards were not met. I guess I would like to walk into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and look at every player's bust and immediately think "That guy was really Great!"

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