Donald Driver has had a terrific career, but truth be told, his chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame aren’t very good. I bring this up because the veteran receiver commented about the possibility after his charity softball game earlier this month. “If I can play two to three more years and put a nice little stamp on it, those records will stand there forever, and when it’s all said and done, maybe one day I can stand up here in Canton, Ohio, saying, ‘I made it.’”
Already the franchise leader in catches (698), Driver is poised to overtake the great James Lofton atop the career receiving yards list (only 40 behind). That’s pretty heady stuff, and while those numbers will guarantee him a spot in the Packer Hall of Fame, they shouldn’t get him anywhere close to one of those coveted yellow blazers. That’s because the former Alcorn State standout has had only three Pro Football Hall of Fame-type seasons in his entire career. From 2004 to 2006, he averaged 87 catches, 1,241 yards and 7 TDs. In his other six seasons as a starter, Driver averaged 66.5 catches, 895 yards and 4.5 TDs. Solid numbers, but hardly spectacular in a day and age when somebody like the much-maligned Bill Schroeder averaged 64-989-6 from 1999 to 2001.
Among active receivers, there are at least nine players who are already more worthy of a spot in Canton than Driver. The list includes Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Reggie Wayne, Hines Ward, Chad Ochocinco, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Derrick Mason and Steve Smith. And in another four or five years, you’ll probably be able to add the names like Roddy White, Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe and Greg Jennings to the list.
So what made Driver bring up this subject? Probably a conversation he had with former Raiders great Tim Brown prior to the Super Bowl. Here’s what DD told the Green Bay Press-Gazette: “He sat down and said, ‘If you win a Super Bowl come Sunday, they will have to look at you as a candidate for the Hall of Fame. For him to say that, that was something that made me dream about it even more. … When Tim Brown tells you they have to look at me as being a candidate, I shook my head that night and said all I have to do is win the Super Bowl and maybe I’ll get the opportunity to maybe one day be there.”
Well, he won the Super Bowl, but the second half of the daily double probably isn’t going to happen. In fact, once Driver calls it a career, he won’t even be the best former Packer wide receiver not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That dubious honor would still belong to Sterling Sharpe, who had nearly twice as many great seasons as Driver despite being forced to retire due to a neck injury at the age of 29. Fans may not have loved Sharpe the way they love Driver (for good reason) but no objective person could watch the two play and not know immediately who was the better receiver. And it’s not even all that close.
Twenty-one wide receivers are currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the vast majority were far more dominant in their eras than Driver was in his. That’s a fact. But there are a few head-scratchers on that list – the biggest being Art Monk. The former Redskin played for a long time and posted gaudy statistics, but like Driver, he was never one of the top handful of players at his position. Never. Any person who believes Driver deserves a yellow blazer could rightfully use Monk’s induction in 2008 as their strongest argument. My response would be that two wrongs don’t make a right. If the Pro Football Hall of Fame continues to open its doors to very good players, Canton will soon resemble Cooperstown – a place where longevity long ago caught up to greatness as a criteria for enshrinement.