I wrote this almost two months ago, but seeing as how Edgerrin's Ring of Honor ceremony is Sunday, it's a topic that's being debated again today:
(Full link here: http://www.sportsradio1260.com/pages/query-schultz.html?article=10295550)
We learned yesterday that Edgerrin James will be inducted into the Colts Ring of Honor in September. It’s a fitting tribute to a player that was one of the key cogs to the Colts’ success from 1999-2005 - a span in which they went 77-35 (average of 11 wins per season) and won four division crowns. There’s no question as to where Edge ranks in Colts’ history, but what about NFL history? James presents one of the most interesting Pro Football Hall of Fame cases for any running back ever.
James is 11th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, and all eight players in front of him who have been Hall-eligible are already enshrined in Canton. The other two, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis, are no-brainer selections. Edge’s 12,246 yards puts him ahead of all-time greats like Marcus Allen, Thurman Thomas, and O.J. Simpson. Those numbers could’ve been even greater, if not for a serious knee injury in 2001 that derailed Edge’s meteoric rise. Although James bounced back for monster seasons in 2004 and 2005, he was never the same dynamic player that he was in his first two seasons in the league.
While he was often one of the best, was Edgerrin James ever the best at his position? James only made the All-Pro First Team once, and doesn’t have an MVP Award to fall back on like Allen, Thomas, or Tomlinson. I’m skeptical as to what the fan perception of Edge really is. When naming the top running backs of the 2000s, does James’ name come up before Shaun Alexander and Priest Holmes? I’m not saying that the perception is fair, but I don’t think you’ll find a lot of non-Colts fans who regard James as an elite player. He seems to be much more in the Fred Taylor/Eddie George category than the Tony Dorsett/LaDainian Tomlinson category.
All of this is irrelevant, because when Colts’ fans look up from their seats at Lucas Oil Stadium, they’ll see “Edgerrin James”. This is a franchise and fanbase that thought highly enough of him to award him a Super Bowl ring a year after letting him walk – a gesture that is unheard of in most cases. James may not have gotten the credit that Peyton Manning received, or put up the gaudy numbers that Marvin Harrison did, or ever became as popular as Bob Sanders was. But, Edge was as big of a part of the golden era of Indianapolis Colts’ football (1999-2009) as anyone.
Even though it’s a tough decision, I would lean towards ‘no’ when it comes to James’s Hall-of-Fame candidacy. But, Colts’ fans know that Edgerrin James was great. He doesn’t need a bronze bust of his dreadlocks to prove it.