Anquan Boldin and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01: Anquan Boldin #81 of the Arizona Cardinals runs for yards after the catch as Larry Fitzgerald #11 and Edgerrin James #32 get in position to block against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Steelers won 27-23. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin hung up the cleats earlier this week, putting to rest a fantastic career. Despite the fact that Boldin wasn’t the biggest or fastest guy, he managed to be productive well into his thirties. Even on the San Francisco 49ers, Boldin managed to have a pretty good season. So, as is the case with all great players, his retirement starts a certain conversation. Is Anquan Boldin a Hall of Famer?

Anquan Boldin and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

What Made Anquan Great

When you think of the receiver position, you don’t always immediately think toughness. Most elite receivers are genetic freaks, possessing great size and speed, but they’re not necessarily bulldogs. Odell Beckham Jr. can catch just about anything with one hand, but he’s not going to truck over elite safeties. Randy Moss could jump so high it looked like he was hovering, but a big hit would throw off his game. Anquan Boldin was tough.

Boldin wasn’t afraid to go across the middle, taking big hits from linebackers and safeties alike. He wasn’t afraid of footsteps, and as long as he had a chance at a catch, nobody could prevent him from catching it, but that’s not where it ends. Because there was one instance where Anquan Boldin proved he was one of the toughest men in NFL history.

Back in 2008, Kurt Warner threw a pass to Boldin that led him directly into a devastating hit from Eric Smith. The hit literally broke several bones in Boldin’s face. Considering that players have missed months, and even seasons with things like turf toes and broke fingers, it would’ve been completely acceptable for Boldin to miss the rest of the season. Instead? He missed two games, and caught two touchdowns in his first bout back.

Best Rookie Ever

No receiver in NFL history caught more passes for more yards in their rookie year than Anquan Boldin. He caught 101 passes for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns. ┬áNow before anyone throws a temper tantrum, it’s true that Beckham only played in 12 games, and he probably would’ve broken Boldin’s records. But he didn’t get a chance, so the records stand.

Not to mention, Boldin didn’t have Eli Manning, he had Jeff Blake. Anquan Boldin had Jeff Blake as his quarterback, and he managed to have a season that isn’t just great for a rookie, it’s fantastic for anyone. Boldin caught eight touchdowns as a rookie, but Blake only threw 13. That tells you all you need to know.

Whether it was as the number one receiver or as Larry Fitzgerald‘s sidekick, Boldin was always a reliable target, and he ended up recording 1,076 catches for 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns in his career. So, is he a Hall of Famer?

Good, Not Great

Unfortunately, as of typing this, there are several players with better numbers that aren’t in the Hall of Fame. His 1,076 catches are ninth all time, 13,779 yards are 14th all time, his and 82 touchdowns are 23rd in NFL history. Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Steve Smith, Isaac Bruce, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Hines Ward, and Calvin Johnson all arguably had better careers.

There’s a logjam in Canton for receivers, and frankly, Boldin just wasn’t good enough. He was good, great even, but he was never the best receiver in football. In all reality, he wasn’t even always the best receiver on his team, after all he did spend a chunk of his career as Larry Fitzgerald’s number two. He only broke 1,000 yards in seven of his 14 seasons, and had only one double digit touchdown season.

It’s getting easier and easier for receivers to have monster numbers as the game continues to evolve, and it just seems like Boldin’s career was unspectacular enough to slip through the cracks. A perfect example of this is Julio Jones.

Julio Jones hasn’t done enough to be considered a surefire Hall of Famer, though it’s easy to see why many believe he’s well on his way. In six seasons, Julio Jones has only played a full season once, but he’s already caught 497 passes for 7,610 yards, and 81 touchdowns. In 123 fewer games, Jones is only one touchdown grab away from tying Boldin.

The Last Word

The sad fact is that at the end of the day, numbers matter. A legacy can be great enough to overcome insufficient numbers, like Terrell Davis or Gale Sayers, but it has to be one great legacy. Unfortunately, Boldin’s legacy just isn’t there. The Pro Football Hall of Fame is for the best of the best, and that was never Boldin. He’ll be fondly remembered, especially by fans of the Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals, but he might have to get into coaching if he wants a bust in Canton.
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