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Irvin Has The Right Stuff Columnist 
Jan. 12, 2004, 5:26 p.m. (CST)   

(64), Marvin Harrison (93), Jimmy Smith (71) and Isaac Bruce 69 have averaged more catches per season. And five of those guys are still playing. 

That means Irvin averaged more catches per season than any of the Hall of Fame receivers with more catches than him. And when it comes to yards per catch, only five receivers among the top 25 receivers (catches) in NFL history ever have averaged more - James Lofton (18.3), Henry Ellard (16.9), Charlie Joiner (16.2), Steve Largent (16.0) and - now you ready for this? - Randy Moss (16.0). 

That's right, whatever your perception is of Moss after seven seasons, Irvin averaged but one-tenth of a yard less per reception than Moss is today. And to think, The Mooner hasn't hit the downside of his career. 

That's really big. 

Let's consider one other factor when sanctioning Irvin as a first-ballot Hall of Famer: He put up these numbers while some guy named Emmitt Smith was concocting this career as the NFL's all-time leading rusher. So it wasn't like Irvin was in some offense which was just slinging the ball around - a one-dimensional bunch fun bunch just piling up numbers. 

This was a balanced offense, producing one of the NFL's all-time dominating teams: The only team to win three Super Bowls in four years. 

Now there will be Irvin detractors. They must rest their case on his off-field behavior. But then that would be a case of selective amnesia since Lawrence Taylor has a bust in Canton. 

And, of course, there is that inherent Cowboys bias, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt last year when Hayes and Wright were initially voted in, then out, by the 39-man selection committee which failed to give either an 80-percent voter approval. 

But Irvin, he might just prove to be a bias-buster, and really, when you think of it, he just might have repaired his image, now being the hard-working analyst on ESPN that he is. 

Most of all, and there can be no denying this: 

Michael Irvin is the greatest wide receiver in the history of possibly the greatest franchise in NFL history. 

When you think about it, think about his career and his 38-year-old life, the neck injury that ultimately ended his career is the only thing Michael Jerome Irvin ever failed to overcome. Childhood poverty, growing up in a family of 16 siblings, torn ACL, four years adjudicated probation, five-game suspension, double coverage? You name it. 

He's been undeniable.  

Making him for sure first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame stuff.   


!   Irvin finished his career with 13 franchise receiving records, and maybe most impressive is his domination of the club's top five single-season receiving seasons: That would be Michael Irvin all five times. 
!   Want to add insult to last year's Hall of Fame injury? As impressive as Irvin's numbers are, Bob Hayes finished with six more career touchdown receptions (71) than Irvin playing two less seasons, and his yards per catch still is a franchise-topping, jaw-dropping 20.0. Let that sink in. 
!   So if Marino, Young, Thomas and Irvin should be no-brainer selections this year, who else deserves to get in? How about Richard Dent. In 15 seasons, he amassed 137.5 sacks. That certainly pales L.C. Greenwood's 73.5. In fact, so does Harvey Martin's 113 and single-season high of 23. But he can't even creep into the final 15. And to think Martin was a co-Super Bowl MVP.                                                                                           

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