Donald Driver is the all-time leading receptions leader in Green Bay Packers history. Driver accumulated 743 receptions in 14 seasons. That averages out to about 53 catches per season.
Can you guess who is No. 2 all time in receptions for the Packers?
Don Hutson? No. James Lofton? No. Jordy Nelson? No. Boyd Dowler? No.
The answer is Sterling Sharpe, who had 595 catches in just seven seasons in Green Bay. That averages out to a whopping 85 catches per season.
Driver is also first in pass receiving yardage, as he had 10,137 career yards. That averages out to be about 724 yards per season.
Lofton, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003, is next with 9,656 career yards in nine seasons. That averages out to be about 1,073 yards per season.
Sharpe is next with 8,134 career yards. That averages out to be about 1,162 yards per season.
There is no doubt that Sharpe was heading for a place among the best of the best in the Pro Football Hall of Fame before he suffered a career-ending neck injury in 1994, which cut short his career in the NFL.
Early in Sharpe’s career, he and quarterback Don Majkowski were a great tandem, especially in the 1989 season, when Sharpe caught 90 passes for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns.
But that was just a precursor until the arrival of quarterback Brett Favre. Once Favre became the starter early in the 1992 season, No. 4 and No. 84 became the dynamic duo.
From 1992 through 1994, Sharpe caught 314 passes (an average of 105 receptions per season) for 3,854 yards (an average of 1,295 yards per season) and 42 touchdowns (an average of 14 TDs per season).
Just imagine the numbers Sharpe would have put up in his career had he not been injured. Plus, also think about the effect he would have had being on the great teams the Packers had from 1995 through 1997, when the Packers won three straight NFC Central titles, went to three straight NFC titles games (winning two) and two straight Super Bowls (winning one).
Sharpe only had one opportunity to play in the postseason, which was in 1993. No. 84 was truly exceptional. In two games, Sharpe had 11 receptions for 229 yards (20.8 average) and four touchdowns.
The most memorable reception by Sharpe in that postseason, was when Favre in the last minute of the game vs. the Detroit Lions at the Pontiac Silverdome, threw a bomb across the field to No. 84 for a 40-yard touchdown pass to win the game 28-24.
It’s difficult to fathom just how dangerous the Packers would have been in the passing game from 1995 through 1997 if Sharpe was on the team. Favre won three straight MVPs in those three seasons, but his numbers would have been off the charts with Sharpe as his No. 1 receiver.
As it is, in his short seven-year career from 1988 through 1994, Sharpe was second only to Jerry Rice in receptions and touchdowns. Rice had 620 catches, compared to 595 by Sharpe. Rice also had 91 touchdowns versus the 65 caught by Sharpe.
But it’s also important to note that Sharpe was escalating upward in TD receptions once Favre arrived in 1992. And even with Rice dominating the NFL, Sharpe led the NFL in receptions three times, plus led in touchdown receptions twice.
Sharpe also won the “Triple Crown” in receiving in 1992, by leading the NFL in receptions (108), receiving yards (1,461) and touchdowns (13).
That has only been accomplished by six other players in NFL history. They are Rice, Hutson, Elroy Hirsch, Pete Pihos, Raymond Berry and Steve Smith. All except Smith have a bust in Canton and he just recently retired.
Sharpe was also named to five Pro Bowls, plus was first-team All-Pro three times by the Associated Press.
Had he not been injured, Sharpe would definitely been on the NFL’s All-Decade team in the 1990s. In my opinion, he would have joined Rice on the first team. But because of his injury, Cris Carter joined Rice on the first team, while Michael Irvin and Tim Brown were on the second team.
Rice, Carter, Irvin and Brown are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Let’s imagine that Sharpe played only three more years in the NFL had he not been injured in 1994. Based on what he had done in the regular season from 1992-1994 and what he had done in the postseason in 1993, one can certainly envision that the Packers may have been even more successful than winning just one Super Bowl in those three years.
If we take the production of Sharpe while Favre was his QB and add that to his career numbers for three more years, Sharpe would have had 910 career receptions, 12,019 career receiving yards and 107 career TDs.
Plus, just imagine the damage Sharpe would have done in the postseason. The Packers played in nine postseason games from 1995 through 1997. In the 1993 postseason alone, Sharpe averaged 5.5 catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns per game.
Sharpe was one of 102 names on this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame nominee’s list which was released a couple weeks back. Sharpe deserves to make the first cut to 25 players and then the final cut to 15 players when the the 48-person Hall of Fame selection committee names the Class of 2019 the day before Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta.
Sharpe should definitely be one of the members of the Class of 2019.
The great Gale Sayers is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, even with just a seven-year career in the NFL, which was cut short by a knee injury. The voters knew that Sayers was a special player who was a dominant force on the field when healthy.
The same holds true with Sharpe, who also just played seven years in the NFL. No. 84 was truly a dominant player in the NFL, plus his career was cut short due to injury while he was in his prime.
I believe it’s time for Sharpe to be on the enshrinement stage in Canton receiving a bust like his brother Shannon did in 2011.
It was Sterling who presented Shannon that day.
In 2019, Shannon can return the favor.
Sharpe will then become the 26th player from the Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining the group that recently added Jerry Kramer.
Sharpe will also be joining a couple of players who were on those great Green Bay teams in the 1990s. I’m talking about Favre and Reggie White. Safety LeRoy Butler is also deserving of consideration in Canton and I will write about that at a later time.
The bottom line is that Sharpe was second only to Jerry Rice in terms of production at wide receiver while both were in the NFL together. That has to tell you something, as Rice is considered the greatest wide receiver in modern-day NFL history.
Pre-1950, the greatest receiver ever in the NFL was certainly Hutson.
Like Kramer recently had happen, Hutson has his name on the Lambeau Field facade, which represents all the players from the Packers who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sharpe deserves his name up there too.