By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — For whatever reason, the internet loves to fight about whether Julian Edelman belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is absolutely wild stuff. People get really mad about it, too.

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It’s just a sports museum, people. Don’t get so angry!

Anyways, the argument against Edelman is no doubt a big one. He’s not a prototypical wide receiver, so he doesn’t have prototypical wide receiver stats. Likewise, he never got any prototypical wide receiver accolades, like Pro Bowl nods or All-Pro votes.

So, the logic goes, if he’s not worthy of being a First or Second Team All-Pro, and if he can’t even make a stinking Pro Bowl, then how on earth could you ever put him in the Hall of Fame?

It’s a fair point. But here’s the thing: The world of sports loves stories. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better story than Julian Edelman’s.

Yes, a “good story” doesn’t often inspire the sculptors to hop to work in crafting a bust for Canton. And ultimately, Edelman’s story may end up falling just short of qualification. Perhaps the voting committee won’t care much for the story of a seventh-round college quarterback becoming the second-most successful receiver in the history of NFL postseason football, a driving force in three Super Bowl victories for the most famed dynasty the league has ever seen.

But, like … they probably should, right?

Look, nobody would ever say that Edelman was better than Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald or Randy Moss or any other surefire Hall of Famer who’s played the position.


But there really is something to be said about the fact that Edelman wasn’t just a member of three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Rob Gronkowski (three certain Hall of Famers). Outside of the quarterback, the man was the driving force on offense.

The tale of the 2010s in the NFL cannot be told without Edelman, whose postseason performances were off-the-charts insane.

I could go on, but Bill Belichick’s words carry more weight in this kind of discussion. So first, here’s what he said about his seventh-round pick out of Kent State (emphasis added by me):

“By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career – wins, championships, production – Julian has it all. Few players can match Julian’s achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to excel. Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances. For all Julian did for our team, what I may appreciate the most is he was the quintessential throwback player. He could, and did, do everything – catch, run, throw, block, return, cover and tackle – all with an edge and attitude that would not allow him to fail under any circumstance. Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him.”
–Bill Belichick

That’s high praise.

Stat-wise, you could point out Edelman’s underwhelming regular-season statistics as reason for immediate Hall of Fame disqualification. But it would be more than a little disingenuous to simultaneously overlook his postseason statistics. Because those postseason statistics look like THIS:

1. Jerry Rice, 151
2. Julian Edelman, 118

1. Jerry Rice, 2,245
2. Julian Edelman, 1,442

That’s the greatest receiver in the history of the sport — the greatest by a mile, too — and there is Edelman right behind him. As Belichick said, that is historic.

And while some may yell that Edelman is only there because he’s had the opportunity to play in more playoff games … yes! That is kind of the point. The man is a winner. He makes plays to win games.

The 2014 Patriots simply do not beat the Ravens in the divisional round if not for Edelman’s 74 receiving yards and ultra-sweet rainbow touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. Instead of a first Super Bowl victory in a decade for the Patriots, it’s another lost year in New England.

The 2015 team wouldn’t have beaten the Chiefs if Edelman hadn’t returned from injury to put forth a tidy 10-catch, 100-yard performance while dusting Marcus Peters all day long.

The 2016 Patriots probably could have beaten Houston and Pittsburgh without Edelman. Probably. But he caught 16 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown in those two games, so … maybe not?

Likewise, his nine-catch, 151-yard performance against the Chargers in the 2018 divisional round was instrumental, as were his clutch catches in overtime in Kansas City, part of his 96-yard night at frigid Arrowhead.

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Just like Brady, Edelman got more chances to play in the postseason, but he also earned those chances.

And then on the biggest stage in sports, Edelman was utterly absurd. In three Super Bowls, the man caught 24 passes for 337 yards and a game-winning touchdown against a historically great defense. He made a legacy-defining play in the second victory, and then he absolutely roasted an entire secondary en route to becoming just the seventh receiver to ever earn Super Bowl MVP honors.

That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is an important story in the history of the NFL.

And you may say, “That’s great, you imbecile, but great stories don’t earn Hall of Fame enshrinement.”

I’d respond by saying three things.

First, I don’t like your tone. You’re mean.

Second, you may be right!

Third, and most importantly, “stories” and postseason performances have gotten a number of people into the Hall of Fame already! Seriously! Look it up!

OK, fine, I’ll look it up for you.

Joe Namath. Broadway Joe. A legend of the game, right? Guaranteeing a win in Super Bowl III over the mighty Baltimore Colts, changing NFL history and immortalizing his legend forever. That’s great!

But also: Namath finished his career with 173 touchdown passes and 220 interceptions. He led the league in interceptions four times. He completed a hair over 50 percent of his passes.

After famously winning that Super Bowl (with no touchdowns and no interceptions, mind you) and trotting off the field with his finger held high, Namath made it back to exactly one playoff game. He threw no touchdowns and three picks and lost, 13-6, to the Chiefs the following season. He went 25-40 as a starting quarterback from that point forward.

To put it another way: The man is in the Hall of Fame solely because of what he did in January of 1969. And rightfully so. Nobody has an issue with it.

The best comparison may be Lynn Swann, who was a critical member of the Steelers on their run of four Super Bowls.

Lynn Swann, regular season stats: 336 receptions, 5,462 yards, 51 TDs
Julian Edelman, reg. season stats: 620 receptions, 6,822 yards, 36 TDs

Lynn Swann, playoff stats: 48 receptions, 907 yards, 9 TDs, Super Bowl MVP
Julian Edelman, playoff stats: 118 receptions, 1,442 yards, 5 TDs, Super Bowl MVP

You could say it’s a different era for passing, and you’d be right. But isn’t … Edelman … still better than Hall of Famer Lynn Swann?

Here’s another Hall of Famer for you: Kurt Warner. Here’s a guy who did win a Super Bowl and a pair of MVP trophies, so he’s got some heavy-duty lines on that resume. But he also lost his job to Marc Bulger in St. Louis, lost his job to Eli Manning in New York, lost his job to Josh McCown and Matt Leinart in Arizona. Given this spotty history of holding on to his starting job in the NFL, Warner likely got the boost from his impressive postseason resume, which saw him win a Super Bowl and lose two more.

While we’re here, check out Terrell Davis. He had four very good NFL seasons, and seven NFL seasons total. But he helped carry the Broncos to two Super Bowls late in John Elway’s career, so he’s in the Hall of Fame, too.

Of course, those guys had their Pro Bowls and All-Pros and MVPs and whatnot, and Edelman does not. Nevertheless, his accomplishments in the biggest games the sport has to offer are significant offerings for the discussion. They should be considered appropriately.

Ultimately, it doesn’t affect any one of us whether or not Edelman gets his head turned into bronze to be immortalized forever in Ohio. Seriously. So nobody should go too crazy in arguing either way about whether Edelman — or anyone else — belongs in the museum. Life’s too short.

It’s just worth noting that in this discussion … it’s not ridiculous at all to suggest that the zero Pro Bowl, zero All-Pro Edelman is worth serious consideration. One of the most important, high-profile chapters in NFL history cannot be told without Edelman, one of the most critical authors of that tale. It may not be traditional, but in the words of Belichick, it was historic. And in terms of a Hall of Fame that honors history and the men who write it, that has to count for something.

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You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.