Originally Posted by RavenManiac
I'll start by saying that, despite my handle and favorite team, I am not a Ward-hater. I think the guy plays the game exactly the way it should be played and then some. I also think he deserves the HoF, clearly. I am not sure about first ballot. And frankly I think Irvin on first ballot was a stretch/mistake. But (how stat nerds could argue)...
The argument why Irvin gets in before Ward would focus primarily on two things: 1) they played in different eras, and passing/receiving stats were harder to come by 10 years prior, and 2) Irvin played 58 less games.
As for point 1). You mentioned Troy Aikman, but have you looked at Aikman's stats? He averaged less than 200 yards per game for his career. Tomzcak/Stewart averaged about the same in 1999. Aikman threw for more than 3000 yards only 5 times in 12 seasons, and never more than 3445. In other words, Joe Flacco (or Flunko around here), has already thrown for more yards in a season than Troy's best year three times (of his 4 years). And, contrary to my handle and team, I think Flacco is very average. Aikman also only threw for 20+ TDs one season (check his stats they are crazy-mediocre by today's standards). Part of this fact is the era difference and part is that Emmitt got a ton of touches/yards.
On the other hand, in 2002, Maddox/Stewart combined for 4000 yards. Actually Roethlisberger's first two years are closer to Aikman's average type of games, while after that, Ben started putting up stats that were like Aikman's best years, and in a couple years BR absolutely crushed Aikman's best.
Also, Ward's best year in terms of yardage (2002), 1329 yards, saw Burress put up a similar 1325 (on 34 less catches). The year before in 2001, when Ward put up 1003, Burress put up 1008 (on 28 less catches). Those were two of Ward's better (Pro-Bowl) years.
Irvin on the other hand, shared yards with Harper and Novacek but was always the clear statistical leader (#1).
As for point 2). Irvin averaged 4.7 Rec for 74.9 Yards and .409 TDs per game. Ward averaged 4.6 Rec for 55.7 and .392 TDs per game. The difference in per game yards is significantly large. Irvin averaged 34.4% more yards per game over his career.
Of course longevity can be a double edged sword. In theory it is a good thing but in terms of career totals it can be viewed somewhat as a negative. In other words, player A's best/peak years are better but Player B makes up for it with longevity.
If you look at PFR's AV statistics (which are clearly subjective, but also respected) you can see the quality vs quantity difference. Irvin has 5 years where he blows Ward's best year out of the water with AV's of: 15, 17, 17, 18, 19, to Ward's best year of 12.
Bottomlines for the argument would be: the SuperBowls are a wash. Irvin had better stats in his best seasons. Ward lasted longer/stayed healthier.
Again, I am playing Devil's advocate. I think Ward's run blocking alone, which does not show up in any form in any statsheet is worth an extra 3-4k yards to his team over his career (or more). His lockerroom/sideline/huddle leadership/attitude also, I believe, crushes Irvin's. Irvin also was allowed to push off in his era which mitigates some of the era difference.
I think Irvin shouldn't have been a first balloter, and I think Ward should get in. When? I have no idea, considering the logjam, but he deserves the induction. I also can see how people will not conclude that based on Irvin, Ward deserves the same result.