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Julian Edelman made plenty of outstanding catches during his 12 years with the Patriots, carving out an impressive career despite being drafted in the seventh round in 2009. John Froschauer/Associated Press

Players’ legacies would be much easier to properly appreciate if people didn’t rush to anoint them as Hall of Famers the second they retired.

Unfortunately, that is the depth to which the collective understanding and dialogue of the NFL game has descended, most recently after Julian Edelman called it quits last week.

There is a rush to elevate players who have accomplished anything significant in professional football to Canton.

And that premature declaration creates a backlash, which correctly produces detractors during a time when the player should be celebrated.

Edelman was a tough, versatile and productive player who won three Super Bowls, including an iconic catch in Super Bowl LI and a Super Bowl LIII MVP award a few years back.

He was a key player who helped Bill Belichick and Tom Brady complete the second half of their six-championship Patriots dynasty that spanned 2001-18.

But was he transcendent and consistently great?

Clutch? Definitely. Valuable? No question. But transcendent and consistently great?

Listen, it’s no skin off my back if Edelman or any player is voted in or not. I am all for elevating players and their legacies, appreciating the individual over the jersey, and giving guys who deserve it a pat on the back.

But that’s exactly what I’m saying: Edelman just retired. Let’s appreciate what he did and how well he did it. He had a great career, especially as a 2009 seventh-round pick out of Kent State.

He is the latest example that all of these high-and-mighty GMs and coaches who thumb their noses at the analytics and mock draft communities often know no better.

(In fact, Hall of Fame sports writer Rick Gosselin was the one who tipped off Belichick to Edelman during the draft process in the first place. And I will never forget Gosselin saying on a podcast in recent years that he didn’t appreciate Belichick telling that story, thereby becoming the first source of Gosselin’s to out himself.)

There is no need, however, to force the Hall of Fame moniker upon Edelman or any player who wasn’t transcendent and consistently great right when they retire.

Because doing that is what elicits the very reasonable retort that he is not, and gums up the discussion of Edelman’s career, with detractors and counterpoints that might tear him down.

For example, my preference is to appreciate Edelman’s career for what it was. But if one would use his Super Bowl MVP award as a point in his favor, I would respond that he shouldn’t have won that award.

The Patriots held a Rams offense averaging 32.9 points per game to three points in a 13-3 Super Bowl win, and an offensive player with no touchdowns and three second-half catches was voted the game’s most valuable player.

(There’s a strike against the sports writers.)

This is actually a perfect explanation of why these snap Hall of Fame conversations are happening:

Enough people watched that game and decided Edelman (10 catches, 141 yards) was more critical to the result than Dont’a Hightower or another defensive standout.

Hard to believe, but it happened, and it will stand in the history books forever.

That said, Edelman of course had a terrific career: 620 catches for 6,822 yards and 36 TDs in the regular season; 118 catches for 1,442 yards and five TDs in the playoffs.

He threw passes, including two TDs. He returned punts and kicks. He carried the ball. He played defense. He played through injuries. He was tough as nails.

However, he was not the best player at his position or one of the best players in his sport for years on end. He was not transcendent and consistently great. And that’s OK.

“He could, and did, do everything,” Belichick said in a glowing statement. “Catch, run, throw, block, return, cover, 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.”

High and deserved praise from arguably the best NFL head coach of all time. And that is enough. Or it should be.


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