There are a myriad of reasons for Todd Christensen to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. To begin, here is a numerical contrast with inductees of Todd’s generation:
1000 YARD SEASONS
SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIPS
This represents close to four decades, a considerable amount of time. The omitting of Shannon Sharpe was because he was at the onset of a new era. With the league designating a number of rules in the passing game to encourage more offense, statistics for both throwing and receiving have grown, skewing generational comparisons.
Nevertheless, within Christensen’s pedigree are some groundbreaking achievements. In 1983, he caught 92 passes, for the second highest total in NFL season history (Johnny Morris of the Chicago Bears had 93 in 1963). It was also a record for tight ends, one he raised three years later to 95, becoming the only tight end in history to have caught 90 passes at the time, having done it twice. Twice he led the NFL in receptions, as did Kellen Winslow. Christensen and Winslow are the only tight ends still to have topped the league even once. Christensen went to five straight Pro Bowls and is the only player in history to have led the league in receiving for a Pro Football World Champion.
An interesting sidebar to that number is that it stood as the all-time fantasy league standard for twenty-eight years. In 2011, Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots finally bested Todd’s 92 receptions, 1247 yards, and 12 Touchdowns with 90 receptions, 1325 yards, and 16 TDs. A contributing factor can certainly be attributed to the ’11 Patriots having thrown the ball more than 100 times more than the Raiders of 1983 did. A simple projection reveals that with the additional throws, Christensen’s season could have been 111 receptions, 1504 yards, and 15 TDs. There are a variety of other projections of interest, but one that stands out is that Christensen had 36% of the Raider’s passing yardage in the 1983 season. Applying that to the 2011 Patriots’ 5084 yards yields a staggering Megatron/Rice-like 1840 yards.
Of course, playing with a Tom Brady would have been a blessing. Christensen did not, nor did he play for a reasonable facsimile. While other tight ends on this list were afforded Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Roger Staubach, Johnny Unitas, Dan Fouts), MVPs or Players of the Year (Ken Stabler, Brian Sipe, Jim Hart), or All-Pros (Greg Landry), everyone was afforded the chance to play with an All-Star. Christensen never played with even a Pro Bowl quarterback, burnishing his legacy that much more.
Christensen’s getting into the NFL may have been his biggest feat. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, he broke his foot and spent the year on Injured Reserve. He was released in Training Camp the following season. He was picked up by the New York Giants, but kept for only a week before being released again. Subsequent tryouts with the Patriots, Bears, Eagles, and Packers yielded nothing. The Raiders did finally sign him, but he sat the bench for four years before becoming a starter. During that time, he amassed a grand total of eight catches. Had he played from the onset like the other Hall of Famers, it is startling to think what standards he may have established for the position. As it is, Christensen’s is a great human-interest story that this “six-time loser” accomplished what he did given all that he had to overcome. Arguably, his finest hours were as a contributor to two World Champion teams (Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XV, and the Los Angeles Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII). That is a far cry from where he began as Vince Lombardi’s maxim rings true: “It is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” Christensen has proven himself with individual, team, and overcoming-the-odds success. Todd Christensen personifies what a Hall of Fame player should be. He deserves to be enshrined in Canton.