It began after the AFC Championship Game.
After Julian Edelman caught seven passes for 96 yards against the Chiefs and was -- once again -- the player everyone knew the ball was going to but who still couldn’t be stopped.
That’s when discussion about him Edelman turning in historic performances turned into chatter about whether he could be a Hall of Famer.
That musing was met with howls of disapproval from Patriot-fatigued fans and analysts.
Edelman -- a system receiver, a slot receiver, a player who profited merely from taking a series of checkdowns from Tom Brady -- was being pushed forward by homer New England fans and media who have somehow come to think over the last two decades that Boston is the birthplace of football.
Edelman -- a nice little player, to be sure -- had never been a Pro Bowler, never mind an All-Pro. If he was being pushed for Canton, who's next? Ryan Wendell?
Then Edelman went out and caught 10 passes for 141 yards in the Super Bowl and was named the game’s MVP. In doing so, he moved into second place in all-time postseason yards and receptions behind only Jerry Rice.
To think Edelman -- who dated Rice’s daughter Jacqui from middle school into college -- was now in the same stratosphere as the greatest wide receiver of all-time . . . that didn’t slow the musing.
Doug Kyed of NESN put together a fascinating story after the AFC Championship Game putting into context Edelman’s numbers.
Prior to becoming an integral piece of the Patriots’ offense, Edelman had nine receptions for 75 yards with two touchdowns in five postseason games. Let’s subtract those from Edelman’s playoff totals for a moment. That leaves Edelman with 96 catches for 1,196 yards with three touchdowns in 12 postseason games since becoming a full-time starter.
Extrapolate that over a 16-game season, and Edelman would have 128 receptions for 1,596 yards with four touchdowns. Only four receivers have had more than 128 catches in a single season. Only 23 receivers have had more than 1,596 yards in a single season. And Edelman’s putting up those numbers when games matter most.
And that was before the Super Bowl.
As for Edelman being a system guy, Kyed addressed that:
Former Patriots receiver Troy Brown appeared in 20 playoff games and had 58 postseason receptions for 694 yards with two touchdowns. Deion Branch appeared in 17 playoff games and had 64 catches for 948 yards with four touchdowns. Danny Amendola played in 13 postseason games and had 57 catches for 709 yards with six touchdowns. Wes Welker played in 13 postseason games and had 88 catches for 866 yards with five touchdowns.
Edelman is tied for second all-time in 100-yard postseason games with six. He’s tied with Michael Irvin and trails Rice by two. The players Edelman was tied with prior to the Super Bowl are Hall of Famers -- Andre Reed and John Stallworth -- or headed there (Antonio Brown and Larry Fitzgerald).
So much of the Edelman “debate” really boils down to pedigree. His candidacy is marginalized because he’s a slot receiver. He was a seventh-round pick, a converted quarterback from Kent State. He doesn’t take the top off the defense. He’s not physically imposing. He looks like that guy at your gym who’s always wearing sleeveless t-shirts and checking out his triceps in the mirror while he’s talking to people. He seems ordinary.
Which, to me, is kind of the point. To be able to look like just anyone but still perform like nobody else ever has except the greatest there’s ever been? And to do it in the most important games? Historic performances? Isn’t that what the Pro Football Hall of Fame wants to have its patrons experience when they walk through its halls? The wide range of NFL greatness?
Take a look at the accompanying video, produced and edited by my great friend Adam Hart, for a little more perspective.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.