Andre Reed knew this wasn't going to be the year he entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith were eligible for the first time, and both were no-brainers. Space is limited in each class, and the voters weren't going to induct two receivers.
Reed this year finished among the 17 semifinalists a fourth time. Although the board of selectors didn't vote to enshrine him this year, he finished in the top 10, something he'd never done before.
"My phone was blowing up when we got to the final 10," Reed recalled of the selection process, which concludes Super Bowl weekend. "I hadn't gotten to the final 10 yet. You're only a stone's throw away then."
He also received more votes than Cris Carter for the first time, indicating Reed's candidacy is on the rise.
Reed's case is an interesting one that has been explored on this blog before. When the seven-time Pro Bowler retired in 2000, he ranked third all-time with 951 receptions. He has slid to eighth and probably will drop out of the top 10 this year. Randy Moss, Torry Holt and Hines Ward are closing in.
"That's just how it is," Reed said. "A lot of guys are going to have a lot of catches. The game has changed. Now it's pass to set up the run. Before it was run to set up the pass. But maybe catches won't be as much of a factor. It'll be how many championships, how many times did you go to the Super Bowl? It'll be more team-oriented because anybody can catch 800 balls nowadays.
"In 1989, I caught 88 balls. That was a career year. These guys are catching 100 balls left and right now. Wes Welker had 100 balls three years in a row. Is Wes Welker going to be a Hall of Famer? I don't know. It's an accomplishment to catch 100 balls a year, but ...
Reed was the best receiver on a team that won an unprecedented four consecutive conference titles. The Bills couldn't manage to win one Super Bowl, but that hasn't barred Reed's teammates from the Hall of Fame.
Twenty years from now there likely will be more inductees from the Bills of the 1990s than the New England Patriots of the 2000s. Already in are quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, defensive end Bruce Smith and head coach Marv Levy. So is James Lofton, who spent four seasons with Buffalo.
"I played in the best era of wide receivers ever, if you ask me," Reed said. "All the guys that are in my era are Hall of Famers. The next group of guys will be Terrell Owens and Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss.
"They'll be arguing about those guys, but it'll be a different argument because of how the game has evolved."
While folks are formulating those arguments, Reed is content to wait his turn.
"I'm humbled by it," he said. "I don't trip and say 'Aw, man!' If it's going to happen, it's not on my time. It's on somebody else's.
"My friends and family are more upset about it that I am. When it's my time, it's my time."