Raider Cliff Branch's Hall of Fame Resume Speaks for Itself
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a place where the greatest players in football get recognized and enshrined for life for their spectacular careers.
Twenty-six Raiders are listed as Pro Football Hall of Famers in Canton, Ohio. While there should be more, skepticism surrounds the Las Vegas Raiders on why players and coaches who are eligible to be inducted are not in it.
For example, the case for Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch is inexcusable.
Branch has been Hall of Fame-eligible since 1991. The reasons why he is not in the HOF does not make sense when comparing his success to other receivers from his era who are in the Hall of Fame.
"I don't want to hear about all these things, this or that, but he didn't do this, he didn't do that. He's a Hall of Famer," HOF coach Mike Ditka said.
A three-time Super Bowl champion, four-time Pro Bowler, and a three-time First Team All-Pro, his resume's questions are foolish.
Branch would finish his career with 501 receptions for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns.
Branch currently sits as the Raiders third-all time franchise leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
And he is one of six players who played in all three Raiders Super Bowl championship teams.
When Branch retired, he would become the NFL's career playoff leader in receiving yards and receptions, holding that spot until Jerry Rice came along.
During his era, he was often compared to Lynn Swann, the receiver of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Comparing Swann's career numbers to Branch's doesn't seem fair. Swann would tally 336 receptions for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns and would finish his career with four Super Bowl victories, one First-Team All-Pro selection, three Pro Bowls, and is inducted in the HOF.
According to Pro Football WR Hall of Fame Monitor, (a metric designed to estimate a player's chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame) Branch's 77.86 HOF metric scores are higher than Swann's 70.95 scores.
Research conducted by The Ethical Skeptic continues to show the leagues' bias against the Raiders.
Honoring the great Cliff Branch
The Oakland Raiders drafted Branch in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 1972 NFL Draft.
A former track star at the University of Colorado, Branch brought that speed to the field, creating his famous personal motto, "Speed kills."
"He changed the game, in the way a game is played as a wide receiver. People started going out and looking for speed, and looking for guys like Cliff Branch," said HOF cornerback Mel Blount, who covered Branch when the Raiders and Steelers played in those epic games.
In 1974, Branch led the NFL in receiving yards with 1,092 and 13 touchdown receptions.
Two years later, in '76, he finished second in receiving yards with 1,111, losing the No. 1 spot to Baltimore Colt Roger Carr. Branch would lead the NFL that season with 12 TD receptions.
In 1983, Branch would score on a 99-yard reception against the Washington Redskins, tied as the longest receiving touchdown in NFL history.
"The way Cliff played overshadows a lot of us," HOF wide receiver Fled Biletnikoff said.
Added quarterback Kenny "Snake" Stabler, another Hall of Famer: "When we broke the huddle, the first thing the defense looked for was where Cliff was lined up. He opened things up for the rest of our offense because they had to pay so much attention to him."
Branch retired from the NFL after the 1983 season, but would eventually come out of retirement in 1988 to play one season with the Los Angeles Cobras of the Arena Football League, the team's only season.
Branch died on August 3, 2019, at the age of 71 from natural causes.
A statement by the Raiders said: "Cliff Branch touched the lives of generations of Raiders fans. His loss leaves an eternal void for the Raiders Family, but his kindness and loving nature will be fondly remembered forever.
Cliff's on-field accomplishments are well documented and undeniably Hall of Fame worthy, but his friendship and smile are what the Raider Nation will always cherish."
"He dreamed of it. He actually thought that he was going in one day," said Elaine Anderson, Cliff's sister. " ... My sadness is that he's gone now, and I still believe he's going. It's not that I don't think he's going, I'm just sad because he's not here to witness it. And I think, when you work that hard, you ought to be the one to witness your accolades, your awards."
The Raiders organization has once again been put in an unfortunate position. If and when the time comes to have Branch inducted into the HOF, he will follow the steps of Stabler, who was not alive to accept his induction.
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