After years of being wrongfully ignored by the Hall of Fame selection committee, Raiders legend Cliff Branch has been named a Senior Finalist for 2022. This section of the ballot also includes former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil.
Branch, one of the fastest players of all time, is known for helping change offensive football. In his 183 career games, Cliff Branch recorded 501 receptions, 8,685 yards, and 67 touchdowns, His post-season heroics are also well known as he was part of all three Raiders Super Bowl-winning teams.
En route to three All-Pro selections, Branch became the NFL’s premier deep threat. As the highlights of Branch running past defenses for long scores continued, the rest of the league took notice. “Cliff Branch changed the game,” said Raiders owner Mark Davis. Today, every team in the league has a wide receiver capable of stretching the field. Much of this can be attributed to the threat Branch posed defenses at all times. “Safeties had to be aware of him,” said Davis.
Cliff Branch will now be forever enshrined alongside his quarterback for many years, Ken Stabler. Like Stabler, Branch would have to wait until after his passing to get the honor he deserved. Truthfully, both men deserved to be able to witness the honor. However, Cliff and his family knew this day would come. When Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker called Branch’s sister she said “It was all he talked about – when he would go to the Hall of Fame.”
Before his passing in 2011, longtime Raider’s figurehead Al Davis had one last unfulfilled goal: to see Cliff Branch enter Canton. Somewhere, Mr. Davis is smiling. A Hall of Famer in every sense of the word, the NFL finally got this one right.
Branch died on August 3rd, 2019.
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