State Your Case: why WR Otis Taylor deserves a look from Canton

Otis Taylor photo courtesy of Kansas City Chiefs

The 1960s produced a football tale of two Taylors. One is in the Hall of Fame. The other is not.

Charley Taylor was the third overall selection of the 1964 draft by the Washington Redskins. He became the NFL’s rookie of the year as a running back, then moved to wide receiver in his third season. He went to eight Pro Bowls – two as a running back and six as a wide receiver – and became a 1960s NFL all-decade selection. He now has a bust in Canton.

Taylor was a different type of wide receiver by the game’s 1960s standards. At 6-3, 210 pounds, he was a jumbo wideout, almost a tight end on the flank but with speed. He could be as physical with cornerbacks as they were with him.

Otis Taylor was the Charley Taylor of the AFL. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1965 and, at 6-3, 215 pounds, he was even bigger than Charley Taylor. And just as physical – with 4.4 speed. Taylor quickly became the go-to guy in the Kansas City offense, helping the Chiefs win two AFC championships and a Super Bowl.

After the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, there was a two-year window when Otis Taylor was the best wide receiver in all of football. He went to his first two Pro Bowls in 1971-72 and was a two-time first-team All-Pro. In 1971, he was the only player in the NFL with 1,000 yards in receptions.

But Otis Taylor has never been discussed as a Hall of Fame finalist. Maybe the Hall of Fame selection committee hasn’t grasped the greatness of Otis Taylor, but the Lombardi Packers certainly did.

Green Bay won the NFL title and Kansas City the AFL title in 1966, earning the right to play in the first Super Bowl. The Packers knew little of the Chiefs until they watched the game films in their Super Bowl preparations. That’s when they identified the greatness of Taylor, who averaged 22.4 yards per catch that season with his AFL runnerup 58 receptions.

“We thought they would have to go to Otis Taylor to beat us,” Green Bay’s Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley said. “Taylor would have to come up with a big day, he and (quarterback Len) Dawson. I knew I had to shut down Taylor some kind of way, not let him run wild like he did against the Vikings (in Super Bowl IV). Shutting down Taylor was important to the Packers.”

But shutting down Taylor would be a much tougher task that it appeared on film.

“Just from watching film, I knew Otis Taylor was one of the best wide receivers in the game,” Adderley said. “But seeing the guy play on the field and seeing him in person are two different things. Otis was bigger, faster and quicker than I thought. He was as good as any receiver I ever covered. He was like Charley Taylor.”

But the Packers didn’t have to take Otis Taylor out of the game. The Chiefs did. They threw Taylor only four passes that day and wound up on the short end of a 35-10 score.

But Kansas City did not repeat that mistake the next time the Chiefs reached the Super Bowl. Three years later, Dawson threw Taylor the ball six times for 81 yards in Super Bowl IV with a touchdown – a 46-yarder down the sideline late in the third quarter that put the Minnesota Vikings away, 23-7.

The AFL was a pass-driven league in the 1960s with Joe Namath, Jack Kemp, John Hadl and Dawson flinging the ball to all corners of the field. The NFL was the run-driven league that decade with the Jim Browns, Jim Taylors, Gale Sayers’ and John David Crows all trampling defenses on the ground. Yet there are twice as many NFL wide receivers (6) as AFL wideouts (3) in the Hall of Fame from the 1960s.

Lance Alworth, Don Maynard and Fred Biletnikoff carried the AFL banner to Canton, while the Charlie Hennigans, Lionel Taylors and Otis Taylors have all been passed over.

In 11 seasons, Otis Taylor caught 410 passes for 7,306 yards, an average of 17.8 yards per catch, plus 57 touchdowns. In 13 seasons, Charley Taylor caught 649 passes for 9,110 yards, an average of 14.0 yards per catch, plus 79 touchdowns.

If you judge players by statistics, you’ll find better Hall of Fame candidates than Otis Taylor. But if you judge players by their impact on the game during the era they played, Otis Taylor is long overdue his discussion as a Hall of Fame finalist.

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  1. Rob
    February 6, 2018

    Rick, do you think that Johnny Robinson has the best chance of coming out the Senior Pool of the 60s Chiefs?

    • Rick Gosselin
      February 6, 2018

      With Jerry Kramer’s enshrinement, Johnny Robinson is now the only first-team all-decade player of the 1960s without a bust in Canton. He sits at the very top of the queue.

  2. bachslunch
    February 6, 2018

    Rick, enjoyed reading this and good points made.

    I go back and forth on Otis Taylor and the HoF. His honors are okay at 3/3/none. He had 3-4 really good seasons at most with some middling ones thrown in, and his career is neither overly short nor long. As Rick mentioned, he was big for a WR and reportedly was a decent blocker for the position.

    The big difference between Taylor and similar types of wideouts like Charley Taylor and Art Monk is compiling stats, with these last two being able to play long enough to claim the career record for catches. Give Taylor a few more productive seasons and he might have reached these heights too. As it is, I’m hard pressed to rank him above folks like Mac Speedie, Billy Wilson, Del Shofner, Billy Howton, Drew Pearson, Cliff Branch, Harold Jackson, or Harold Carmichael, not to mention perhaps Art Powell or Harold Carmichael. That’s a boatload of snubbed worthies.

    • Rick Gosselin
      February 6, 2018

      The enshrinements of Kenny Easley and Terrell Davis have allowed the committee to shrink the window of greatness when discussing candidates. And when Otis Taylor was at his best, there were none better. He was the complete package.

      • bachslunch
        February 6, 2018

        Rick, interesting argument, but things get tricky going that direction. Example: is Taylor more in need of a case presentation than Shofner, who was arguably the best in the league for 5 years with not much beyond that? Or Speedie, arguably the best for 4 years with three solid years extra? Or Jackson, who had about three great years and a ton of solid compiling? Or Carmichael, who had one or two great years and a load of solid compiling? Where the priorities go when you have limited opportunities to get people in the room is an interesting question.

        Of course, the best answer is to get them all a hearing and get them elected. Again, I’m not staunchly anti-Taylor — but the backlog is god-awful at the position and I’m trying to figure out the best order to rank them given that we can’t get them all a hearing at once. For me, it’s really tough to justify him going to the head of the line.

  3. Gregory Kelser
    February 6, 2018

    Hello Rich, it’s your Spartan buddy Greg Kelser. Otis Taylor what’s my favorite football player as a youngster. I think he’s a victim of the way the game was played at times and Hank Stram’s play calling with Len Dawson. There was a game in 69 where Dawson only threw six times against Oakland. He only threw 17 passes in the Super Bowl win over Minnesota. if Otis Taylor had played for San Diego or the Jets he would have been in the Hall of Fame 30 years ago. Now I think he gets judged too much by today’s wide receiver standards, but if you look at his overall abilities he was as good as anybody who ever played the position.

  4. Rick Gosselin
    February 6, 2018

    I got to know Otis when I moved to Kansas City to cover the Chiefs in the 1970s. Great guy in addition to a great player. Like our fellow Spartan Herb Adderley said, you had to see Otis Taylor to really appreciate him. Big, strong, fast, physical — he was a diesel that would not be denied on the flank. If he had played in today’s NFL, he’d have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

  5. Kerouac
    February 10, 2018

    Otis Taylor comes up bigger than his stats indicate, receptions/frame.
    Otis told me that he played at 227 (not the 215 listed), and ran 4.5 40 (not 4.4) – also was once quoted as saying he would have caught 150 passes a year, had he played in the more recent era (would’ve been a Terrell Owens/Randy Moss type, sans the prima donna aspect, each.)

    Otis Taylor came up ‘biggest’ in big games: AFL Championship vs BUF, SB 1 vs GB, AFL Championship vs OAK & SB 4 vs MIN. Otis could catch, blocked like a TE his early days, great hands and leaping ability, moves – route running & concentration (both concerns early) became assets.

    A couple lesser known’s I was able witness: 1966, one-handed td catch vs BOST (QB was trying throw the ball out of bounds), and 1971 KC 4-1 vs WASH 5-0, Otis a game-winning one-handed td catch despite CB Pat Fischer hanging on him/pinning his arm… pure magic.

    Several graceful WR’s Lance Alworth, Paul Warfield and Charley Taylor among others, but, to this day, Otis Taylor remains ‘the most graceful’ WR I have ever seen.

    Stats? There’s the rub. His stats are already Hall of Fame worthy, if HOF’r Lynn Swann’s lesser stats than Otis is the measure. That Otis isn’t enshrined despite better stats than Swann ‘back east’ bias my opine, considering Swann also had several HOF teammates offense help him/divert attention (Bradshaw, Harris, Stallworth & Webster); Otis had one, QB Len Dawson.

    While were talking KC offense, is ‘offensive’ to me the best OT of his era if not ever Jim Tyrer isn’t enshrined – OG Ed Budde deserves an good, hard look – punter Jerrell Wilson was merely better than OAK’s Guy gross AND net average career, stats/game film reviews affirm.

    My sentiment, a matter of ‘what might have been’ case Otis: had he played on a team that favored passing (OAK/Lamonica, SD/Hadl, NYJ /Namath examples) in lieu running, he would have matched or even exceeded career stats peers his Maynard, Alworth, Biletnikoff, et al.

    Too, injuries hampered him more so the other referenced guys (fwiw, Otis played 10 years, then was injured KC’s opening drive on the third offensive play opening day 1975/year 11, and never played again.) KC fan this, only one #89 football lingers memory, ever will: Otis Taylor.

  6. William McCoy
    February 11, 2018

    Growing up in 60’s & 70’s, i was always amazed watching Otis Taylor & Drew Pearson…i think they both belong in HOF…

  7. Richard Cohen
    February 14, 2018

    I sat in the stands at War Memorial stadium , the “old Rockpile”, in Buffalo, N.Y. as a young boy. I had the opportunity to watch the Chiefs, and Otis Taylor play many games. Taylor was simply outstanding, not only fast, but huge. He was always a threat, that had to be stopped, or you lost the game. In those days Otis was considered the equal of Lance Alworth, and Don Maynard as primary outside deep threats.

    I have been watching Bills football for over 55 years, and the best legal “crackback” block I ever witnessed was put on Butch Byrd by Otis Taylor in a game in Buffalo. When I say Taylor “creamed” Byrd, I can still hear the thunder and smack of that hit ! Since that day, I have never witnessed a harder, more exact, legal hit on a corner back.

    In my opinion, Otis Taylor belongs in Canton. He dominated the league for many years, and no one was better than him!

  8. brian wolf
    October 6, 2018

    Of all the great AFL players, Taylor, Tyrer, Grayson and Hill are the most deserving of the HOF.

    Taylor was graceful and physical and played on a conservative playcalling team that loved to run the ball with multiple backs and save Dawsons knees from punishment. He made routine one handed catches, and like Paul Warfield, sacrificed numbers for the goal of winning.

    Please HOF Committees, consider and eventually put the likes of Otis Taylor, Winston Hill, Dave Grayson and Jim Tyrer in this Hall Of Fame.

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