So tell us, T.O.: Why not these wide receivers, too?


Drew Pearson completes 50-yard touchdown vs. Minnesota Dec. 28, 1975, in "Hail Mary" pass sequence in NFC Playoff game at Bloomington, Minn. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys)

Shortly before the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2017, former wide receiver Terrell Owens took to Twitter to bash voters for excluding him from Canton a second consecutive year.

“HOF is a total joke,” he tweeted. “Honestly, doesn’t mean anything to me to get in beyond this point.”

Apparently, it does. Because he and his supporters can’t stop talking about it.

 

But while the debate rages on, here’s something to consider: First, just because Owens didn’t make it to Canton his first two years of eligibility doesn’t mean he won’t make it, period. It took Michael Irvin three years. It took Cris Carter and Tim Brown six each. It took Art Monk eight, Don Maynard and Andre Reed nine each and John Stallworth 10. And Bob Hayes didn’t get there until his 29th year of eligibility … as a senior candidate.

Second, there are other qualified wide receivers waiting to hear from Canton, yet they have little or no chance … and not because they don’t have the resumes; but because they have been forgotten.

By the Hall. By fans. By former players like Terrell Owens.

Then there’s this: There were seven all-decade players excluded from the Class of 2017, with Owens among them, yet we don’t hear anyone banging the drum for the other six. Which is interesting because, unlike Owens, many of them were first-team all-decade. Owens was a second-team choice.

My guess is that most, if not all, will get in. But there are others from other eras who are as deserving but who won’t reach Canton, and they play the same position as Terrell Owens. You don’t hear about them, and you don’t hear from them.

But maybe you should.

DREW PEARSON

Lynn Swann is one of two starting receivers on the 1970s’ all-decade team. The other is Pearson. Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Pearson — who beat out Hall-of-Famers Paul Warfield, Charlie Joiner, Steve Largent, Fred Biletnikoff and John Stallworth for all-decade honors — is not, and that makes no sense. In fact, he’s one of only two offensive players from the first and second teams of that all-decade squad not to be enshrined. The other? Second-team wideout, Harold Carmichael. But it gets better: Pearson and Carmichael are the only wide receivers from any all-decade team of the 1970s, 80s and 90s not to be enshrined in Canton. There were nine Hall-of-Fame wide receivers who played in the 1970s, but Pearson is not among them … and someone want to explain why? Called “Mr. Clutch” for his big-game catches, he was on the receiving end of the famous “Hail Mary” in a 1975 playoff defeat of Minnesota. But not only is he not in Canton; he has never been discussed.

STERLING SHARPE

When Sharpe’s younger brother, Shannon, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he implored voters to consider Sterling because, as Shannon put it, he was better. He might be right. In a seven-year career cut short by a neck injury, Sharpe was named All-Pro five times, and in 1992 he won the Triple Crown of receiving by leading the league in catches, yards receiving and receiving TDs. He had 108 catches that season, breaking Art Monk’s single-season record of 84. Andre Rison, who was second, had 93. In 1993, he led the league again, breaking his own record with 112 receptions. Jerry Rice was second with 98. One year later, he led the league with 18 touchdown catches, the second-most in league history to Rice’s 22 in 1987. I think you get the picture. The guy was a load. But has he ever been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist or finalist? Nope.

LaVERN DILWEG

Considered the best all-around wide receiver prior to Hall-of-Famer Don Hutson, Dilweg is one of only two players on the 1920s’ all-decade team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He won three straight championships with the Green Bay Packers and was named All-Pro six consecutive years – including one season when he was a unanimous choice. Like Hutson, he is a member of the Packers’ Hall of Fame. Unlike Hutson, he is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame … and has never been discussed.

HENRY ELLARD

Despite playing on run-heavy teams the first third of his career, Ellard was a dominant receiver – ranked third in yards and fourth in catches when he retired after the 1998 season. In an era when 1,000-yard seasons were uncommon, he put together seven in nine years– including one where he averaged … averaged … 19.7 yards per catch. And, at the age of 35, he averaged 19.4 yards per reception. He had world-class speed and was an effective punt returner with the Rams before they traded Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis. Then, his career took off, with Ellard putting up a league-best 1,414 yards on 86 catches. Ellard never played with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback like Steve Young (he and Owens were together for a little over three seasons before Young was hurt), but it didn’t handicap him. Nevertheless, he has never been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist.

CLIFF BRANCH

He led the league in catches and yards in 1974. Two years later, he averaged 24.2 yards per catch. He was a four-time All-Pro … in four consecutive seasons. And he was a three-time Super Bowl champion. Ask anyone on the San Diego Chargers then who was the most dangerous receiver they faced, and, to a man, they would name Branch. When he retired he led the league in playoff catches and yards. He had more catches than Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann. He had more yards and touchdowns, too. I’m not saying Swann doesn’t belong in the Hall; what I am saying is: What’s not to like about Cliff Branch? Now, stop if you heard this before: He has never been discussed by the Hall’s board of selectors.

HAROLD JACKSON

A five-time Pro Bowl choice, he twice led the league in yards receiving and once led it in receptions and touchdowns. During his career he had 29 100-yard games and three 1,000-yard seasons, and when he retired only Hall-of-Fame Don Maynard had more yards. As NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal wrote this week, Jackson was a dominant force of his era – ranking first in catches, yards receiving and touchdown receptions for the 1970s. Yet he’s not only not in the Hall of Fame; he has never been discussed.

HAROLD CARMICHAEL

He led the league in catches and yards receiving one year. He was third in yards in 1978 and, one year later, second in catches. He was named the backup to Drew Pearson on the all-decade team of the 1970s and, when he retired, ranked seventh in career touchdown receptions. In fact, touchdowns comprised 13.6 percent of his career catches, and I mention that because it was 12.2 for Hall-of-Famer Charley Taylor, who led the league in receptions twice but never led in yards. Pro Football Focus compares receivers from different eras, and the receivers compared to Carmichael are Larry Fitzgerald, Fred Biletnikoff, Keyshawn Johnson and John Stallworth. Biletnikoff and Stallworth are in the Hall, and Fitzgerald will be one day. But Harold Carmichael? Along with the rest of this list, gone and forgotten.

MAC SPEEDIE

In his seven-year career, he went to seven championship games – winning four of them – and led the league in catches four times. Furthermore, he was named an All-Pro six times … six in seven seasons … and his career average of 800 yards per season was so prodigious it wasn’t eclipsed for two decades after his retirement. Like Owens, he was an all-decade choice. Unlike Owens, he was a team MVP. After he left the Browns in a contract dispute, he played two years in Canada and was so good he was named all-league there, too. So, let’s get this straight: He won championships. He was all-league in two countries. And he held a receiving record that stood for over 20 years. But while he’s been a three-time finalist, he can’t get in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, either. Someone please explain.

BILLY WILSON

He led the league three times in catches. He had more receptions than anyone in the 1950s. And he was a six-time Pro Bowler when it meant something. Wilson was so good that Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Walsh called him “the top pass receiver of his time and one of the best blockers.” Nice, huh? It gets better. Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula — who, as a defensive back had to cover Wilson – described Wilson as “one of the few players from another era that would excel today,” while former teammate Bob St. Clair – another Hall of Famer – called him “one of the most underrated players in NFL history.” But don’t bother looking for him in Canton, and I think you know why. Repeat after me: Never been discussed as a finalist.

BILLY HOWTON

This is all you need to know about Howton: In seven seasons with Green Bay, he led the team in receiving six times, led the league in receiving yards twice and scored the most receiving touchdowns once. But we’re just getting started: As a rookie, he caught 13 touchdown passes. That was 1952. Four years later, he had 257 yards in receptions vs. the Rams. Both are franchise records (one for rookies)  that remain today.  He also had two 200-plus yard receiving games, the only Packer outside of Don Hutson with more than one; averaged 18.4 yards a catch and was named to four Pro Bowls. He played one season in Cleveland, leading the Browns in catches, before finishing his career with the Cowboys, where he led the team twice in catches. When he retired in 1963 he was the NFL leader in career receptions and yardage, breaking Hutson’s record, with two fewer touchdown catches (61) than Stallworth and four fewer than Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner and Bobby Mitchell — all Hall of Famers. So why hasn’t he been discussed? Good question.

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28 Comments

  1. bachslunch
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, great article, well argued and researched. Great to see old-timers Lavvie Dilweg, Mac Speedie, and Billy Wilson brought up. If there were room for one more, would plead to include Billy Howton, but absolutely can’t find fault with the players you chose. All are most deserving.

    And anyway, TO will get in sooner or later. Waiting a bit is not unusual for WRs, as Cris Carter, Tim Brown, and Andre Reed will surely attest to. TO and his supporters need to bite their tongues and have some patience — in fact, all the epic scale whining may backfire instead of help.

    • February 8, 2017
      Reply

      Great to hear from you. Again. And pretty fast after post went up. So many good WRs who werent chosen, with some of these cases just so hard to understand. Pearson a first-team all-decade in era when plenty of outstanding receivers, many of whom in Hall. Yet he cannot get a sniff. Just dont get it. So Owens demands to get in … and hes not even first-team. Anyway, dont get me started. Appreciate the response.

    • February 8, 2017
      Reply

      Just wrote Marc. I did add Howton. Should be included. Not sure why never discussed. Did all this with losing teams. As i told Marc, appreciate the note. Made a difference and we listened to you.

      • bachslunch
        February 8, 2017
        Reply

        Thanks! Much appreciated.

  2. Joseph Wright
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    What about the physical (not personality-wise) forerunner to TO–Kansas City Chiefs WR Otis Taylor (6-2, 220)? He made great downfield catches in the 1969 AFL playoffs against the Jets and Raiders to get KC into Super Bowl IV and scored the game-clinching TD in super Bowl IV. And, he was a key player the leagues battled for in the AFL-NFL bidding war.

    • February 8, 2017
      Reply

      Did consider him. Saw him play. Loved him. But didnt believe he was equal of these guys. Let me be clear: Not bashing him. Can build a case for a Warren Wells, too, even though career short (basically, three years). Just decided list was full enough. Appreciate the suggestion and, yes, Taylor could have been included. Thx for writing.

  3. Marc
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    Really like this article! Billy Howton is another name to mention. A second to throw out there is Boyd Dowler.

    • February 8, 2017
      Reply

      Dont say we dont pay attention to you guys. Both you and bachslunch mentioned Howton and, honestly, missed him. He is deserving. So added him. Many thx to you guys. You were right. Belongs on this list.

      • Marc
        February 8, 2017
        Reply

        Thank you.

        • February 8, 2017
          Reply

          Must thank readers like you and bachslunch for bringing up. Lot of good people weighing in on this.Cant thank you enough for reading our site and giving us ideas.

  4. TheJJWattExperience
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    It’s easy to complain.

    It’s harder to critically think about the career of other great players of the same position and choose who should and shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. It’s not an easy job and I respect the heck out of the job that all of you do. I’d like to apologize for the ones who say, “The Hall of Fame is a joke because so and so isn’t in it.” You guys have an important, yet thankless job. And you do a good job. It’s not as if guys like Walter Payton, Johnny Unitas, or Jerry Rice failed to get inducted.

    • February 8, 2017
      Reply

      Wow. Thx. Rare to get an email like this. Really appreciate it. The problem is that there are so many who are qualified, yet few spots available: Only five modern-era candidates and two or one seniors per year (depending on contributor allotment). I understand the pushback, but people should understand that just because your candidate didnt get in one year, that doesnt mean he will never get in. Morten Andersen is a great case in point. Anyway, thank you for the note and thank you for visiting our site.

  5. Martin Sexton
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    Great article, especially about Drew Pearson.He and Cliff Harris are the only members of the 1st team 70’s all decade team NOT in the HOF. Can’t write the history of the 70’s Cowboys without Drew Pearson.

  6. Rob
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    Clark, Rick has talked about in the past that the Hall should have an amnesty year to celebrate the 100 anniversary of the NFL what is the likelihood of that happening so that more than 2 seniors could possibly be elected?

    • February 8, 2017
      Reply

      Believe chances are very, very good. Might ask him. But he seems to believe the likelihood of something different is high for that year.

  7. Lost Joe
    February 8, 2017
    Reply

    Marvin Harrison appeared on the same HOF ballot as TO and Harrison is the one that got in(in his 3rd year), that says it all. Lengthy list of names, none of which were better than TO.

  8. Martin Sexton
    February 9, 2017
    Reply

    With the discussion of TO and Dan Fouts belief that Owens speaking negatively of the HOF does not help, I submit that this is not the first time a player had done so. Harry Carson was so frustrated after being passed over he asked to be taken off the ballot. I never noticed this being an obstacle from him eventually making it. Athletes are proud and do not take rejection easily, so TO’s reaction is understandable.

    • February 9, 2017
      Reply

      Disappointment is understandable. Demanding to be in … essentially, putting a gun to the head of electors … is not. He blames the messenger. At some point he must assume responsibility for what he has done. But he refuses. And now, in an odd way, hes become a martyr. Unreal.

      • Martin Sexton
        February 10, 2017
        Reply

        I admit that Terrell Owens did not always present himself in a positive manner. Even now. However, I don’t believe that tweeting the system is flawed and that he doesn’t even care now if he gets in (which both you and I know is lie. He cares a lot) would be considered trying to “put a gun to the head of the electors.” Nor should it be a deterrent for him to get elected in the future. My question is, if his resume was presented, sans the information about his “Diva” attitude and just his production, would he be elected?

        • February 10, 2017
          Reply

          Absolutely. But its as one of his former offensive coordinators told me: It depends on what the HOF is. If its based solely on productivity, hes a first-ballot HOFer. If it is based on being a good teammate, hes the last guy I would put in. And therein lies the problem.

          • Martin Sexton
            February 10, 2017

            There inlies the crux of the matter. I had always thought that players were to be judged by what they did on the field and not necessarily by their behavior off it. Of course, being a voter, you would know better than me what the qualifications as set before you are. If being a good teammate and good citizen are part of the equation, you might eliminate a large group of players. It is the Pro Football HOF and not the Boy Scout HOF after all. On the positive side, it bodes well for a couple of my favorite players when they become eligible, Jason Witten and Larry Fitzgerald. I do appreciate your input and taking the time to discuss.

          • February 10, 2017

            But thats the rub. This is not off the field. The locker room … the sidelines … are an extension of the field. This is not based solely on numbers. HOFer Bill Parcells never wanted him around; didnt show up for Owens first press conference in Dallas and never called him by name. One coach wanted to cut him in mid-season. Another called him most divisive guy ever coached. And so it goes. On. And on. And on. Hes upset because hes not in after two years? It took Bob Hayes 29 years to get in, and he changed the game. Probably less we say about this the better. We will not change opinions.

          • Martin Sexton
            February 11, 2017

            True enough. Hope that the veterans committee eventually recognizes the greatness that was Drew Pearson and puts him where he belongs. Truth be known, he SHOULD get there before TO.

          • February 11, 2017

            Now we are talking. So many others. Really sad to see the number of qualified seniors who have been forgotten. Pearson just one. Thx for the conversation, Martin.

  9. TheJJWattExperience
    February 12, 2017
    Reply

    I assume that most of us have played and/or coached before and that brings up a good point about T.O. Some players are great and make their teams better. Some players are great – which most definitely makes the team better – but their actions/attitudes can be a detriment to the team, too.

    If you take Marvin Harrison and his lesser numbers in comparison to T.O., I would take the lesser Harrison numbers because he was a teammate that helped the team at all times. He was never a distraction our outright circus. T.O. did not always help his team as much as his individual numbers indicated. When some players/coaches would rather play without you – that says something significant.

    Think of it this way: If you were the GM of an NFL team this off-season and you needed a WR in the draft and you had to choose from a 22-year old Marvin Harrison or a 22-year old T.O. – who would you choose if you knew that you’d be getting the good guy in Harrison or the distraction in T.O?

    I can’t imagine anyone would take T.O. and the baggage he brought even though he was, imo, a bit better than Harrison in terms of on the field Sunday afternoons. I think you’re chances of winning consistently over the next 10+ years would be better with Harrison on your team in comparison to Owens. That’s why I think Harrison and his lesser numbers are more Hall of Fame worthy than T.O. and his better numbers on paper.

    Plenty things in life look better on paper than they did in real life and T.O. and his career is one of them.

    • February 12, 2017
      Reply

      I understand both sides, but I cant say that I disagree with you. The Hall didnt either. Why we elected Harrison and not Owens a year ago.

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