(Harold Carmichael photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles)
By Clark Judge
Tal of Fame Network
There are two members of the 1970s’ all-decade offense not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of them is first-teamer Drew Pearson. The other is his all-decade backup.
Carmichael is hard to miss … unless, that is, you happen to be a Hall-of-Fame voter. He stood 6-feet-8 in an era when most receivers were at least a half-a-foot shorter, and his height served him well. From 1971 through 1983 – or while he was with the Philadelphia Eagles – he caught 589 passes for 8,978 yards and 79 touchdowns.
He led the league in catches and receiving yards in 1973. He was third in yards in 1978 and second in receiving touchdowns one year later. He was named to two Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams and, when he retired in 1984, he ranked seventh in career touchdown catches.
More important, he was named to the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s all-decade team of the 1970s, so somebody there must have thought he was accomplished.
You’d think that would be enough to get Carmichael a sniff of Canton. But he has yet to be named a finalist or a semifinalist, and I can’t say I’m surprised. Pearson has yet to be named one, too, and, other than Carmichael he’s the only receiver from the all-decade teams of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s not in the Hall of Fame.
I don’t know what the knock is on Pearson, so I can’t tell you what the knock is on Carmichael. Yeah, if I was voting on seniors, I’d probably take Pearson over Carmichael, too, but that isn’t the question here. The question is: Why couldn’t Carmichael at least get to the final 25 candidates?
He checked most of the boxes, including playing on a championship football team. No, the Eagles didn’t win a Super Bowl, but they did get to one in 1980 … with Carmichael setting an NFL record at the time by catching passes in 127 consecutive games. And when they reached the Super Bowl, it was Carmichael who stood out, with five catches for a team-best 83 yards.
But remember what I said about his touchdowns and how he had 79 of them? Well, that represents 13.6 percent of his receptions. By comparison, the Hall-of-Fame receiver from the 1960s’ all-decade team – Washington’s Charley Taylor – scored on 12.2 percent of his catches, and while he led the league twice in catches he never led it in yards.
Furthermore, Taylor broke 1,000 yards receiving once in his career. Carmichael did it three times.
That’s another way of saying Harold Carmichael was one of the dominant receivers of his era. But he was not one of the dominant receivers of all time, and that, more than anything, damages his Hall-of-Fame resume. He played in an era when 300-yard passing games were extraordinary and 1,000-yard seasons special. Heck, when Pearson led the league in receiving in 1977, he had 870.
But times have changed, and the rules changed with them, allowing receivers more freedom to make more catches for more yards and more touchdowns — and look no farther than what Julio Jones did two weekends ago. For that matter, look no farther than Week 5 across the NFL when 13 receivers had 100 or more yards in receptions. Today’s inflated numbers make Carmichael’s production appear ordinary when it was anything but.
The website, Pro Football Focus, compares players from different eras, and the receivers it compares most often to Carmichael include John Stallworth, Keyshawn Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Fred Biletnikoff. Stallworth and Biletnikoff are in the Hall of Fame, and Fitzgerald is on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory.
But Harold Carmichael? He’s been forgotten, along with Drew Pearson, and that’s more than a shame. It’s wrong.