State Your Case: Harold Carmichael

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael (17) in 1969. Harold Carmichael - Philadelphia Eagles - File Photos (AP Photo/NFL Photos)


(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.

Harold Carmichael.

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.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael (17) breaks at the snap of the ball in 1974. Harold Carmichael – Philadelphia Eagles – File Photos (AP Photo/NFL Photos)

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.

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  1. bachslunch
    October 11, 2016

    Agreed, Harold Carmichael belongs in the HoF, along with three other WRs from the time: Drew Pearson, Harold Jackson, and Cliff Branch. Am guessing it’ll be tough getting them in, sorry to say — logjams like this are hard enough to resolve with regularly eligible candidates, never mind Seniors.

    • October 11, 2016

      Thx for the note. Going to be tough. Lot of guys on that board didnt see him. A shame. Always, always appreciate your input.

  2. Rich Quodomine
    October 11, 2016

    The problem is a backlog and the emphasis on WR play and short passing game will make better WRs from the run-first era to seem weak statistically. I’m not sure any of the guys mentioned above gets in, unless there’s a year they consider almost exclusively, the WRs from before 1990.

    • October 12, 2016

      You are correct, sir. Going to be tough because many of voters today didnt see some of those guys and dont realize how significantly the game has changed. So numbers pale in commparison. Thats the problem when you rely on numbers. Always said if thats all we bring to the table, then hire an accounting firm to tabulate results.

  3. bachslunch
    October 12, 2016

    Clark: I’m fine with numbers as an important part of the story, but they need to be used well. Period adjusting of some kind matters when going across eras for skill position players. Unfortunately, lots of folks don’t seem to get that. For me, honors and good quality film study should factor in as well.

  4. Sam Goldenberg
    October 13, 2016

    Clark & Bachslunch:
    As we had discussed that’s why it is important that former players have some input of the Senior selection process. You aptly pointed out that Hall of Famers being on the committee may have a bias toward former teammates. However, I think it is important that these types have input because they are the only ones who actually were in the trenches and played with some of the candidates. It just seems to me that some committee members do not understand the contributions that players from the 60’s and 70’s made. Harold Carmichael was an outstanding player and deserves consideration. The backlog of Senior candidates is just so big. I really don’t have a problem with the contributor candidate, but it should be in addition to two senior players. The system the way it is now will never be able to recognize all the candidates that deserve recognition. The other thing that is frustrating to me, as a Jerry Kramer advocate, is that as fans we are encouraged to send letters to the Senior Committee but are these letters even considered? I know Kramer fans send letters every year and he has endorsements from many Hall of Famers, but we have no idea if these letters or endorsements are read or considered. I think there is a lack of transparency with the Senior Committee. They should have some sort of obligation to explain who was considered and why. The average fan also doesn’t know which committee members vote each year.

    • October 14, 2016

      Former players do have input. Often used as advisors when senior committee meets. They sit in with members. Dont vote but have big influence.

  5. Sam Goldenberg
    October 15, 2016

    That’s good to know Clark, thanks. I really believe, as long as they are objective, that they know the candidates best. Problem is we as fans don’t which players are in the room. Are they Hall of Famers? That’s the part about transparency that still bothers me.

    • October 16, 2016

      They are. Different guys in different years.

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