State Your Case: Gary Collins


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(Photos courtesy of the Cleveland Browns)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Not only isn’t former Cleveland wide receiver Gary Collins in the Hall of Fame; he’s never been discussed as a candidate, and, OK, I get that. It happens. But why does it happen to someone whose numbers are almost interchangeable with Lynn Swann?

You heard me. Lynn …Swann. He was chosen for the Hall in 2001, and he was chosen for a good reason: He belongs. An acrobatic receiver, Swann was the go-to guy for Terry Bradshaw when the Steelers won four of six Super Bowls in the 1970s. He was a three-time Pro Bowler. He was a Super Bowl MVP. And he was an all-decade choice.

So he belongs.

But wait a minute. What about Collins? He was a Pro-Bowl choice. He was an NFL championship-game MVP. And he was named to an all-decade team. Moreover, he was Joe Namath before there was a Joe Namath – predicting a defeat of the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 championship game.

“I said we’d win by three touchdowns,” Collins remembered. “I guess Joe Namath wasn’t the first.”

The Browns didn’t win by three; they won by nearly four, 27-0, with Collins catching three second-half touchdown passes in the last major championship for a Cleveland franchise. There are a lot of people who don’t remember that game and don’t remember Gary Collins.

And that’s a shame.

Because the guy deserves to be remembered by the Hall, and let’s go back to Swann. He finished with 331 catches for 5,462 yards, 51 touchdowns and a per-catch average of 16.3 yards. OK, so that’s not all that impressive by today’s standards. But it was a different game, where receivers were mugged, the vertical passing game was supreme and running the ball … not throwing it … was an offense’s first and second options.

Now let’s look at Collins: He had 331 catches for 5,299 yards, 70 touchdowns and a per-catch average of 16.0. Do the math, and you find he had as many catches as Swann, 263 yards fewer and 19 more scores. Not bad, huh? There’s more.

Collins was a strong and effective blocker on a team that ran and ran a lot with Jim Brown. But he was an outstanding punter, too, averaging 41.0 yards a punt for his career and leading the league once with a 46.7 yard average.

That was 1965. Thirty years later, Seattle’s Rick Tuten led the league with an average of 45.0. Collins’ 1965 average was so astoundingly good it would have led the NFL the next 26 years.

So he was a sure receiver, a solid blocker and a terrific blocker. Anything more? Well, yes. He knew where the end zone was, and those 70 touchdowns are the proof. They’re not only more … much more than Swann’s total … they’re still the franchise record for the Cleveland Browns.

Honest.

So why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame? No, better yet, how come Gary Collins hasn’t even been discussed? You tell me. I have no idea. People tell me that, well, Swann had four championships, and Collins had one … so you can start there, and I get that, too. Except for one thing: That can happen … when you’re one of nine Hall of Fame players playing for a Hall-of-Fame head coach.

Maybe Gary Collins doesn’t deserve to be in Canton, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’d like to hear why he doesn’t … which means I want to have his case discussed. Maybe then we’ll all understand why Lynn Swann belongs … but Gary Collins does not.

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16 Comments

  1. mike avolio
    February 3, 2015
    Reply

    Collins should be in….but too many voters are too young to remember the older players …and the insanely stupid voting process for the seniors will keep most of the deserving seniors out …

    My list of who should be no brainers in the HOF

    Jerry Kramer
    Mike Curtis
    LC Greenwood
    Robert Brazile
    Larry Wilson
    Tommy Nobis
    Joe Klecko
    Donnie Shell
    Gary Collins
    Bill Bergey

  2. Nick
    February 3, 2015
    Reply

    Have you guys done Del Shofner??? If not you’re ignoring the most obvious HOF oversight. Aggregate numbers aside, he was the beat WR in the NFL for a 3-4 year stretch, all those other guys are in the hall. I’ll take Shofner 8 days a week over Collins.

  3. mike avolio
    February 3, 2015
    Reply

    Another oversight…Shofner should have been in a long time ago…

    • February 4, 2015
      Reply

      MANY FOLKS FEEL AS YOU DO ABOUT SHOFNER

  4. Anonymous
    February 5, 2015
    Reply

    I agree. Gary Collins was the best of the best in his era. Without Gary, the Browns are a good team. With Gary Collins, the Browns are a great team, as they proved in 1964 and 1965.

  5. Jim Abraham
    February 5, 2015
    Reply

    I agree. Gary Collins was the best of the best in his era. Without Gary, the Browns are a good team. With Gary Collins, the Browns are a great team, as they proved in 1964 and 1965.

  6. Aaron
    February 5, 2015
    Reply

    Collins should be in the Hall of Fame! Another Brown that should be in is LT Dick Shafrath. All pro 6 times. All decade 1960’s, won Nfl title in 1964, blocked for 3 Hall of Fame RB’s in Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly and Bobby Mitchell!

  7. bachslunch
    March 19, 2016
    Reply

    Gary Collins was a very good WR and punter, though I’m not sure he belongs in ahead of folks like Mac Speedie, Billy Howton, Billy Wilson, Del Shofner, Harold Jackson, Harold Carmichael, Cliff Branch, or Drew Pearson. He’s in a group just below these folks with Lionel Taylor, Art Powell, Charlie Hennigan, and Boyd Dowler. Not so taken with Dick Schafrath either; he has pretty good honors of 4/6/none (no, Aaron — he is not on the 60s all decade team) but doesn’t grade out that well at Ken Crippen’s film study website — both Jim Tyrer and Winston Hill have stronger arguments among OTs.

  8. Anonymous
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    Gary deserves to be in. Comparable stats to Swann who is in. Punted as well and a good average. Was in 4 Championship games too and scored in a few. Can’t forget the older players.

  9. Bobber
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    Gary deserves to be in. Comparable stats to Swann who is in. Punted as well and a good average. Was in 4 Championship games too and scored in a few. Can’t forget the older players.

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      Do not disagree. Watched him destroy my Colts in 1964.

  10. bobriggs7@hotmail.com
    January 3, 2017
    Reply

    Gary deserves to be in. Comparable stats to Swann who is in. Punted as well and a good average. Was in 4 Championship games too and scored in a few. Can’t forget the older players.

  11. Mike Avolio
    January 4, 2017
    Reply

    So many deserving older players have never been recognized and are forgotten.

    It’s an absolute disgrace.

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      You have no idea. You are absolutely correct.

    • January 4, 2017
      Reply

      People want to rush all these WRs from today in, well, what about a Gary Collins, Mac Speedie, Del Shofner … or Drew Pearson? Will never get that one. Pearson was first-team all decade from 1970s and cant get a sniff? Horrible. But, as I said, you are dead on with your analysis.

  12. Dave Zeih
    August 17, 2017
    Reply

    Mike Avolio’s list of guys who should be in is spot-on, and I, too, would
    add Del Shofner. The HOF voters are both too young and so very
    stupid when it comes to deserving senior players!!

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