After decades of being snubbed, Cliff Branch’s accomplishments in the game of football might be recognized. The late three-time Super Bowl winner was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s special centennial class on Wednesday.
The Hall’s President and CEO David Baker announced the addition of 15 Hall of Famers to next year’s class back in August. A group consisting of ten senior players, who haven’t played in 25 years, along with three contributors and two coaches. Branch is one of 20 players named as a finalist. Broncos LB Randy Gradishar was the only other player with ties to Colorado on the list. Former coach Dan Reeves was also named as a finalist.
Branch passed away at the age of 71 over the same weekend as this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in August. The speedster receiver from Houston, TX complied a 14-year career in the NFL including wins in Super Bowl XI, Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII for the Raiders. A four-time pro bowler, who led the league in receiving in 1974 with 1,092 yards (18.2 Avg.) and 13 touchdowns.
Back in August, I asked NFL Hall of Famer Gil Brandt if Branch should receive consideration in the special 2020 class. He replied very positively about Cliff’s chances, despite saying “When he came out of Colorado, he could run but couldn’t catch a cold.” Brandt credits former Raiders owner Al Davis with making Branch a “big play” receiver.
In Canton yesterday, I asked @Gil_Brandt about Cliff Branch getting in the @ProFootballHOF for a @RalphieReport piece. The same question I asked Cliff eariler about 2020 being "the year." Crazy the former Raiders legend passes away less than 24 hours later. #PFHOF19 pic.twitter.com/xJYjMXLFhG— Jeff Hauser (@radiohauser) August 4, 2019
According to the NFL, the finalists will be deliberated by the Blue-Ribbon Panel next month. Here are the 38 names to make the cut for the Centennial Class.
COACHES (8 FINALISTS) - Coaches who last coached more than five seasons ago
Bill Cowher - 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom Flores - 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks
Mike Holmgren - 1992-98 Green Bay Packers, 1999-2008 Seattle Seahawks
Buddy Parker - 1949 Chicago Cardinals, 1951-56 Detroit Lions, 1957-1964 Pittsburgh Steelers
CONTRIBUTORS (10 FINALISTS) - An individual other than a player or coach
Bud Adams, Owner - 1960-2013 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Titans
Ralph Hay, Owner - 1918-1922 Canton Bulldogs
Art McNally, Official/Administrator - 1959-2015 National Football League
Clint Murchison, Founder/Owner - 1960-1983 Dallas Cowboys
Steve Sabol, Administrator/President - 1964-2012 NFL Films
Seymour Siwoff, Owner/President - 1952-2019 Elias Sports Bureau
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League
George Young, Contributor/General Manager - 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
SENIORS (20 FINALISTS) - A player who last played more than 25 seasons ago
Cliff Branch, WR - 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Harold Carmichael, WR - 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys
Jim Covert, T - 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
Bobby Dillon, S - 1952-59 Green Bay Packers
LaVern Dilweg, E - 1926 Milwaukee Badgers, 1927-1934 Green Bay Packers
Ox Emerson, G/LB/C - 1931-37 Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions, 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers
Randy Gradishar, LB - 1974-1983 Denver Broncos
Cliff Harris, S - 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys
Winston Hill, T - 1963-1976 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams
Cecil Isbell, TB/DB/HB - 1938-1942 Green Bay Packers
Alex Karras, DT - 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions
Verne Lewellen, HB - 1924-27, 1928-1932 Green Bay Packers, 1927 New York Yankees
Tommy Nobis, LB - 1966-1976 Atlanta Falcons
Drew Pearson, WR - 1973-1983 Dallas Cowboys
Donnie Shell, S - 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
Duke Slater, T - 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents, 1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
Mac Speedie, E - 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns [AAFC/NFL]
Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E - 1944-1955 Chicago Bears
Al Wistert, OT/DT/G - 1943 Phil-Pitt, 1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles