Former Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch and 15-year NFL head coach Dick Vermeil were selected Tuesday as the Senior Finalist and Coach Finalist, respectively, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. A panel of Hall of Fame Selectors met virtually to make the selections.
Branch, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound speedster, is credited with stretching opposing defenses over 14 seasons in the 1970s and 1980s, helping teammates FRED BILETNIKOFF and DAVE CASPER to put together their own Hall of Fame resumes. In 183 career regular-season games, Branch caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 67 touchdowns.
Vermeil won 120 games in the regular season, leading the Philadelphia Eagles (1980) and St. Louis Rams (1999) to Super Bowl appearances. His “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV 23-16 over the Tennessee Titans.
“Cliff Branch changed the game,” Mark Davis, principal owner of the Raiders, said upon receiving a congratulatory phone call from David Baker, President & CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Safeties had to be aware of him.”
Branch was especially dangerous in the playoffs. In 22 career postseason games, he caught 73 passes for 1,289 yards (17.7 average) and scored five touchdowns.
A three-time Super Bowl champion, Branch led the NFL in touchdowns twice and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards twice. He led the league with 1,092 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns in an All-Pro 1974 season. Overall, Branch was named All-Pro three times and selected to play in four Pro Bowls.
“He dreamed of this. He wanted this so bad, he could taste it,” Cliff’s sister, Elaine Anderson, said in a call with Baker on Tuesday afternoon. “It was all he talked about – when he would go to the Hall of Fame.”