Las Vegas Raiders: 50 greatest players in franchise history
By John Buhler
While we’ve had a few guys on this list already that could be in the discussion for Canton enshrinement, perhaps the most egregious omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame with regards to a Raiders great has to be wide receiver Cliff Branch. Branch was a former fourth-round pick with the Raiders and spent his entire 14-year NFL career with the Silver and Black.
The former Colorado Buffaloes wideout would first come aboard the Raiders’ rocking ship in 1972. In his third year in the league, Branch would have a breakout season. He would lead the league with 1,092 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns on 60 receptions. Branch would make his first Pro Bowl and his first All-Pro first-team that season.
Branch would keep his streak of consecutive Pro Bowl nods alive through the 1977 NFL season. He would do the same with All-Pro nods, being a first-teamer through 1976 and a second-teamer in 1977. Maybe most importantly, Branch is in rare company, as he was part of all three Super Bowl championship teams with the Raiders in 1976, 1980, and 1983.
Overall, Branch retired after the 1985 NFL season with 501 receptions for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns. Besides being retired for well over 30 years, the biggest reasons Branch isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet are a log jam at wide receiver and that he only had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons. Maybe one day, Branch will get his due and earn rightful Canton enshrinement? Hopefully sooner rather than later.