- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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When he retired, following the 2004 season, Brown ranked second in NFL history in receiving yards (14,934), third in receptions (1,094) and tied for third in receiving touchdowns (100), figures that, nine years later, rank sixth, fifth and tied for seventh.
Plus, the nine-time Pro Bowler, who was twice selected as a kick returner, ranked fifth in league history with 19,682 combined net yards.
And still, this is the fifth time Brown has been a finalist.
A year ago, in the wake of his "sabotage" comments about former Raiders coach Bill Callahan and Super Bowl XXXVII again coming to the forefront, Brown was among the first wave of cuts when the 46 Hall selectors reduced the finalists from 17 to 12. Receiving contemporaries Cris Carter and Andre Reed made that initial cut with Carter being voted into Canton.
Now, Brown not only faces competition as a receiver from Reed again, but Marvin Harrison is also a finalist. Plus, former Raiders punter Ray Guy is also one of two senior candidates, and 15 of the past 18 such nominees have been elected.
In a certain pecking order, it would seem that Reed is ahead of Brown, based on last year's vote. And Harrison could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. A look, then, at the trio's career pass-catching numbers:
Harrison: 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 TDs, 190 games, 13 seasons.
Reed: 951 receptions, 13,198 yards, 87 TDs, 234 games, 16 seasons.
Brown: 1,094 receptions, 14,934 yards, 100 TDs, 255 games, 17 seasons.
Then there's this: Reed, an eight-time Hall finalist who caught his first career TD pass from Vince Ferragamo on Sept. 22, 1985, played in four Super Bowls, while Harrison won a ring in 2007. Brown, meanwhile, caught just one pass, for nine yards, in the Raiders' 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Still, a case could be made that Brown's accomplishments are more noteworthy considering the motley assortment of quarterbacks he had throwing him the ball. Meanwhile, the bulk of Reed's and Harrison's careers were spent catching passes from future Hall of Famers in Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning.
Brown? From Brown's rookie season of 1988 in Los Angeles through his last year in Oakland in 2003, the Raiders had 12 starting quarterbacks -- Steve Beuerlein, Jay Schroeder, Vince Evans, Todd Marinovich, Jeff Hostetler, Billy Joe Hobert, Jeff George, Donald Hollas, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Rick Mirer and Marques Tuiasosopo.
There are 22 receivers enshrined in Canton, and Brown’s career intersected or missed by two years with eight of them -- Carter, Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner, Steve Largent, James Lofton, Art Monk, Jerry Rice and John Stallworth. Of that group, Brown’s career receiving yardage is higher than all but Rice and only Rice and Carter had more TD catches than Brown, whose 100 equaled that of Largent in that era.
But if the Hall simply is a case study in stats, then yes, Brown deserves to rock a yellow jacket. It just seems like Brown is in for a wait, especially with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss coming down the pike soon and selectors seeming to have a relatively short memory.
Or have you forgotten that former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann was a 13-time finalist before his 14th year was the one?
Which brings us back to other -- if not just as worthy but perhaps even more deserving -- Raiders candidates than Brown, whose Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame matters not in this discussion.
Guys like, well, Guy, a punter who revolutionized the game. And Tom Flores, who was the first minority coach to win a Super Bowl and actually has four rings. And Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowls and has a comeback story for the ages. And Cliff Branch, who has three rings. And Lester Hayes, a four-time Hall finalist who once had 13 interceptions in a season. And Ken Stabler, a former league MVP. And Dave Dalby, who was a starting center on three title teams. And Steve Wisniewski, a first-time semifinalist this year.
Alas, in an era in which the receiver pipeline to Canton seems clogged, Brown's proponents should seemingly push his early-career success as a kick returner as he had a combined 1,542 return yards as a rookie -- his first career touchdown was a 97-yard kickoff return -- and he finished his career with a combined 4,555 yards with four TDs returning kickoffs (one) and punts (three) while rushing for another score.
The Raiders currently recognize 21 Hall of Famers to have played for them in Marcus Allen, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Bob Brown, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Al Davis, Eric Dickerson, Mike Haynes, Ted Hendricks, James Lofton, Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, John Madden, Ron Mix, Jim Otto, Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw and Rod Woodson.
2dEric D. Williams
2dEric D. Williams