It may be posthumously but Las Vegas Raiders legend Cliff Branch is one step closer to finally getting his due at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In your mind, imagine a football career of this caliber: three-time Super Bowl Champion (XI, XV, XVIII), four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, 8,685 receiving yards and 67 touchdowns over a 14-year career (1972-1986) for the same team.
We just described Branch, who was a wide receiver for the Silver and Black. One would assume with a stat sheet like that you’d be hearing a famed gold jacket by now. A bust on display in the Hall of Fame, all the honors bestowed on him that he so richly deserved. Not for Cliff.
Branch’s legacy with the Raiders
At one time, Branch held the record for most receiving yards and receptions in the playoffs. Though that record was eventually beat by another great, Jerry Rice. Additionally, Branch holds the record for the longest caught pass within the Raiders organization, 99 yards.
As the years went on, Branch watched his teammates make it into the Hall of Fame ahead of him; receiver Fred Biletnikoff, quarterback Ken “Snake” Stabler, cornerback Willie Brown, running back Marcus Allen, and his coach John Madden. Though Branch is no longer with us, his other coach, Tom Flores, got in before him.
Branch has been a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame twice, in 2004 and 2010, and has just now been named the Senior Finalist in the 2022 Class. The general consensus among Raider Nation is that it’s about damn time. Branch’s sister commented following the announcement that her brother ‘dreamed of this‘ and ‘wanted this so bad, he could taste it.’
One sad caveat in this development…
Fans of the Silver and Black watched with glee as David Baker (President of the Hall of Fame) called Cliff’s sister to notify her of his pending admittance. Why did Baker call Cliff’s sister instead of Cliff himself? There is one caveat to this possibly becoming a reality, which is that it came too late. Branch passed away in 2019 due to natural complications at the age of 71, which is considered fairly young in our society.
On a personal note…
I had the pleasure of meeting Branch in 2018 at the Raiders versus Ravens game in Baltimore. I distinctly remember waiting to be seated at the hotel restaurant with my family when he approached. He was wearing all three of his Super Bowl rings and, of course, wearing a Raiders cap so he stuck out. He immediately said hi to us and offered to let my one-year-old son wear his Super Bowl rings. To my dismay, my son appeared to be horrified and refused. We still took a photo together and spoke about the Raiders briefly. It’s an interaction I’ll always remember. As my son grows up as a Raiders fan, he too will have that photo to cherish.
On our way out, we met Mark Davis. The Raiders owner told us he was on his way to his dinner with Branch, as their friendship was well known throughout the receiver’s time with the Raiders and beyond. Davis, who at one point lived with Branch, was also notified of his Hall of Fame finalist status. He commented that Branch would be “thrilled” to know he was possibly getting into the Hall of Fame and added that “he [Cliff] changed the game.”
We agree with you, Mark. And it is about damn time. Let’s get Cliff into the Hall of Fame.
*Top Photo: Focus On Sport/Getty Images