Former Cowboys' star Pearson "mystified" by HOF exclusion

There are only two wide receivers from the all-decade teams of the 1970s through through the 1990s who aren't in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and one of them would like to know why. Drew Pearson, the floor is yours.

Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys
Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys

Talk of Fame Network

There are 12 wide receivers on all-decade teams from the 1970s through the 1990s, and only two of them are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One is former Philadelphia star Harold Carmichael. The other is Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys.

Both are qualified. Both have been waiting on Canton. And now one has gone public with his frustration at being left out in the cold.

Drew Pearson, come on down.

The former Dallas star has no complaints with the players and coaches who are in. He just doesn’t understand what makes him an outsider – and he aired those complaints when we caught up with him on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast.

“I don’t know what the criteria is for getting in,” said Pearson, the only first-team all-decade receiver from the 1970s-90s not in the Hall, “and what makes me qualified or what makes me not qualified -- individual stats or team stats or both. I think I had both of those in my career with the Dallas Cowboys. I had success individually … and helped teams win football games … and averaged over 16 yards a catch … and went over a thousand yards way back in 1974 on 62 catches.

“And then the teams I played with … (I had) 11 seasons with the Cowboys (and) made the playoffs 10 out of those 11 seasons. Never had a losing season. The year we didn’t make the playoffs we finished 8-6. (I) played in seven NFC championship games, which means seven times in 11 seasons I was one game away from a Super Bowl. And I ended up playing in three Super Bowls and winning one. So everything, as far as I’m concerned, is there.

“Those are the reasons why I made that all-decade team of the 1970s. Because those stats were there. And they are associated with team success.

“And then when you look at some of the guys that are in – even the guy that was voted in as the other wide receiver on the all-decade team, (former Pittsburgh star) Lynn Swann. He’s in. He had better team success because they won four Super Bowls, but, individually, I had better stats than he did. I played a little longer than he did, maybe that’s the reason. But he’s in; I’m not.

“(And) the guy he played with … that shared the ball with him, part of the offense with him …. John Stallworth … he played through the 70s. He’s in. A lot of other guys … I’m not saying these guys aren’t Hall of Famers because they are … but I just don’t understand why they are, and I’m not. That’s what mystifies me.”

Nicknamed “Mr. Clutch” for his numerous catches in critical situations – including the “Hail Mary” that won a 1975 divisional round game vs. Minnesota – Pearson made it clear his dissatisfaction is not so much with not getting in as it is with the process that determines who makes it and who does not.

“When you go through the modern era players,” he said, “you look at the wide receiver’s stats … Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison … and you say, ‘Gosh, how could Drew Pearson get in and those guys have double the number of catches and yardage and touchdowns and things of that nature?’

“I guess it pushes you further back into the process, I guess, and that is what is frustrating. It is the process. There’s no transparency. You don’t know what the qualifications are. Is it individual stats, as I said before? Is it team stats? Is it both?

“A lot of players didn’t play in key games. Most of the games I played in were key games, and you didn’t have opportunities at the end of games to pad your stats. We came back in a lot of games to win those games, but you’re catching passes in the flow of the game; not passes that are coming to you because your team is so far behind that you have to throw the ball to catch up. And, therefore, you pad your stats.

“But those same players that have done that didn’t have the same success in the playoffs that I had. I caught over sixty-some passes in playoff games. I played in 22 playoff games. Another thing: I threw three touchdown oases in the NFL. I was five for seven throwing the football.

“There are a lot of things that I think when you look at the time I played, who I played with and what we accomplished individually and who I played for... I did this with Tom Landry. I think that should say something for you as far as your character and your ability to play for a coach that was so demanding -- and do it on a consistent basis as an undrafted free agent. I think I have a great story to tell.”