Shortly before the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2017, former wide receiver Terrell Owens took to Twitter to bash voters for excluding him from Canton a second consecutive year.
"HOF is a total joke," he tweeted. "Honestly, doesn’t mean anything to me to get in beyond this point."
Apparently, it does. Because he and his supporters can't stop talking about it.
But while the debate rages on, here's something to consider: First, just because Owens didn’t make it to Canton his first two years of eligibility doesn’t mean he won't make it, period. It took Michael Irvin three years. It took Cris Carter and Tim Brown six each. It took Art Monk eight, Don Maynard and Andre Reed nine each and John Stallworth 10. And Bob Hayes didn't get there until his 29th year of eligibility ... as a senior candidate.
Second, there are other qualified wide receivers waiting to hear from Canton, yet they have little or no chance … and not because they don't have the resumes; but because they have been forgotten.
By the Hall. By fans. By former players like Terrell Owens.
Then there's this: There were seven all-decade players excluded from the Class of 2017, with Owens among them, yet we don’t hear anyone banging the drum for the other six. Which is interesting because, unlike Owens, many of them were first-team all-decade. Owens was a second-team choice.
My guess is that most, if not all, will get in. But there are others from other eras who are as deserving but who won't reach Canton, and they play the same position as Terrell Owens. You don’t hear about them, and you don’t hear from them.
But maybe you should.
Lynn Swann is one of two starting receivers on the 1970s' all-decade team. The other is Pearson. Swann is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Pearson -- who beat out Hall-of-Famers Paul Warfield, Charlie Joiner, Steve Largent, Fred Biletnikoff and John Stallworth for all-decade honors -- is not, and that makes no sense. In fact, he's one of only two offensive players from the first and second teams of that all-decade squad not to be enshrined. The other? Second-team wideout, Harold Carmichael. But it gets better: Pearson and Carmichael are the only wide receivers from any all-decade team of the 1970s, 80s and 90s not to be enshrined in Canton. There were nine Hall-of-Fame wide receivers who played in the 1970s, but Pearson is not among them ... and someone want to explain why? Called "Mr. Clutch" for his big-game catches, he was on the receiving end of the famous "Hail Mary" in a 1975 playoff defeat of Minnesota. But not only is he not in Canton; he has never been discussed.
When Sharpe's younger brother, Shannon, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he implored voters to consider Sterling because, as Shannon put it, he was better. He might be right. In a seven-year career cut short by a neck injury, Sharpe was named All-Pro five times, and in 1992 he won the Triple Crown of receiving by leading the league in catches, yards receiving and receiving TDs. He had 108 catches that season, breaking Art Monk's single-season record of 84. Andre Rison, who was second, had 93. In 1993, he led the league again, breaking his own record with 112 receptions. Jerry Rice was second with 98. One year later, he led the league with 18 touchdown catches, the second-most in league history to Rice's 22 in 1987. I think you get the picture. The guy was a load. But has he ever been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist or finalist? Nope.
Considered the best all-around wide receiver prior to Hall-of-Famer Don Hutson, Dilweg is one of only two players on the 1920s' all-decade team not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He won three straight championships with the Green Bay Packers and was named All-Pro six consecutive years – including one season when he was a unanimous choice. Like Hutson, he is a member of the Packers' Hall of Fame. Unlike Hutson, he is not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame ... and has never been discussed.
Despite playing on run-heavy teams the first third of his career, Ellard was a dominant receiver – ranked third in yards and fourth in catches when he retired after the 1998 season. In an era when 1,000-yard seasons were uncommon, he put together seven in nine years– including one where he averaged … averaged … 19.7 yards per catch. And, at the age of 35, he averaged 19.4 yards per reception. He had world-class speed and was an effective punt returner with the Rams before they traded Eric Dickerson to Indianapolis. Then, his career took off, with Ellard putting up a league-best 1,414 yards on 86 catches. Ellard never played with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback like Steve Young (he and Owens were together for a little over three seasons before Young was hurt), but it didn’t handicap him. Nevertheless, he has never been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist.
He led the league in catches and yards in 1974. Two years later, he averaged 24.2 yards per catch. He was a four-time All-Pro … in four consecutive seasons. And he was a three-time Super Bowl champion. Ask anyone on the San Diego Chargers then who was the most dangerous receiver they faced, and, to a man, they would name Branch. When he retired he led the league in playoff catches and yards. He had more catches than Hall-of-Famer Lynn Swann. He had more yards and touchdowns, too. I'm not saying Swann doesn’t belong in the Hall; what I am saying is: What's not to like about Cliff Branch? Now, stop if you heard this before: He has never been discussed by the Hall's board of selectors.
A five-time Pro Bowl choice, he twice led the league in yards receiving and once led it in receptions and touchdowns. During his career he had 29 100-yard games and three 1,000-yard seasons, and when he retired only Hall-of-Fame Don Maynard had more yards. As NFL historian John Turney of Pro Football Journal wrote this week, Jackson was a dominant force of his era – ranking first in catches, yards receiving and touchdown receptions for the 1970s. Yet he's not only not in the Hall of Fame; he has never been discussed.
He led the league in catches and yards receiving one year. He was third in yards in 1978 and, one year later, second in catches. He was named the backup to Drew Pearson on the all-decade team of the 1970s and, when he retired, ranked seventh in career touchdown receptions. In fact, touchdowns comprised 13.6 percent of his career catches, and I mention that because it was 12.2 for Hall-of-Famer Charley Taylor, who led the league in receptions twice but never led in yards. Pro Football Focus compares receivers from different eras, and the receivers compared to Carmichael are Larry Fitzgerald, Fred Biletnikoff, Keyshawn Johnson and John Stallworth. Biletnikoff and Stallworth are in the Hall, and Fitzgerald will be one day. But Harold Carmichael? Along with the rest of this list, gone and forgotten.
In his seven-year career, he went to seven championship games – winning four of them – and led the league in catches four times. Furthermore, he was named an All-Pro six times … six in seven seasons ... and his career average of 800 yards per season was so prodigious it wasn’t eclipsed for two decades after his retirement. Like Owens, he was an all-decade choice. Unlike Owens, he was a team MVP. After he left the Browns in a contract dispute, he played two years in Canada and was so good he was named all-league there, too. So, let's get this straight: He won championships. He was all-league in two countries. And he held a receiving record that stood for over 20 years. But while he's been a three-time finalist, he can't get in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, either. Someone please explain.
He led the league three times in catches. He had more receptions than anyone in the 1950s. And he was a six-time Pro Bowler when it meant something. Wilson was so good that Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Walsh called him "the top pass receiver of his time and one of the best blockers." Nice, huh? It gets better. Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula -- who, as a defensive back had to cover Wilson – described Wilson as "one of the few players from another era that would excel today," while former teammate Bob St. Clair – another Hall of Famer – called him "one of the most underrated players in NFL history." But don't bother looking for him in Canton, and I think you know why. Repeat after me: Never been discussed as a finalist.
This is all you need to know about Howton: In seven seasons with Green Bay, he led the team in receiving six times, led the league in receiving yards twice and scored the most receiving touchdowns once. But we're just getting started: As a rookie, he caught 13 touchdown passes. That was 1952. Four years later, he had 257 yards in receptions vs. the Rams. Both are franchise records (one for rookies) that remain today. He also had two 200-plus yard receiving games, the only Packer outside of Don Hutson with more than one; averaged 18.4 yards a catch and was named to four Pro Bowls. He played one season in Cleveland, leading the Browns in catches, before finishing his career with the Cowboys, where he led the team twice in catches. When he retired in 1963 he was the NFL leader in career receptions and yardage, breaking Hutson's record, with two fewer touchdown catches (61) than Stallworth and four fewer than Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner and Bobby Mitchell -- all Hall of Famers. So why hasn't he been discussed? Good question.