State Your Case: Gary Collins

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(Photos courtesy of the Cleveland Browns)

By Clark Judge

Talk of Fame Network

Not only isn’t former Cleveland wide receiver Gary Collins in the Hall of Fame; he’s never been discussed as a candidate, and, OK, I get that. It happens. But why does it happen to someone whose numbers are almost interchangeable with Lynn Swann?

You heard me. Lynn …Swann. He was chosen for the Hall in 2001, and he was chosen for a good reason: He belongs. An acrobatic receiver, Swann was the go-to guy for Terry Bradshaw when the Steelers won four of six Super Bowls in the 1970s. He was a three-time Pro Bowler. He was a Super Bowl MVP. And he was an all-decade choice.

So he belongs.

But wait a minute. What about Collins? He was a Pro-Bowl choice. He was an NFL championship-game MVP. And he was named to an all-decade team. Moreover, he was Joe Namath before there was a Joe Namath – predicting a defeat of the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 championship game.

“I said we’d win by three touchdowns,” Collins remembered. “I guess Joe Namath wasn’t the first.”

The Browns didn’t win by three; they won by nearly four, 27-0, with Collins catching three second-half touchdown passes in the last major championship for a Cleveland franchise. There are a lot of people who don’t remember that game and don’t remember Gary Collins.

And that’s a shame.

Because the guy deserves to be remembered by the Hall, and let’s go back to Swann. He finished with 331 catches for 5,462 yards, 51 touchdowns and a per-catch average of 16.3 yards. OK, so that’s not all that impressive by today’s standards. But it was a different game, where receivers were mugged, the vertical passing game was supreme and running the ball … not throwing it … was an offense’s first and second options.

Now let’s look at Collins: He had 331 catches for 5,299 yards, 70 touchdowns and a per-catch average of 16.0. Do the math, and you find he had as many catches as Swann, 263 yards fewer and 19 more scores. Not bad, huh? There’s more.

Collins was a strong and effective blocker on a team that ran and ran a lot with Jim Brown. But he was an outstanding punter, too, averaging 41.0 yards a punt for his career and leading the league once with a 46.7 yard average.

That was 1965. Thirty years later, Seattle’s Rick Tuten led the league with an average of 45.0. Collins’ 1965 average was so astoundingly good it would have led the NFL the next 26 years.

So he was a sure receiver, a solid blocker and a terrific blocker. Anything more? Well, yes. He knew where the end zone was, and those 70 touchdowns are the proof. They’re not only more … much more than Swann’s total … they’re still the franchise record for the Cleveland Browns.

Honest.

So why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame? No, better yet, how come Gary Collins hasn’t even been discussed? You tell me. I have no idea. People tell me that, well, Swann had four championships, and Collins had one … so you can start there, and I get that, too. Except for one thing: That can happen … when you’re one of nine Hall of Fame players playing for a Hall-of-Fame head coach.

Maybe Gary Collins doesn’t deserve to be in Canton, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’d like to hear why he doesn’t … which means I want to have his case discussed. Maybe then we’ll all understand why Lynn Swann belongs … but Gary Collins does not.

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