LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Former Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch and 15-year NFL head coach Dick Vermeil were selected Tuesday as the Senior Finalist and Coach Finalist, respectively, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. A panel of Hall of Fame Selectors met virtually to make the selections.
Branch, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound speedster, is credited with stretching opposing defenses over 14 seasons in the 1970s and 1980s, helping teammates Fred Biletnikoff and Dave Casper to put together their own Hall of Fame resumes. In 183 career regular-season games, Branch caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 67 touchdowns.
“Cliff Branch changed the game,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said. “Safeties had to be aware of him.”
Branch was especially dangerous in the playoffs. In 22 career postseason games, he caught 73 passes for 1,289 yards (17.7 average) and scored five touchdowns.
A three-time Super Bowl champion, Branch led the NFL in touchdowns twice and eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards twice. He led the league with 1,092 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns in an All-Pro 1974 season. Overall, Branch was named All-Pro three times and selected to play in four Pro Bowls.
“He dreamed of this. He wanted this so bad, he could taste it,” Cliff’s sister, Elaine Anderson, said in a call with Baker on Tuesday afternoon. “It was all he talked about – when he would go to the Hall of Fame.”
The Senior Committee, comprised of nine members of the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, considers players whose careers ended at least 25 years ago. The list of eligible 2022 Senior candidates initially was reduced to a list of 16 Nominees. Then five of the nine members (determined on a rotating basis annually) met to discuss each of the candidates. A series of reduction votes preceded additional discussion and the selection of Branch as the Senior Finalist.
To be elected to the Hall of Fame, Branch and Vermeil must receive 80% voting support by the entire 49-member Selection Committee when it meets early next year (on a date to be determined) in advance of Super Bowl LVI. The Selection Committee will consider 18 finalists: the Senior (Branch), the Coach (Vermeil), a Contributor (to be named Tuesday, Aug. 31) and 15 Modern-Era Finalists (to be determined from a preliminary list announced in September, trimmed to 25 Semifinalists in November and to 15 Finalists in January).