I must agree with the analysis of a writer on sports-reference.com who determined that Tim Brown has the most consistent Hall of Fame credentials between him, Cris Carter, and Andre Reed.
The Hall of Fame has released its list of 17 finalists for the Hall, including four wide receivers. Jerry Rice tops the list as a shoo-in, while Tim Brown, Andre Reed, and Cris Carter round out the other three.
I must say that Cliff Branch was once again snubbed by the Hall of Fame, after NFL fans overwhelmingly supported the induction of Branch. Not only did Branch make significant contributions to three Super Bowl winners, but Branch has similar career numbers to a ringless Hall of Fame receiver named Charlie Joiner.
In the case of Reed from the Buffalo Bills: Reed benefited from a pass-orientated offense; was on a team that has six Hall of Famers with one being quarterback Jim Kelly; and generally didn't dominate despite the famous K-Gun offense.
Moreover, Brown has better career numbers than Reed in every significant category.
Between Carter and Brown, Brown had more receiving yards and ranked in the top five of the NFL in four different years in an era of the NFL where the statistics of receivers have skyrocketed. Meaning that, amongst tough competition, Brown excelled, despite having little offensive support for most of his career with the Raiders.
Carter has more receiving touchdowns, but played on a more complete offense with a better running game, offensive line and quarterback. Yet, Carter was beat on his team in receiving yards by Jake Reed and Randy Moss, meaning that the Vikings' offense put Carter in position for the touchdown.
Moreover, Carter did a majority of his damage only with Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon behind center (1994-1996), or opposite to Randy Moss (1999-2001). Before Moon came along, Carter was mostly a possession receiver, nothing more.
Brown meanwhile spent much of his career opposite James Jett with a quarterback by committee situation; hardly comparable to having Warren Moon passing, and Randy Moss detracting attention from the defense.
From 1993-2001, Brown topped 1,000 yards and more than 75 receptions per season, regardless of the quarterback or receiver counterpart. Thus, in comparison with Reed and Carter, Brown excelled with less support.
You can also argue that Brown often put the Raiders in position to score touchdowns by other players such as James Jett who scored 12 touchdowns in 1997 and Rickey Dudley who scored seven, and both had less than 1,000 receiving yards, while Brown led the league in receptions and topped 1,400 receiving yards that year.
Moreover, running back Zack Crockett would often get credit for a touchdown on a short run. From 1999-2002, Crockett amassed 25 touchdowns and never averaged more than ten yards per game. Crockett of course, would be put in position to score, because of the Raiders passing game.
On the flip side, you could say that Brown benefited from the fact that he was the only target for the Raiders until Jeff George (1997) and Rich Gannon (1999-2002). I added George because, despite the record of 4-12 that year, he led the NFL in passing yards; largely thanks to Brown.
But to ascribe all credit to Brown's success to the lack of another option would negate the basic question of whether a player is independently great and therefore a Hall of Famer. The fact that Brown excelled with less support is the proof that Brown was independently great.
The best way to judge whether a player is a Hall of Famer is not just by whether he was on a successful team, but also what he did when the team was unsuccesful. Because that is the true indication of what he contributes, in spite of everything else.
The NFL is unlike the MLB, NBA, and NHL because one player cannot carry an NFL team, thus, it is unfair to punish that player when the team struggles, yet he excels.
Unlike Carter and Reed, Brown was also a two-time ProBowler as a return specialist, which Brown excelled at from 1988-1996 by averaging over 10 yards per return, which again, often put the Raiders in position to score.
Brown's versatility should (but that doesn't necessarily mean that it will) factor into the question of Brown's candidacy.
I also believe that Brown is a big reason why Raider Nation will always rebut when Raider Haters claim that all associated with the Raiders are, "thugs."
I should also add that Brown once had the chance to leave the Raiders for a team where he could have racked-up the stats and would have become a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame: The Denver Broncos.
A little known story is that Brown once signed a contract with the Broncos of John Elway as a restricted free agent. The Raiders would match the offer at the last minute and retain Brown. Had Brown joined the Broncos, he surely would have two rings right now.
As bitter as Brown could have been and could be publically, Brown has remained an example of class, in an era where it has been en vogue for the receiver to undercut the quarterback or engage in drama; when Brown had every reason to do so during the turbulent times when the Raiders returned to Oakland from Los Angeles.
In fact, Brown recently stated that he often had to intervene to prevent Rich Gannon from getting jumped. I know that character generally does not factor into the voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but perhaps, the Hall should consider Brown's character as a statement to players like Terrell Owens and others.
But iin a time where the NFL has put a new emphasis on character integrity, Brown should be the poster boy. I mean, if Brown can excel and keep a low profile for the Raiders: what is your excuse?
Brown was the polar opposite of what has become the stereotype of wide receivers today: Prima donnas. Ironically, it was George that mocked the team back in 1997, while Brown remained focused.
Clearly, if any receiver since 1985 has had good reason to be disgruntled about his situation, it was Tim Brown. And yet, he just kept playing.
Between Carter, Brown, and Reed, not one won the Super Bowl (sorry), but the fact is, Brown clearly did more to contribute to his respective team and was highly successful at what was asked of him.
With Rice as a shoo-in for the Hall, the question has been whether another receiver will be inducted, and if so, who?
In my personal opinion as a Raider fan, I would love to see Brown and Rice inducted in the same year after what they did for the Raiders in 2001 and 2002. To the casual observer, that only appears as two seasons, and probably can't conceptually grasp the meaning of that period to Raider fans.
Raider Haters just look at it as a blip.
The fact is that despite the 2002 Super Bowl, Brown and eventually Rice were the duo that powered a prolific offense in the twilight of their careers, and one in which Rich Gannon would win the MVP Award in 2002, when the Raiders set the record for 300-yard passing games in a single season.
Raider Nation meanwhile will remember it for a lifetime.
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