Late Raiders WR Cliff Branch, former coach Dick Vermeil named Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists

Late wide receiver Cliff Branch -- a three-time All-Pro -- and former Super Bowl-winning head coach Dick Vermeil were named finalists Tuesday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2022.

Branch was selected as the Senior finalist and Vermeil the Coach finalist by a five-person panel of selectors for the Hall of Fame.


Branch, one of the most dynamic receivers of his era as the speedy deep threat for the Raiders who stretched opposing defenses, caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns in 14 seasons (1972 to '85) for the franchise. He also had 73 postseason receptions for 1,289 yards and five touchdowns.Only Jerry Rice, Julian Edelman and Michael Irvin have more postseason receiving yards than Branch.

He was a part of three Super Bowl championship teams with the Raiders and led the NFL in touchdown receptions twice, with 13 in 1974 and 12 in 1976. He was a first-team All-Pro in 1974, '75 and '76.

He died at the age of 71 in 2019.

Branch's sister, Elaine Anderson, said in a call with Hall of Fame president David Baker that her brother "dreamed of this" and "wanted this so bad, he could taste it," according to the Hall of Fame's website, while Raiders owner Mark Davis said "Cliff Branch changed the game" after receiving a call from Baker.

Vermeil, 84, went 126-114, including playoffs, in 15 seasons as a coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. His Rams team, which earned the nickname the "Greatest Show on Turf" for its high-scoring offense led by Hall of Famers Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce, won the 1999 championship by defeating the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV. He also led the Eagles to an NFC championship in 1980 before his team fell to Branch's Oakland Raiders 27-10 in Super Bowl XV. Branch caught two touchdown passes in that victory.


"I am overwhelmed. I'm not sure I belong there," Vermeil said, according to the Hall of Fame's website.

Vermeil and Branch will need 80% of the vote from the Hall of Fame's 49-member selection committee to be elected. In addition to Vermeil and Branch, a Contributor finalist will be named on Aug. 31 and 15 Modern-Era finalists will be announced in January after the initial list is revealed in September and trimmed to 25 in November.

The committee will meet before Super Bowl LVI to discuss the 18 finalists. At least four and no more than eight of the Class of 2022 finalists will be elected to the Hall of Fame, per its bylaws.

The Class of 2022 will be formally enshrined next summer in Canton, Ohio.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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