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Silver Minings: 1974 Raiders set record for Hall of Famers

Branch’s impending enshrinement will make it seven offensive players in Canton for the ‘74 team

SUPER BOWL XI - Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings
Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch

Cliff Branch’s recent selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 was significant for a couple of reasons. For one, it was long overdue and finally put an end to 30 years of frustration that he and his family had to endure. A two, it gives the 1974 Oakland Raiders seven offensive Hall of Famers, the most on one side of the ball from a single team, as CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo points out.

“Branch will join former offensive teammates in linemen Jim Otto (1980), Gene Upshaw (1987) and Art Shell (1989); receiver Fred Biletnikoff (1988); tight end Dave Casper (2002); and quarterback Ken Stabler (2016) in the Hall of Fame,” writes DeArdo. Branch will also join Madden in Canton following Madden’s 2006 induction.

The ‘74 Raiders led the NFL in scoring while boasting the league’s MVP in Stabler, who led Oakland to a 12-2 regular-season record. Oakland dethroned the defending two-time Super Bowl champion Dolphins in a legendary playoff game before being upset by the eventual champion Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. Oakland’s 24-13 loss to Pittsburgh was the final game of Otto’s 15-year career with the silver and black.

Branch and Stabler were also first-team All-Pros that year, with the former catching 60 passes for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns, and the latter tossing for 2,469 yards and 26 scores. The wideout led the league in receiving touchdowns and yards that year and was just one of two pass-catchers to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

Coincidentally, Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys was the other player, and he too was a speed demon whose Hall of Fame induction was long overdue. Pearson retired in 1983 but wasn’t inducted until this past year in the 2021 class.

The ‘74 Raiders also included Ray Guy, the first pure punter enshrined in Canton, as well as Willie Brown, the only defender from that team to make the hall. So, I think it’s safe to say that squad will go down as one of the most talented in NFL history despite not winning it all.

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