The Oakland Raiders family was dealt devastating news Saturday as legendary wide receiver and Super Bowl champion Cliff Branch has died at the age of 71. Branch was considered one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history and was a big part of all three of the team’s Super Bowl runs. Few teams revere their alumni the way the Raiders do, so this is absolutely heartbreaking news for the Silver and Black.
Branch has long been a beloved figure of Raider Nation and is considered one of the great Hall of Fame snubs of all time. He and Fred Biletnikoff formed a legendary duo in his early career catching passes from Ken Stabler. Branch has longevity to his career and was also a big part of the team during the Jim Plunkett era. Time will tell if he will make it into the Hall of Fame, but there’s no doubt he should be there. Branch’s cause of death has yet to be revealed, but any information will be updated here. He is survived by his son Brent.
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He Has Long Been Considered One of the Biggest Hall of Fame Snubs
Unfortunately for Branch, his quest to make it to the Hall of Fame didn’t happen during his lifetime. It’s made even sadder by the fact that the same thing happened to his former teammate Ken Stabler, who was later inducted posthumously. Whether or not Branch will get inducted remains to be seen.
There are a number of older Raiders that haven’t gotten the call yet such as Plunkett and Tom Flores. Branch was an integral part of three championship teams. Some think he’s the biggest Hall of Fame snub of all time. In all likelihood, he’ll get in eventually, but it’s a shame that he couldn’t be there to see it happen.
Branch Was the Only WR to Play on All 3 Raiders Super Bowl Teams
The Raiders have had some legendary wide receivers over the years. Biletnikoff, Tim Brown, James Lofton, Jerry Rice and Randy Moss have all donned the silver and black and are all in the Hall of Fame. However, none of them could say that they were part of all three Raiders Super Bowl championships.
The only player that can say that is Cliff Branch. Not only was he there, but he was also an important part of all three teams. Especially in 1976 when he put up 1,111 receiving yards and caught 12 touchdowns in the regular season.
He Holds the Record for Longest Reception Made by a Raider
During the 1983 season which saw the Raiders win their third Super Bowl, Branch set a record that can never be broken when he caught a 99-yard touchdown pass from Jim Plunkett. As one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history, it’s only fitting that Branch holds the record for longest catch made by a Raider.
He averaged 17.3 yards per reception for his career, which has him tied for No. 45 all-time. Branch had a remarkable stretch from 1974-1976. He made three consecutive All-Pro teams and averaged 19.7 yards per reception. It’s a superb mark when considering the NFL hadn’t yet changed the rules that limited contact to pass-catchers.
Mark Davis Called Branch His Best Friend
Among the many people hit hard by Branch’s death, Raiders owner Mark Davis offered a strong and touching response. The son of the late Al Davis, Mark has not made it a secret that he loves to keep the Raider alumni close to the franchise.
In a statement released by the Raiders, Mark Davis stated “Cliff was my best friend.. I will miss him dearly.”
It’s not hard to feel Davis’ pain in that statement. Branch meant a lot to many people, and his death has impacted many. Davis had to cancel a trip to Las Vegas so that he can mourn properly, as Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal revealed.
Davis has kept many players close and alumni like Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes were attendants at training camp recently. He also keeps a good number of former players employed. Davis was so close to Branch that back in 1980, he went to battle with his father to ensure that the wide receiver got a proper contract. Davis was kicked out of the house because of the ordeal and didn’t speak to his dad for a period.
Branch is Top-3 in Every Major Career Receiving Stat for the Raiders
Cliff Branch’s Career Stats: 8,685 receiving yards, 67 receiving touchdowns, 501 receptions
Branch spent each of his 14 NFL seasons with the Raiders and it resulted in an impressive statistical career. He’s top-three in every major receiving category for the team. The only two players he’s behind in yards, touchdowns and receptions are Hall-of-Famers Tim Brown and Fred Biletnikoff.
Considering he came from a time where the passing game wasn’t what it is today, that’s incredibly impressive. Branch’s legend will remain forever in the hearts of Raiders fans. Hopefully, the Hall of Fame immortalizes the wide receiver by inducting him into Canton.