State Your Case: Otis Taylor
The NFL's only 1,000-yard receiver in 1971
(Published February 2018)
The 1960s produced a football tale of two Taylors. One is in the Hall of Fame. The other is not.
Charley Taylor was the third overall selection of the 1964 draft by the Washington Redskins. He became the NFL’s rookie of the year as a running back, then moved to wide receiver in his third season. He went to eight Pro Bowls – two as a running back and six as a wide receiver – and became a 1960s NFL all-decade selection. He now has a bust in Canton.
Taylor was a different type of wide receiver by the game’s 1960s standards. At 6-3, 210 pounds, he was a jumbo wideout, almost a tight end on the flank but with speed. He could be as physical with cornerbacks as they were with him.
Otis Taylor was the Charley Taylor of the AFL. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1965 and, at 6-3, 215 pounds, he was even bigger than Charley Taylor. And just as physical – with 4.4 speed. Taylor quickly became the go-to guy in the Kansas City offense, helping the Chiefs win two AFC championships and a Super Bowl.
After the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, there was a two-year window when Otis Taylor was the best wide receiver in all of football. He went to his first two Pro Bowls in 1971-72 and was a two-time first-team All-Pro. In 1971, he was the only player in the NFL with 1,000 yards in receptions.
But Otis Taylor has never been discussed as a Hall of Fame finalist. Maybe the Hall of Fame selection committee hasn’t grasped the greatness of Otis Taylor, but the Lombardi Packers certainly did.
Green Bay won the NFL title and Kansas City the AFL title in 1966, earning the right to play in the first Super Bowl. The Packers knew little of the Chiefs until they watched the game films in their Super Bowl preparations. That’s when they identified the greatness of Taylor, who averaged 22.4 yards per catch that season with his AFL runnerup 58 receptions.
“We thought they would have to go to Otis Taylor to beat us,” Green Bay’s Hall of Fame cornerback Herb Adderley said. “Taylor would have to come up with a big day, he and (quarterback Len) Dawson. I knew I had to shut down Taylor some kind of way, not let him run wild like he did against the Vikings (in Super Bowl IV). Shutting down Taylor was important to the Packers.”
But shutting down Taylor would be a much tougher task that it appeared on film.
“Just from watching film, I knew Otis Taylor was one of the best wide receivers in the game,” Adderley said. “But seeing the guy play on the field and seeing him in person are two different things. Otis was bigger, faster and quicker than I thought. He was as good as any receiver I ever covered. He was like Charley Taylor.”
But the Packers didn’t have to take Otis Taylor out of the game. The Chiefs did. They threw Taylor only four passes that day and wound up on the short end of a 35-10 score.
But Kansas City did not repeat that mistake the next time the Chiefs reached the Super Bowl. Three years later, Dawson threw Taylor the ball six times for 81 yards in Super Bowl IV with a touchdown – a 46-yarder down the sideline late in the third quarter that put the Minnesota Vikings away, 23-7.
The AFL was a pass-driven league in the 1960s with Joe Namath, Jack Kemp, John Hadl and Dawson flinging the ball to all corners of the field. The NFL was the run-driven league that decade with the Jim Browns, Jim Taylors, Gale Sayers’ and John David Crows all trampling defenses on the ground. Yet there are twice as many NFL wide receivers (6) as AFL wideouts (3) in the Hall of Fame from the 1960s.
Lance Alworth, Don Maynard and Fred Biletnikoff carried the AFL banner to Canton, while the Charlie Hennigans, Lionel Taylors and Otis Taylors have all been passed over.
In 11 seasons, Otis Taylor caught 410 passes for 7,306 yards, an average of 17.8 yards per catch, plus 57 touchdowns. In 13 seasons, Charley Taylor caught 649 passes for 9,110 yards, an average of 14.0 yards per catch, plus 79 touchdowns.
If you judge players by statistics, you’ll find better Hall of Fame candidates than Otis Taylor. But if you judge players by their impact on the game during the era they played, Otis Taylor is long overdue his discussion as a Hall of Fame finalist.
Why has he been overlooked for so many years. With his health issues it’s to late for poor Otis. He is so much more deserving than some who have been inducted. Is it political, I just don’t understand.
It’s an absolute travesty that Otis Taylor is not ALREADY in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And, Rick, I would say that it’s time that you and your colleagues on the Senior Selection Committee figure it out and put the man in the Hall…
Your closing paragraph says “If you judge players by statistics, you’ll find better Hall of Fame candidates than Otis Taylor.”
I’m going to take issue with that assessment because many of those players who had “better” statistical careers, weren’t necessarily better depending on how you judge the stats in front of you:
1. Many of the men from his era and the one that followed, played in much-more-pass-heavy offenses than Taylor ever did (Lance Alworth, Fred Biletnikoff, John Stallworth, Drew Pearson, Lynn Swann, Cliff Branch)
2. Most of the receivers that are in the Hall had longer careers, didn’t put their bodies through the same beating that Otis did, and many hadn’t accrued the statistics that Taylor did by the time they had played in the 130 games Otis Taylor’s career ended in. (Biletnikoff, Drew Pearson, John Stallworth, Charley Taylor, Paul Warfield, Cliff Branch)
3. Many of the players around that era Had fewer 1,000-yard seasons than Otis Taylor, despite the fact that most teams during his era threw the football — on average — 100 times more each season than the Chiefs during Hank Stram’s tenure as KC Head Coach (Biletnikoff, Paul Warfield, and Charley Taylor each had just (1) season of over 1,000-yards; Drew Pearson and Cliff Branch had (2) each but never had a season better than Taylor’s 1,297-yards 1966 season or his 1,110-yard 1971 campaign; Lynn Swann never had a season of even 900 yards, and is nearly 2,000 yards behind Taylor in all-time receiving yards, 9 short of Otis in receiving TDs, and had 74 fewer all-time receptions than Taylor)
4. Otis Taylor was named First-Team All-Pro twice in his career (more than Charley Taylor, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Harold Carmichael, or Charlie Joiner. Taylor was even with Paul Warfield and Biletnikoff in All-Pro Selections)
A few other things I would also like to point out concerning the Hall-worthiness of Otis Taylor:
Otis Taylor never played a single season with the benefit of the illegal-contact rule that came into effect in 1977 (AKA the “Mel Blount” Rule), and his Hall of Fame teammate Johnny Robinson once said he couldn’t imagine the stats he’d have piled up if DBs couldn’t hit him after 5 yards.
Another Hall of Fame Safety, Ken Houston, wholeheartedly agreed when I told him what Robinson said on the record, saying, “My goodness, was Johnny ever right about that.” “I’ll tell you this, if you didn’t cut his big butt at the line, you didn’t even stand a chance. And we couldn’t stop him with 3 guys beating him up all the way down the field when I was with the Oilers, so there’s no telling what kind of numbers he’d have had with that rule in place when he played. He was impossible. He was the best I ever played against.”
Otis Taylor never played in a 16-game season, so even in just 10 seasons he would have had the opportunity to play in 20 more games and would have been ahead of some of those receivers that caught and passed him well after 130 games. (Mr. Taylor is credited with 11 seasons, but apparently suited up for just one game in 1976, didn’t start, and never had a ball thrown his way).
And finally, I would like to point out the fact that the NFL’s own publication “Star Pass-Catchers of the NFL” (published in 1972) featured Taylor on the cover and was the first receiver written about in the book, stating that when it came to receivers, the best-ever debate started and ended with just two names according to players and coaches who had been both leagues: Otis Taylor and Lance Alworth.
Obviously, we can debate that all these years later with names like Rice, Moss, and Owens, but if the Hall of Fame was founded to tell the story of professional football with names of the greatest players to play in each era, there is no debate that Otis Taylor is needed to tell the story of pro football around the NFL-AFL merger era.
You can split hairs with statistics if you’d like, leaving out facts like those I outlined here, and continue coming to the conclusion that he just didn’t stack up, or you can tell the story of how he dominated the merger era of pro football, and finally give the man his due as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time.
There isn’t a single player alive that played in the 1960s and 70s that would say differently, so out of respect for those men that served as trailblazers of the NFL as we know it today, I ask that you FINALLY do the right thing, and place Otis Taylor’s bust in Canton…
Petition the HOF!
I will sign it in a heartbeat! ❤#89