State Your Case: why WR Otis Taylor deserves a look from Canton

Rick Gosselin

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.

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