Otis Taylor was the greatest wide receiver in the history of the Kansas City Chiefs. No, he isn’t the team leader in receptions, yards or receiving touchdowns, but he changed the game of football. A big, fast receiver, who made spectacular catches and burned defenses. He changed how teams defensed him and big receivers who followed.
Otis Taylor deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Hall of Fame voters have not yet come close to voting him in.
By today’s standards, his career statistics are good but not great. But remember, he played in the era where his teams ran more than they passed.
Taylor’s 410 career receptions rank just 200th all-time in NFL history: 7,306 receiving yards rank 108th; his 57 receiving touchdowns are 86th. Among the major career signposts, in only one — yards per catch (17.8).
Taylor was 6 foot three inches of speed, grace and soft hands. He ran the 40 yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds on a 215 pound frame. He was long armed, athletic to grab balls out of the air, and could shake a cornerback out of his cleats. His route running and moves were legendary among league cornerbacks. He was graceful, long strides, as he outraced defenders to the end zone.
In 1966, his second year, he led the American Football League with a 22.4 yd/catch average and ranked second in receiving yards (1,297). He was voted First-team All-AFL and selected for the AFL All-Star team. Taylor led the AFL in receiving touchdowns in 1967 with 11 and led the NFL in receiving yards in 1971 with 1,110. He made the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl twice and in 1971 was named Consensus All-Pro by the Associated Press (AP), the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) and Pro Football Weekly. The PFWA also named him First-team All-Pro for the 1972 season. In his prime, there wasn’t a better receiver or more feared receiver.
In Super Bowl IV, Taylor made his most spectacular play, catching a short pass from quarterback Len Dawson, turning upfield and delivering a brutal stiff-arm to a Viking defensive back, who lay on the turf as Taylor raced 46 yards for a touchdown. His catch and run was a thing of beauty.
Taylor was involved in one of the most famous plays in Chief’s history, a last season game in 1970, against rival Oakland with the division title on the line. The Chiefs were leading, late in the game when Len Dawson ran for a first down, that would have iced the game for the Chiefs. On the play, defensive end Ben Davidson hit Dawson with his helmet, after Dawson was already tackled. The play drew a personal foul penalty, but Taylor, having seen the dirty play, ran up to Davidson and starting punching. A larger fight broke out and Taylor was issued a penalty. The rules at the time called for those penalties to offset – which completely negative Dawson’s first down run. The Chiefs failed to get a first down and had to punt. This was the year that senior citizen George Blanda saved or won last second games for the Raiders, and he was able to kick a field goal to tie the game as time ran out. Oakland finished with a better record because of the tie and knocked the Chiefs out of the playoffs. Taylor was blamed for keeping the Chiefs out of the playoffs, and while I was disappointed at the time, he was protecting his teammate, and that was an example of his character.
Taylor went to school at Prairie View A&M, an African-American college, and was a highly coveted player in 1965, before the NFL and AFL had a common draft. The story goes that Taylor had been drafted by an NFL team and they were trying to keep him away from the Chiefs, who also drafted him. A Chiefs scout found out where he was and helped him escape from his NFL handlers to sign with the Chiefs.
In the early 2000’s, Taylor came out with a book about his time with the Chiefs. I heard that he was doing a book signing so I went. What I did not know was that he was already suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He bravely signed every book but it was painful to watch. He never complained, he quickly struggled to sign his name, and smiled to each person there. I’ll never forget how he gamely fought that disease and he refused to let it beat him.
In the years since, his health has deteriorated, but he is still living, although bedridden with a feeding tube. He is provided 24-hour care by his wife and sister. He is one of the plaintiffs against the NFL for concussion-related litigation.
Otis Taylor once hauled in long pass over his shoulder, as a Washington Redskin cornerback hung all over him, and continued into the endzone. It was an incredible catch, just one of many during his career. The man deserves to have his career celebrated in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.