Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Jul 2005

Tim Brown to Retire as a Raider

Tim Brown will sign a ceremonial contract with the Raiders and end his Hall of Fame career today. A few thoughts:

Although receiving numbers have been hugely inflated in recent years, I think Brown definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame. His numbers fall short only of Jerry Rice's, and the quality of the quarterbacks who threw him passes doesn't come close to Jerry Rice's.

If you combine college and pro football, Brown's career is matched by few others. Only a handful of Heisman winners have gotten into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When I remember him, the first thing I'll always think of is the time he returned two punts for touchdowns against Michigan State.

Isn't the whole practice of signing a one-day contract kind of silly? If he wants to hold his retirement press conference in Oakland, wearing silver and black, fine. But, Tim, you ended your career as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 07 Jul 2005

39 comments, Last at 18 Jul 2005, 10:11pm by Vince


by Steve (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 12:12pm

Is it me or is this whole "retiring as a ________" one of the stupidest things in sports (or the NFL at least -- does it even happen in other sports)? It would be one thing if they played even one game, but the fact is that my last memories of Emmit Smith are playing for the Cardinals and my last memories of Tim Brown are of him playing for the Bucs. These one-day contracts don't change that.

Is anyone in favor if this?

by Luz (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 12:43pm

i've always liked it. i think in baseball, if you played for multiple teams, you get to pick what hat you wear if you go into the hall of fame. i think this is sort of a football way of picking your "hat."

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 12:49pm

I think it's silly. Tim Brown will be a Raider and Emmitt will be a Cowboy in my mind. The last years in other cities or ceremonial contracts doesn't change that.

by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:00pm

Actually, in baseball the Hall of Fame chooses which hat you wear. Generally the player and the Hall agree, but there have been some controversies, and Roger Clemens has said he'll boycott the ceremony in Cooperstown if they put him in a Red Sox hat.

In football, they aren't enshrined as a member of a specific team like they are in baseball; the busts don't show any team affiliation.

by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:08pm

I don't think it's silly. It's football's equivalent of a funeral service. After this Tim Brown will disappear and we'll never hear of him except for once a decade when he's playing opposite some bank executive at Pebble Beach. This kind of ceremony gives his loyal fans--most of whom are Raiders--a moment to say goodbye to his life in sports as, in fact, MDS just did when he introduced the article. What's to be irritated about?

by senser81 (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:15pm

Good comment on Brown's quality of QBs. If Tim Brown makes the HOF, he will easily be the HOF WR with the worst set of QBs in NFL history. Its amazing how consistent Brown has being throughout his career considering how many different yet equally bad QBs have thrown passes toward him.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:20pm

Another thing about Tim Brown is he played on special teams for almost his whole carreer.
Speakng of Clemens, he should go into the HOF with a $ on his cap.

by Johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:20pm

Is Tim Brown the best player ever to come back from a major knee injury early in their career?

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:22pm

I don't really mind these, but I thought it was pretty lame last week when the Jets "re-signed" Mo Lewis and Marvin Jones - who didn't play for anyone else after the Jets cut them last year!

by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 1:30pm

B, good point about Brown on special teams. He was a very good kickoff and punt returner and might have been one of the all-time best at that if it had been his exclusive focus like it is for so many return men.

But I disagree with you strongly on Clemens (although it's a funny line). He took about $10 million less than he could have last year.

by Steve (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 2:03pm

"What’s to be irritated about?"

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm irritated about it (although the fact that I did offer my unsolicited opinion on an anonymous message board may lead you to draw a different conclusion). It just seems like a silly way to accomplish that. Have Tim Brown Day at a Raiders game this season or something. I just don't get the whole retire as a Raider thing. I mean it's not like his football card is going to read:

2003 -- OAK
2004 -- TB
2005 -- OAK

by Parker (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 2:24pm

It's like David Hasselhoef. Despite all those years on Baywatch, he'll always be Michael Knight to me.

by King Kaufman (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:06pm

The baseball Hall of Fame used to let you choose what hat you wanted on your plaque, but revoked the privilage when the Devil Rays gave Wade Boggs extra money in exchange for his agreement to have a Rays hat on his when he went in. I think they made the same deal with Jose Canseco, though that will turn out to be moot.

I think the one-day contract thing is perfect for the NFL: A bureacratic, technical, letter but not spirit approach to a subject that needn't be approached that way.

by Glenn (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:11pm

If you don't get the one-day-contract-retirement thing, just remember that this is usually done with players who spent long and respectful careers in one city, then left at the tail end for a cup of coffee somewhere else before hanging it up. So who reaps the real benefit of the one-day deal? The team! It's a PR boost, folks, designed to remind fans that even though they let Emmitt/Otis/Mo/Tim go, the Cowboys/Patriots/Jets/Raiders still respect and honor their many contributions to the team. Expect the Titans to do the same with Eddie George and the Pats would have done it in the future with Troy Brown if he'd signed with the Saints.

It's a feel-good story for the team and loyal fans, and that's why they love it.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:12pm

Wow. Hasselhoff's name on 'Knight Rider' was Michael Knight? Kind of gives a different overtone to the title 'Knight Rider'.

As for the contract thing, I don't mind it. It seems to mean a lot to the players, it's fun for the fans, and it's nice to see. From the team's perspective I guess it's more of a business decision...sell some retirement jerseys, make some money off of the event...but it's nice that players get to retire in an official way like this as a member of whatever team they want. I'd love to see someone retire for a team that they'd never played for, though. Or to see Gus Frerotte officially retire as a free agent and hold a press conference dressed in pieces of jersey from six different teams.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:20pm

Actually, according to the backstory, he had plastic surgery (Then why did his eil twin brother look the same, but with a goatee?) to "change his face" and assumed the name Michael Knight, named after the founder of the Knight Foundation.

by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:24pm

Aaron (Or anybody else who can make such decisions) - is there any way to have more than 5 "Most recently commented Extra Points" on the left side of the screen. Right now there are 5 that have been commented on since I last checked. Maybe there are even more, but I don't know.

by Johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:26pm

Clearly the surgery was very subtle. Like Michael Jacksons.

by C (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 3:45pm

I think it is just fine. It is a nod to the Raiders fans who cheered for him over the years. Also, it helps him out in his retirement by identifying him as a "Raider" for life. Tim is available for shopping mall openings, ceremonial ribbon cuttings and motivational speaking dates all over the Bay Area, folks! I know that Randall Cunningham, Seth Joyner and Byron Evans (at least) did the same thing with the Eagles.

by Nine Iron (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 5:18pm

This gets me thinking about how horrible it was for SF (or Mike Nolan) to turn down Rice's offer to play his last year (god I hope so) with them. I mean, last I looked they didn't exactly have a lot of talent in their wideout corps.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 6:39pm

I have to agree with the Niner's decision. They're trying to rebuild a team and in a league where close to all players on the active roster (and some who aren't) regularly play for a team during the course of a year, it doesn't make sense to have a receiver in his last season on a team that's looking down the road.

by Krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 6:55pm

what's wrong with having a hof caliber coach on the squad to help bring the young guys along? What a huge resource a Jerry Rice type player could be to a young rebuilding team (as long as the player buys in to his role)

by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 9:57pm

Krugerindustrialsmoothing, you've got the best handle I've seen on any site. Well done.

by Nine Iron (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 11:00pm

Kruger hit the nail on the head. Rice, IIRC, was basically selling himself as a mentor/third receiver. If anything, he might be able to teach "B.Lloyd" something about work ethic.

by dedkrikit (not verified) :: Thu, 07/07/2005 - 11:48pm

Hasn't previous discusions on Rice's "last year" concluded with accounts of him not being a good coach or not wanting to coach?

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 10:10am

I don't think Rice's HOF playing abilities translate very well into making him a good coach/mentor. It didn't do Seattle any good last year.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 10:41am

Yah, but I think any effect Rice would have would take multiple years, not just one. I don't think you can be much of a mentor just by bouncing from team to team year after year.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 11:03am

Then maybe we should look at his later time in Oakland. Was he a good influence on Jerry Porter?

by Krugerindustrialsmoothing (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 12:59pm

No question, the key to making it work with a veteran player is to have them buy into thier role as mentor. If the guy (not just Rice but any vet) doesn't see the writing on the wall and still wants to see the ball as much as in the glory years or if the guy is just a terrible communicator, then it won't work.
But given that a team would sign him for a short term contract and assuming the cap space is there, it won't hurt financially so what is the downside?

btw, if anyone has a horse for sale (cheap) I have the name...

by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 2:46pm

No one has actually said this...but I want to make sure I'm not crazy...does anyone think Tim Brown won't get in the HOF?

Seriously between death, taxes, me slicing my driver and Tim Brown in the HOF...these are all givens? Right?

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 3:38pm

Tim Brown obviously benefits from having a long career. His peak was only decent, I think.

Looking at the three major categories for receivers: Catches, Yards, TD's. 8 times in his career he finished in the top-5 in one of those categories. In 1997 he tied for the league lead in catches, and was second in yards. That was his best and highest-ranking season. Although he only scored 5 TD's that year. Tim Brown had 14,934 yards, 1094 catches and 100 TD's.

Henry Ellard had 7 top-5 rankings (played in about 25 fewer games than Brown over his career). Ellard's best season was probably 1988, when he ranked 1st in yards (1,414) and 2nd in catches (86), which would probably be better than Brown's best year. I'm guessing Ellard does not make the Hall. Ellard has 13,777 receiving yards, 814 catches and 65 TD's.

Art Monk had 5 top-5 seasons, with career numbers quite similar to Ellard's.

I would say that Monk and Ellard are two of Brown's best contemporaries not named Jerry Rice. Monk and Ellard are no locks for the Hall, and Brown is maybe only slightly more deserving than them.

Randy Moss has 12 top-5 seasons (in only about 43% as many games as Brown).

Jerry Rice has 31 top-5 seasons (including 14 league-leading seasons).

Marvin Harrison has 13, with career totals similar to Tim Brown (in half the games).

James Lofton has 6 top-5 seasons.

Cris Carter has 13.

Andre Reed has 5.

Irving Fryar has 3.

Michael Irvin has 7.

Isaac Bruce has 6.

Jimmy Smith has 7.

Andre Rison has 11.

I'm not sure if Tim Brown is significantly more deserving than any of the guys I listed.

by senser81 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 4:21pm

You are right about Brown only having a decent peak, but I think some of that is due to the vast array of mediocre QBs throwing passes to him. Compare that to Andre Rison's career. Once Rison left the pass-happy Falcon offense of the early-90's, his seasonal totals were cut almost in half. Even during his 5 seasons with Atlanta, there were years when Rison would trail Michael Haynes or Terrance Mathis in receiving.

I think what sets Tim Brown apart from most WRs is that he was able to be consistently great despite playing for average QBs. Not many WRs are in the HOF who didn't play with a HOF QB.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 4:35pm

Interestingly, Brown's best season (1997) was one of the team's worst at 4-12, with Jeff George throwing him the ball. (Probably George's second-best season, after his 1995 year with Atlanta.)

Hostetler was a pretty solid QB for Brown for 4 seasons.

(I have no point - just observations.)

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 5:02pm

I thought the observation about the one day contract being kind of silly was a little harsh, especially when it comes to players like Brown and Emmitt, but then I remembered that the Pats did the same thing earlier this year for Otis "My Man" Smith, which struck me as odd because I always thought of Otis as a Jet. But Otis said he wanted to retire for the team where he had his greatest glory. A precedent now in place for the eventual farewells of Jerome Wiggins, TeBucky Jones, and Ken Walter.

by Harris (not verified) :: Fri, 07/08/2005 - 9:47pm

I think Gannon was the first Raider QB to go to the Pro Bowl since Jim Plunkett. Consider some of the freaks and losers who played the position during Brown's career: George, Vince Evans, Rick Mirer, TODD FREAKING MARINOVICH. Maybe we should cut the brother some slack.

by David Keller (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 1:19pm

When Tim Brown was a Raider, he was a receiver. When the ball was thrown to him, typically by the quarterback, he caught the ball. Sometimes, he was able to run with the ball after catching it. Sometimes, he scored a touchdown. That gave his team six points.

by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 2:39pm

And sometimes the quarterback, because he played football instead of baseball, got the ball in the shotgun.

by David Keller (not verified) :: Wed, 07/13/2005 - 5:46pm

MDS mocks me, but what I said is true: Football is a sports played by men in uniforms and safety equipment, including a helmet and padding.

by Vince (not verified) :: Mon, 07/18/2005 - 10:11pm

OK, it's taken me a while to get it, but I've come to the conclusion that David Keller is the funniest poster, anywhere, ever.