Great Wide Receivers From The 70s Before the 1978 Rule Change

Pro football has provided a showcase for the many different wide receivers who buckled up their chinstraps during the 1970s. Prior to the 1978 rules changes which great benefited those pass catchers, however, pass receiving was a very difficult job.

Defensive backs enjoyed a lot of freedom to practically annihilate everyone of their foes who attempted to roam through their zone coverages downfield…before the NFL’s competition committee decided to make things a bit easier for the league’s passing offenses.

Those men who were wide receivers before those rules changes occurred are what this episode of my podcast is about. Now I cannot discuss them all here, but I will try to examine at least a few of them here. Many of them have the notoriety of being “possession” receivers, which I guess they are. They kept the chains moving for their teams.

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Hall of Famer- Charlie Joyner

The first wide receiver that I would like to mention got a chance to experience a good number of years both before and after those 1978 rules changes.

Charlie Joiner of the Houston Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Diego Chargers played 18 years in pro football. He could tun practically any route, and his hands were as reliable as death and taxes. Joiner would catch 750 passes during his career, worth 12,146 yards and 65 touchdowns.

Like most great wide receivers, he was unafraid to run pass patterns over the middle. Despite his small 5-foot-11, 180-pound body, Joiner would regularly hold onto many a football, despite enduring some of the hardest licks that have ever been seen in the NFL. Charlie Joiner was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

Another great wide receiver who played most of his years before the 1978 rules changes was Charley Taylor of the Washington Redskins.

Taylor was a bigger wide receiver than Joiner, and thus could (and would) dish out some hits himself.

Taylor was a “fighter for the football,” meaning that he would actively fight a defender for a pass, whether it was misguided or not. Whenever a ball was in his area, Taylor believed that it belonged to him, and his alone.

Taylor is also a Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrine, having received (no pun intended) his gold jacket back in 1984. Taylor ended his 13-year pro career with 649 receptions, worth 9,110 yards and 79 touchdowns.

More Great Receivers Before Rule Change

Ahmad Rashad was another great wide receiver who played before the 1978 season, and yet was productive for both the St. Louis Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, and Minnesota Vikings during his 10-year pro career.

Rashad went by the name of Bobby Moore before he changed his name to Ahmad Rashad. He was one of the most clutch pass receivers in the league. He did not have sprinter speed, but he was certainly fast enough to beat man-to-man coverage. He snared 495 passes during his time in pro football, worth 6,831 yards and 44 touchdowns.

The next three wide receivers who did plenty of damage to opposing defenses before the 1978 season were very similar in their physical makeup, as well as their abilities. Haven Moses of the Buffalo Bills and later of the Denver Broncos had a reputation for making tough catches anywhere on the field.

There are many instances where Moses would get hit numerous times each Sunday going over the middle of the field, but yet, he regularly hung on to the ball. Moses helped to lead Denver to their first Super Bowl in 1977. By the time that he ended his 14-year pro career, he caught 448 passes for 8091 yards and 56 touchdowns.

John Gilliam was another pass catcher who, like Moses, brought success to his team.

He played for the New Orleans Saints and the St. Louis Cardinals, before he really hit his stride as a veteran with the Minnesota Vikings. He eventually came to an end of his 11-year pro career with stints with the Atlanta Falcons and the Chicago Bears. Gilliam caught 382 passes in the NFL, worth 7,056 yards and 48 touchdowns. He also was a valuable kickoff returner.

Gene Washington of the San Francisco 49ers played 10 seasons in pro football from 1969 to 1979. He spent his last year in the league with the Detroit Lions. The number two is a common number for Washington.

He only missed two games during his career, and he only fumbled the football twice during his career.

Washington caught 385 passes during his career, worth 6,856 yards and 60 touchdowns. He helped to lead the 49ers to three straight NFC Western Division titles from 1970 to 1972.

Naturally, the wide receivers that I spoke about today are just a small fraction of some of the great wide receivers who played…and played well…prior to the new rules changes of 1978. But these guys stick out in my mind as being some of the best in the business.

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Trivia Question:

Which of the above two punters that I spoke about in this podcast played against each other in a Super Bowl?

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    Host of Pro Football in the 1970s - Joe Zagorski

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