Cliff Branch and Dick Vermeil are the first two finalists named for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022.
Branch has been chosen as the senior finalist, while Vermeil has been chosen as the coach finalist, the Hall of Fame announced today. Their candidacies will be voted on the day before the Super Bowl, along with a contributor finalist who will be named next week and 15 player finalists who will be named in January.
The Class of 2022 will have between four and eight members. Branch and Vermeil will be voted upon separately from the rest of the class.
Branch was drafted by the Raiders in 1972 and played for them through 1986. He won three Super Bowl rings, was a three-time first-team All-Pro, led the league in receiving yards in 1974 and finished his career with 501 catches for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns.
Vermeil became the Eagles’ head coach in 1976 and led them to the Super Bowl (losing to Branch’s Raiders) in 1980. He retired after the 1982 season, citing burnout, but returned to coaching with the Rams in 1997. He led them to a Super Bowl victory in 1999 before retiring again, but just a year later he again came back, coaching the Chiefs for five seasons before retiring for good.
Branch died in 2019. Vermeil released a statement to the Hall of Fame saying, “I am overwhelmed. I’m not sure I belong there.”