Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Gary Clark: Too Late The Dolphin

In 1984, the NFL held a supplemental draft for players in the USFL who hadn't yet been drafted by NFL teams. No doubt the NFL shrewdly recognized the USFL wasn't long for the world. With their three picks, the Miami Dolphins selected the following players: WR Danny Knight (26th overall), DE Dewey Forte 53rd overall, and WR Duan Hanks (82nd overall). None of the three made the team. By spending two of its three picks on wideouts, Miami must have been looking for some targets for Dan Marino. Now they already had the Marks Brothers but while Mark Duper had put up 1000 yards and 10 TD's in '83, Mark Clayton caught only 6 balls that year. Miami probably didn't know what they had quite yet. Anyway, the supplemental draft produced exactly two good receivers, and they both wound up on the same team. The Washington Redskins got both Ricky Sanders (16th) and Gary Clark (55th). Miami picked too late for Sanders, but the true find was Clark and Miami let him slip through their hands in both the 1st and 2nd rounds. For his career, Clark posted more yards and catches than either Duper or Clayton and he did that without a Dan Marino to throw him the football (Clayton caught more TD's though).


Clark was one of the best receivers of his time, better than his teammate Art Monk as far as I'm concerned. And in addition to his fine career totals, you could make a good argument that Clark was a great clutch receiver as well, something you might find it hard to do for the Marks Brothers (or Monk for that matter). Clark played in 3 NFC Championship Games and 2 Super Bowls. 5 championship games. Here's how he did:

1) 1986 NFC Title Game. Clark's first and worst championship game performance. 0 catches. Trailing 10-0 in the 1st quarter, Clark dropped a perfect Jay Schroeder's third-down pass into the wind. It would have at least been a 35-yard reception.

2) 1987 NFC Title Game. 3/57/1. On Washington's final drive with the score 10-10, Clark caught a 43-yarder from Doug Williams to put his team in scoring position. Clark then caught what proved to the winning TD on 3d-and-6 from the MIN 7. Clark improvised his pattern when he saw the planned corner route was covered.

3) Super Bowl XXII. 3/55/1. On the second WAS drive of the 2d quarter, Clark caught a 27-yard TD on 3d-and-1 to put his team up 14-10. They never trailed again. He also had a nice 25-yard run in the 4th quarter though the game was all but over.

4) 1991 NFC Title Game. 4/77/1. WIth his team leading 20-10 with 2:23 left in the third quarter, Clark caught a 45-yard TD to break the game open. On Washington's earlier 74-yard drive that gave them a 17-10 lead, Clark kept the drive alive with a 6-yard catch on 3d-and-5 and he later grabbed a 16-yarder on the drive.

5) Super Bowl XXVI. 7/114/1. Clark caught a 16-yarder to the BUF 35 on the first play of Washington's second drive of the 2d quarter. WAS scored a TD on the drive to go up 10-0. On their next drive, Clark had a 34-yard catch on 3d-and-9 to the BUF 15. Two plays later WAS went up 17-0. In the 3d quarter, after BUF scored to close it to 24-10 and get back in the game, WAS took over on their own 21. Clark caught 4 balls on the subsequent drive, including a 10-yard catch on 3d-and-4 and the 30-yard TD that capped the drive and put the game away. Clark scored and accounted for 60 yards of the gamebreaking 79-yard drive.

4 different games with a TD, each in a critical situations, plus a few other important grabs in those games. Dude was money.

The Dolphins really blew it when they passed on this guy. When they traded away their rights to Anthony Carter the next year, the Dolphins wound up missing out on both of the best receivers that came out of the USFL.

Well, they didn't totally miss out. Clark spent the last year of his career in a Dolphins uniform and he was a solid 3rd receiver for Miami in 1995. But he was long past his All-Pro days by then.

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