The top NFL wide receiver lists will usually include Green Bay Packers Don Hutson.
He did have a great career. Finishing with 488 receptions, 7,991 yards, averaged 16.4 yards per catch, averaged 68.9 yards receiving per game, and finished with 99 touchdowns. He also carried the ball 62 times for 284 yards and three touchdowns.
Overall he combined for 8,275 yards and 102 touchdowns. Impressive for the time period he played in which was from 1935-1945. The passing game wasn’t a major part of most offenses and quarterbacks struggled to complete 50 percent of their passes.
In 1941 Detroit Lions quarterback Billy Jefferson was ninth in passing attempts and his completion percentage was 25 percent.
Hutson’s best season came in 1942. Interestingly enough Bud Schwenk of the Chicago Cardinals led the NFL in passing attempts with 295 and completed only 42.7 percent of his passes. Cecil Isbell of the Packers was more accurate completing 54.5 pecent of his passes.
Which is why Hutson caught 74 passes for 1,211 yards, averaged 16.4 yards per catch along with 17 touchdowns. This was also the only season that he went over the 1,000 yard mark or caught more than 58 passes. He did have two other seasons of 10 or more touchdowns.
There’s no doubt Huston put up great numbers. There are some who put him above Jerry Rice as greatest wide receiver in NFL history because he produced those numbers in a shorter season and so by extrapolating those numbers to a 16 game season his numbers were better.
Of course that’s not how it works.
Also noteworthy is that Hutson’s best seasons came in the time period from 1942-1945. What is so important about that? It was during World War II. Which took the lives of 21 NFL players of which 19 were active.
There were teams that didn’t have enough men to compete the Cleveland Rams suspended the 1943 season, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles merged for one season, the Steelers and Cardinals merged the following season, and the Boston Yanks and the Brooklyn Franchise merged, yet at the time no city got designated.
Overall there were 994 individuals associated with the NFL served in World War II. So it’s truly difficult to measure the actual success of Huston while knowing that there was a significant shortage of players and talent at the time.
With the passing game evolving to where it is today putting Hutson on a top wide receiver list isn’t feasible anymore. He’s better suited as an honorable mention at this point.