Last Sunday, Darren Waller checked a lot of boxes. Thousand yards? Check. Passing Todd Christensen for the franchise record for receptions in a season by a tight end? Check. First Pro Bowl? Check.
With one game left, there’s one big mark in range for him; the franchise record for receptions in a season.
Tim “Mr. Raider” Brown set the record in 1997 with 104 catches.
Darren Waller currently sits at 98 catches on the season, giving him an average of 6.5 receptions per game. Which means if he catches his average, he will surpass Brown to set a new franchise record for receptions in a season.
“To be mentioned with his name is pretty crazy,” Waller said Thursday. “I remember watching him when I was like six or seven years old when he set that record, so to even be in the conversation is amazing.”
A remarkable achievement, especially for a tight end. And he did it in just his second season as a full time starter.
“I think there is a common ground there with greatness,” Jon Gruden said of how Waller compares to Brown. “They all have a couple things in common. Usually, it’s not by accident. They’re your hardest workers, they take care of themselves off the field, they’re the real deal, and they have so many intangibles you don’t have time to list them. But Waller, he’s got the Tim Brown, Hall of Fame, All-Pro work ethic, concentration, focus, desire and he has the right attitude every single day. He’s a premier competitor in the walk throughs, in the meetings and on the field, and that’s why he’s standing where he is today as one of the best.”
Gruden came onboard as Raiders head coach the first time in 1998, the season after Brown set the record. Brown would then have seasons with the 4th most receptions (90, 1999) in franchise history, and then better it two seasons later.
Brown’s 90-catch season is tied for 7th in the franchise record books. He was tied with himself and after last season, he was also tied with Waller.
This season he could see Waller pass him up. Something he says he wants to see Waller accomplish, as he tweeted during the team’s game against the Dolphins last week, that he “can’t wait to see it.”
“He’s been the one consistent bright spot on the team all year,” Brown told Vic Tafur of the Athletic. “He has been dominant, and I actually don’t think they give him enough opportunities to take over football games.”
It’s interesting that Brown thinks the Raiders could have given Waller more opportunities. With the way he’s been playing the past four games in particular, he may be right. Waller’s averaged double digit targets and he’s responded with 8.5 catches for 134 yards per game. And last week in particular, Derek Carr seemed to be throwing for Waller whether even when he was well-covered, and he was still making the catch.
For Waller, this is all surreal. As you might expect from a guy who just two years ago was on the Ravens practice squad. Now to be knocking on the door of surpassing a Hall of Famer is quite a trip. And to hear that Hall of Famer along with his head coach speak so highly of him.
“It’s hard for me to process,” said Waller. “I just look at their football pedigree and know that those guys know what they’re talking about. So, I just appreciate it. For me it’s like, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around this whole experience going from 2018 until now. I just try to stay present in the moment and continue to improve and always try to be open to continue to learn something and take advice from people and not think I know everything, just because I put up some decent numbers every now and then.”
Only Darren Waller can be on his second straight 1,000-yard season and on the cusp of setting a new franchise record and call that “some decent numbers ever now and then.”