"If defensive backs could catch, they would be wide receivers” is a popular football adage. The saying usually comes up when a defensive back is in perfect position for an interception, but can’t hold on to the football.
“If defensive backs were great receivers, then they’d be playing on offense” was said by quarterback Terry Bradshaw in 1980. “If defensive backs could catch, they would be wide receivers” was cited in print in 1994.
10 October 1980, Ukiah (CA) Daily Journal, “Catching Up With the Wide Receivers,” pg. 13, col. 1:
“I learned three things about football a long time.ago,” he (Terry Bradshaw—ed.) smiled. “No. 1: If defensive backs were great receivers, then they’d be playing on offense.”
Google News Archive
29 October 1994, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Receivers, teammates from Colorado find they can’t buffalo Steelers’ Parry” by Ron Cook, pg. B-6, col. 5:
What separates Perry (Darren Perry—ed.) from most defensive backs is his ability to catch the ball. You know what quarterbacks love to say, don’t you? “If defensive backs could catch, they would be wide receivers.”
Google News Archive
19 April 1995, Allegheny Times (PA), “Steelers will seek depth in secondary” by Mike Ciarochi, pg. B2, col. 3:
Hunter may disprove the theory that if defensive backs had good hands they’d be wide receivers.
ESPN—NFL Nation Blog
Bills minicamp notes and observations
By Tim Graham
June, 25, 2010
6/25/10 3:55 PM ET
Buffalo’s defensive backs have incredible hands. There’s an old saying that if defensive backs could catch, then they would be wide receivers. But when I watched the Bills’ secondary go through individual drills, the ball rarely touched the turf.
Baltimore (MD) Sun
Ravens Q & A with Mike Preston
October 12, 2010
Brett: Other than Ed Reed do the players in the Ravens secondary lack the instincts to get interceptions or is it just a combination of bad luck and good play from the opposing teams so far?
Mike Preston: They can’t catch. If they could, the Ravens might have as many as seven interceptions this season. You know how the old saying goes: If they could catch, they would be wide receivers. Reed has great hands, and the next best pair belongs to No. 52.
You know what they say about cornerbacks—if they had hands, they would be wide receivers.
5:38 PM - 11 Dec 11
Old adage in football holds true this WC weekend: If DBs could catch, they would be WRs!
4:45 PM - 8 Jan 12