AFC West: Jim Plunkett

Marcus AllenAP Photo
Score: Raiders 38, Washington 9
Date: Jan. 22, 1984
Site: Tampa Stadium

We have a winner. The voters picked 17 Bob Trey O as the most memorable play in Oakland Raiders' franchise history, and I concur with the selection. Indeed, 17 Bob Trey O, or when Marcus Allen ran with the night in Super Bowl XVIII, is the play I consider most memorable in the long and winding history of the Raiders.

Sure, the Sea of Hands and the Holy Roller may have better monikers, but Allen reversing field on a busted play and breaking off a then-Super Bowl record 74-yard touchdown run on a play called 17 Bob Trey O tops the list.

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For one, it happened on the game’s biggest stage.

For another, it put a dagger into the defending champs and basically clinched the Raiders’ third Lombardi trophy as it gave them a 35-9 lead on the final play of the third quarter.

Plus, it was the signature play of Allen’s MVP performance, in which he ran for a then-Super Bowl record 191 yards, on 20 carries, with two touchdowns, plus two receptions for 18 yards.

Lastly, it got Allen a plug by the leader of the free world after the game, a seeming U.S. weapon in the Cold War.

“I have already had a call from Moscow,” President Ronald Reagan told Raiders coach Tom Flores in the congratulatory phone call to the locker room. “They think Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist we dismantle him.”

From his perspective, Allen said the run was like time travel, since everyone else seemed to slow down.

“You’re in such a zone and at the height of instinct,” Allen told ESPN Radio affiliate 95.7 The Game in a Super Bowl week interview this year. “You just really get out of your own way. Don’t question it and just get out of your own way and just go. And that’s what I did. It was just one of those games -- I had several of them -- but, obviously, to have it at that particular time was the greatest thing in the world.”

Allen took the handoff from Jim Plunkett and went too wide to the left of pulling right guard Mickey Marvin, and was met by safety Ken Coffey. Allen had to immediately spin to his left, reverse field, and accelerate through a hole on the right side of the line. Then he raced to the left pylon.

“To make a run like that, in a game like that, at a time like that, it was just, it was pure magic,” Allen told the NFL Network. “It was beautiful.”

Which is why it's also the most memorable play in Raiders history.
Marcus AllenAP Photo
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 This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in Raiders' history. In the previous two days we featured the Sea of Hands, when Clarence Davis somehow came down with Ken Stabler’s flip in the end zone to upend the defending two-time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins in the AFC divisional playoffs in 1974; and the Holy Roller, which gave the Raiders a "zany" victory in San Diego on the final play of regulation when Ken Stabler purposely fumbled forward while being sacked and, after Pete Banszak batted the ball even further forward, Dave Casper recovered in the end zone for a touchdown in 1978. Please vote for your choice as the Raiders’ most memorable play.

Score: Raiders 38, Washington 9
Date: Jan. 22, 1984. Site: Tampa Stadium

The Raiders, then calling Los Angeles home, were already trouncing defending champion Washington 28-9 in Super Bowl XVIII when their offense lined up for the final play of the third quarter.

What happened next has gone down in NFL lore as “Marcus Allen, running with the night,” courtesy of legendary NFL Films voice John Facenda.

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Which is the most memorable play in Raiders' history?

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    9%
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    34%

Discuss (Total votes: 29,480)

Because it was a busted play, one in which Allen had to improvise, it is seen in many corners as the greatest run in Super Bowl history, a reverse-field 74-yard scamper that put the dagger in Washington.

“Yeah, I called it, but Marcus made it work,” Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett told me with a laugh as he recounted the play.

“It was one of our steady plays: When in doubt, call ‘Bob Trey O.’ It was always solidly blocked where you shouldn’t lose any yards on it. But their safety messed it up.”

The play was supposed to be a simple power run to the left, right guard Mickey Marvin pulling to clear space for Allen. But Allen went too far wide of Marvin and safety Ken Coffey blew it up by closing in. Allen stopped on a dime, spun to his left and reversed field. A hole had opened on the right side of the line and Allen sped through it, after Coffey lunged for the ball and Allen’s waist in the backfield.

Accelerating through the gap, Allen ran past defensive end Todd Liebenstein and linebacker Rich Milot. “After I made that turn, everything slowed down,” Allen told ESPN radio affiliate 95.7 The Game during Super Bowl Week this past winter. “I remember Neal Olkewicz just grasping [at midfield]. I could almost see the anxiety on their faces and the tension as I was running by. And then, about 20 yards from the goal line, everything came back to normal speed.”

The lone Washington player with a shot at Allen past the 50-yard line was cornerback Anthony Washington, but he was cut off by Raiders receiver Cliff Branch. Allen, who was supposedly too slow to be a game-breaking running back coming out of USC as the 1981 Heisman Trophy winner, had nothing but open field to the left pylon. After the score, which was then the longest run in Super Bowl history, Allen was joined in celebration in the end zone by nearly the entire Raiders team.

“You can’t teach that kind of running,” John Madden, the former Raiders coach-turned-broadcaster, said while describing the replay. “You don’t teach that. You don’t practice that. You don’t see that on film. That happened.”

Raiders Twitter mailbag

February, 8, 2014
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The Super Bowl is done so the season is officially over. Let's get our Twitter mailbag going ...

Kaepernick-WilsonGetty Images49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will square off for the third time this season.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- When the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks meet Sunday for the NFC title, it will mark the 18th time since the AFL/NFL merger of 1970 that teams from the same division play in a conference championship game.

But it’s only happened four times since 2002, when the Seahawks moved from the AFC West to the NFC West as part of the league’s realignment. This year marks No. 5.

Still, when the Raiders were a mainstay of the AFC title game – they played in eight such games between 1970 and 1983 – they faced a team from their division, the AFC West, a mere one step away from the Super Bowl three times.

It’s interesting to note that all three of those meetings would have happened in the divisional round today because, from 1970 through 1989, two teams from the same division could not meet in the playoffs until the conference title game.

A look, then, at those three meetings ...

Jan. 1, 1978, Mile High Stadium

Denver Broncos 20, Oakland Raiders 17

The defending champion Raiders were the AFC’s lone wild-card team at 11-3 – in those days, only the then-three division winners and the second-place team with the best record qualified for the playoffs – and were coming in off their breathtaking “Ghost to the Post” double-overtime divisional playoff win at the Baltimore Colts, 37-31.

The top-seeded Broncos, in the heyday of their “Orange Crush” defense, had gone 12-2 with one of their losses at home to the Raiders – the teams split the regular-season series, each winning on the road – and had just handled the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round, 34-21.

The Broncos, who allowed an AFC-low 148 points, never trailed the Raiders, who led the NFL in scoring with 351 points, and led by scores of 14-3 and 20-10. But the Raiders, appearing in their fifth straight AFC title game, remember it for a play that never happened. At least, from the officials’ perspective.

“(Rob) Lytle’s fumble?” the late Al Davis told NFL Films. “No one saw it, so they said.”

Leading 7-3 midway through the third quarter, the Broncos set up at the Raiders’ 2-yard line and had a first-and-goal when Lytle ran into the pile and was hit by Jack Tatum. The ball popped out, Mike McCoy scooped it up and was off to the races for the game-changing touchdown. Except ...

Lytle was ruled down, the officials explained, saying that his forward progress had been stopped before the ball came free. Replays showed otherwise and then Art McNally, the former head of NFL officials, came clean to NFL Films, albeit, a decade later.

“It was a fumble,” he said, “and we were wrong on the call.”

Too little, too late for the Raiders as Jon Keyworth punched it in for Denver one play later and the Broncos led, 14-3, en route to the victory and Super Bowl XII, where they were thumped by the Dallas Cowboys, 27-10.

It was John Madden’s final playoff game as he retired a year later and Oakland would not return to the postseason until 1980.

Jan. 11, 1981, Jack Murphy Stadium

Oakland Raiders 34, San Diego Chargers 27

Five AFC teams finished 11-5 in 1980, the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, the Houston Oilers, the Chargers and the Raiders.

A second wild-card team had been added to the playoff mix two years earlier and the Raiders were the top-seeded wild card. First they beat a familiar face in Kenny Stabler and the Oilers, 27-7, in the conference’s wild-card game, then they traveled to Cleveland, where the wind chill was minus-36 degrees, and upset the Browns, 14-12, in the “Red Right 88” game when Mike Davis picked off Brian Sipe in the end zone with less than a minute to play.

The Chargers, meanwhile, were the AFC’s top seed due to a better conference record than Cleveland and Buffalo and won the West over the Raiders, with whom they split the regular-season games as each team won at home, based on better net points in division games. San Diego beat the Bills, 20-14, in its first playoff game.

Oakland began the season just 2-3 and recently acquired quarterback Dan Pastorini was lost in Game 5 with a broken leg. Enter Jim Plunkett and his Lazarus act. Under Plunkett, the Raiders had won 11 of 13 games, including the playoffs, and started hot again against the high-scoring Air Coryell Chargers as Oakland opened up a 28-7 first-half lead.

San Diego woke up with 17 unanswered points , creeping to within 28-24 in the third quarter.

“Ted Hendricks grabs me by the jersey and he starts shaking me and says, ‘Keep scoring. We can’t stop them,’” Plunkett told NFL Network.

A pair of Chris Bahr field goals gave the Raiders some breathing room before Rolf Benirschke’s field goal made it a one-score game with less than seven minutes to play.

The Raiders' offense did not heed Hendricks’ advice this time; it simply ran out the clock on a 15-play drive that included 14 runs and four first downs.

“That game in the end, when all was said and done, came down to our offensive line and Mark van Eeghen,” Matt Millen, then a rookie linebacker, told NFL Network.

The iconic image of the game, then, is of left guard Gene Upshaw’s heavily padded right arm holding the game ball aloft as he exited the field. The Raiders went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, in Super Bowl XV as Plunkett was named the game’s MVP and Tom Flores became the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl.

Jan. 8, 1984, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Los Angeles Raiders 30, Seattle Seahawks 14

The 1983 Raiders are considered one of the best teams of all time and yet, they lost four games that season – one at Washington, in which an injured Marcus Allen did not play, a head-scratcher at home in the penultimate week of the season to the St. Louis Cardinals and two to, yes, the Seahawks.

Indeed, all you NFL newbies, the Raiders were in L.A. from 1982 through 1994 and the Seahawks used to live in the AFC West (from 1977-2001) and they were even a little chippy and, yes, lippy back then.

“Seattle knew us so well,” Allen told NFL Network. “It’s no secret, I mean they even knew our plays. I looked across the line of scrimmage at Kenny Easley, I shook my head, I said, ‘I’m coming right there.’ I think he shook his head back and said, ‘OK.’”

The Seahawks had swept the Raiders that year by scores of 38-36 in Seattle and 34-21 in L.A. over a three-week period. The sweep got the Seahawks into the playoffs as the top wild-card team at 9-7 and they beat rookie John Elway and the Broncos, 31-7, in the wild-card game at Seattle before upsetting another ballyhooed first-year QB in the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino, 27-20, at the Orange Bowl.

The top-seeded Raiders had just thumped the Pittsburgh Steelers, 38-10, before a crowd of 92,434 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and awaited the Seahawks.

“We had lost to Seattle twice,” Howie Long told NFL Network. “We took that as we had gotten our ass kicked and it was time for redemption.”

It was an alley fight of a game and the Raiders, who led the AFC with 442 points scored, dominated Seattle, the conference’s second-highest scoring team with 403 points. L.A. jumped out to a 27-0 lead as Allen, playing with a mouse under his right eye, finished with 216 yards from scrimmage, with 154 yards rushing on 25 carries and 62 yards receiving and a TD on seven catches.

“All I remember was coming out with a black eye and seeing stars,” Allen said. “But I wasn’t going [to stay] out of the game.”

L.A.’s defense picked off five passes from Seahawks quarterbacks Dave Krieg and Jim Zorn, with two interceptions from Mike Davis, and the Raiders also had five sacks, two by rookie Greg Townsend.

The Raiders then went to Tampa Bay for Super Bowl XVIII and beat defending champion Washington, 38-9, with Allen winning MVP honors on the strength of a then-record 191 rushing yards on 20 carries, including his reverse-field 74-yard touchdown run.

It is still the Raiders’ most recent Super Bowl title.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While Tim Brown is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the fifth consecutive year and is deserving of being inducted, the former Oakland Raiders receiver may not be the most, let’s say, worthy candidate of former Raiders.

Now, that’s not a slap at Brown, who certainly had a Canton-worthy career with eye-popping stats. It’s just that the manner in which the Hall’s 46-member selection committee chooses the enshrinees sets up a logjam that have many just-as-deserving candidates biding their time and waiting for the seniors committee to come their way with a life preserver.

That’s how Ray Guy, the punter who changed the game, is likely to get in this year ... as one of two senior candidates to join the 15 finalists the committee votes on to elect its class the day before the Super Bowl. It will be a class of between four and seven members.

One observer’s opinion, then, of 10 Raiders deserving of having busts in Canton, and garish gold jackets in their wardrobe ...

[+] EnlargePlunkett/Flores
AP PhotoCoach Tom Flores and QB Jim Plunkett won Super Bowl XV and XVIII together.
1) Jim Plunkett -- The ultimate Lazarus tale who won not one, but two Super Bowl titles after being given up on by not one, but two franchises. The quarterback’s career stats compare to those of Joe Namath’s and, oh yeah, Plunkett won twice as many titles as Broadway Joe. You cannot tell the story of the NFL in full without mentioning Plunkett’s tale. His fate now rests with the seniors committee.

2) Tom Flores -- The first minority coach to win a Super Bowl (I bet you thought that title went to Tony Dungy, right?), Flores won two titles as the Raiders’ head coach and, truly, it’s hard to separate him from Plunkett as they accomplished so much together. Still, Flores owns four rings total (two as head coach, a third as an assistant on John Madden’s SB XI-winning staff and the fourth as Len Dawson’s backup in SB IV).

3) Ray Guy -- A trailblazer who made opponents plan for a punter, Guy likely gets in this year as a seniors committee nominee. If so, it would be an honor long overdue and he would be the first true punter to get into Canton. Oh yeah, and he was also a first-round draft pick, was on all three Raiders Super Bowl championship teams and his athletic punt in SB XVIII was a game-saving play.

4) Cliff Branch -- Speed kills, right? A key member of all three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl title teams, the receiver’s snub remains a mystery. Especially when you compare his stats to those of Hall of Famer Lynn Swann. Branch caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards (17.3 yards per catch average) and 67 TDs in 14 seasons; Swann had 336 catches for 5,462 yards (16.3) and 51 TDs in nine seasons.

[+] EnlargeTim Brown
AP Photo/Al GolubTim Brown is No. 5 all-time in receptions (1,094) and No. 6 in career receiving yards (14,943).
5) Tim Brown -- Spare the "what if Tim Brown switched places with Jerry Rice" arguments and simply admire Brown’s body of work. No, he never won a Super Bowl, but he did amass 1,094 receptions for 14,943 yards and 100 TDs in 17 years. He deserves a spot in Canton, no doubt. It’s just, among former Raiders, he should take a number.

6) Ken Stabler -- The Snake was the embodiment of the 1970s Raiders as an unorthodox left-handed quarterback. Winning only one Super Bowl shouldn’t be held against him, right? He’s already been a finalist for the Hall three times but his legend is getting lost in the fog of time. Someone had to throw all those passes to the already-enshrined Fred Biletnikoff and Branch in the Disco Decade.

7) Lester Hayes -- The Judge was a self-described Jedi Knight of Silver and Blackdom. Opponents simply saw him as a physical cornerback dripping with Stickum who intercepted 13 passes in 1980. He’s been a Hall finalist four times already, but not since 2004, and was second-team all-1980s by the Hall despite retiring in 1986. With two rings, he was an impact player.

8) Dave Dalby -- He replaced Jim Otto and started at center for all three of the Raiders’ title teams. Dalby, though, was unappreciated as he was selected to just one Pro Bowl, in 1977. He was the anchor of a line early in his 14-year career that had Hall of Famers on his left in guard Gene Upshaw and tackle Art Shell.

9) Steve Wisniewski -- “Wiz” was a Hall semifinalist this past year for the first time and the left guard is sure to get more love in the future as the selection committee gives the grunts on the O-line longer looks. The eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro only missed one game in his 13-year career.

10) Jack Tatum -- One of the most ferocious and intimidating hitters of any era, hence the “Assassin” nickname, the free safety also had 37 interceptions in his 10-year career. Many critics, though, think he did not show enough remorse after his paralyzing hit of New England receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game.

Gaither longshot to play Sunday

September, 27, 2012
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San Diego left tackle Jared Gaither continued to practice on a limited basis and he hopes to play Sunday at Kansas City for the first time since injuring his back in July.

Still, San Diego coach Norv Turner told reporters that it would be “very difficult" for Gaither to play Sunday because of rust. If I had to guess, I bet we see Gaither at New Orleans in Week 5. The Chargers were extremely cautious with Ryan Mathews and I’d expect them to take the same approach with Gaither.

San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer practiced fully Thursday after missing Wednesday’s practice with a thumb injury.

In other AFC West notes:
  • Denver guard Chris Kuper was limited in practice for the second straight day. He has been out six weeks with a broken forearm. He could be in a similar situation as Gaither and could be more likely to play next week when the Broncos travel to New England. Denver running back Willis McGahee practiced fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday with a ribs injury. He should play Sunday against Denver barring a setback. Linebacker Nate Irving remains out with a concussion he suffered Sunday.
  • As expected, Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey didn’t practice after suffering a concussion and being hospitalized after Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh. Heyward-Bey is likely on pace to return Oct. 14 at Atlanta after next week’s bye.
  • Kansas City receiver Steve Breaston was limited Thursday after not practicing with a knee problem Wednesday. Defensive end Glenn Dorsey was limited with a new calf injury.
  • Former Raiders Cliff Branch, Jim Plunkett and Ray Guy are now senior committee-eligible players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That, frankly, will make their candidacy even more difficult. Just two senior committee players are nominated every year.
  • UPDATE: The St. Louis Rams were awarded tackle Joe Barksdale off waivers. He was waived by the Raiders on Wednesday. The Giants also reportedly but a claim in on Barksdale, but the Rams were awarded him based on their record. Barksdale was a third-round pick in 2011. But he didn’t fit the scheme of the new regime. I’m not surprised the Rams felt Barksdale was worth claiming and trying to develop. The Raiders signed pass-rusher Andre Carter when they dumped Barksdale.
One of the biggest storylines of the Super Bowl week is that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a chance to all but secure a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The general consensus is if a quarterback wins a second Super Bowl, he is all but guaranteed to make it to Canton. For the most part, that is true. Then there is former Raiders’ quarterback Jim Plunkett.

Of the five quarterbacks who won the Super Bowl twice who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, four are in. Plunkett is not. The other quarterback who has won two Super Bowl rings is current Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The three Hall of Fame eligible quarterbacks who have won more than two Super Bowl rings have been inducted.

“False premise,” Plunkett said this week with a laugh. “If winning two makes you a shoo-in, well, that’s just not the case.”

Plunkett led the Raiders to wins in Super Bowls XV and XVIII. Yet, he is not in Canton. He is considered by many as a journeyman. But the truth is, he was a leader who willed his team to two titles. And it may never change. There hasn’t been a big recent push for Plunkett to get into the Hall of Fame. He has never been a finalist.

“I had my up and downs, I struggled early in my career,” said Plunkett, who noted he played during an era in which running the ball was at a bigger premium than it is now. “I was very fortunate to play on two very good teams."

Plunkett said he believes his Raiders’ coach, Tom Flores, should be in the Hall of Fame. Flores coached the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins. Like Flores, Plunkett, 64, may have hope. He could someday get in as a Senior Committee selection.

“I really don’t think about (not being in the hall of fame) too much,” Plunkett said. “My family and my friends do. I might get ticked off about it once in a while, but I don’t think about it every day.”

Perhaps the talk centering on Manning’s quest for a second ring will ignite talk amongst voters to revisit Plunkett’s candidacy.

Is Palmer Plunkett 2.0?

October, 20, 2011
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Comparing Jim Plunkett to recent Oakland Raiders quarterbacks has become vogue.

In the summer of 2010, Oakland owner Al Davis said then new Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell reminded him of Plunkett. Davis said Campbell could enjoy a career resurgence in Oakland and could win Super Bowl titles.

Now that the injured Campbell has been replaced by Carson Palmer, the Plunkett comparison is being revisited in Oakland.

There are some similarities between Plunkett and Palmer. Both are from California. Both won the Heisman Trophy. Both were No. 1 overall picks.

Plunkett was 30 when he joined the Raiders after an injury-field career. Palmer, who has dealt with knee and elbow issues in the past, is 31. Plunkett was 34-53 in the NFL before he joined the Raiders. Palmer is 46-51.

Plunkett -- who is still affiliated with the Raiders at the age of 63 -- won two Super Bowls after he was dealt with the Raiders. There’s no wonder why Oakland and its fans hope this Plunkett comparison comes true.

Al Davis' greatest hits

October, 8, 2011
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Let’s look at some of the biggest moves Al Davis -- who died Saturday at the age of 82 -- made since he joined the Raiders in 1963. We’ll go in chronological order:

Hiring John Madden: This set the program in motion. Davis and Madden were a great team. Both men had an eye for talent, an ability to handle renegade players, and a thirst for winning. The Raiders were an elite team in the 1970s and their Super Bowl XI victory over Minnesota in January 1977 is probably the greatest moment in team history.

Acquiring Jim Plunkett: The quarterback was one of the poster boys for Davis’ factory of recycled talent. Plunkett enjoyed career resurgence in Oakland and his presence helped pave the wait for the Raiders’ second and third Super Bowl titles.

Drafting Marcus Allen: Davis selected the running back with the No. 10 overall pick in the 1982 draft. He quickly became a catalyst for the team and he was a key to the Raiders’ third Super Bowl title. He became a face of the franchise. It’s stunning that Minnesota took Stanford running back Darrin Nelson three picks ahead of Allen.

Moving back to Oakland: After a 13-year field trip to Los Angeles, the Raiders moved back to their Northern California home in 1995. This is where the Raiders belong and it was the right move by Davis to bring them back.

Hiring Jon Gruden: Davis hired the young offensive guru in 1998 and Gruden breathed life to the Raiders’ organization. They later added quarterback Rich Gannon and the three men helped lead the Raiders to prominence again. It all culminated in Davis’ final Super Bowl appearance in January 2003, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers trounced the Raiders, the team he had traded Gruden to in 2002. As much life as Gruden’s hiring brought Oakland, his trade brought despair to the team for much of the last decade.

Hiring Hue Jackson: Davis’ last coaching hire (he had 11 coaches since 1978, when Madden retired) has the look of a good one. Times have been tough in Oakland for the past nine years, but Jackson is a talented, energized coach who is proud to be connected to Davis. Watch for Jackson to dedicate his time in Oakland to restoring the glory of Davis’ era. If Jackson is successful, it will be a tremendous final act by Davis.

I’m sure you have memories. Fill up the comment section below with your thoughts.
NAPA, Calif. -- In his first year as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Hue Jackson wants his players to understand the history of the franchise and the importance of restoring the winning tradition.

So Jackson turned on the film. And he pressed the way-back machine.

Jackson had a film produced that featured interviews with several of the team’s all-time great players like Ken Stabler, Jim Plunkett and Jim Otto. Several other former Raider greats were featured including current coaches Steve Wisniewski, Rod Woodson and Greg Biekert.

Players spoke of what it meant to them to be a Raider. There were also plenty of highlights. To provide extra motivation, Jackson showed the team some highlights from the current players which he deemed were up to the standard of the Raiders of the 1970s and early 1980s.

“We’re chasing greatness,” Jackson said. “Not everyone is a Raider. I wanted them to see what it is and what it means to be a Raider. This is a special organization. There is history here and I want these guys to live up to being a Raider.”

Defensive lineman Richard Seymour said the message came through loud-and-clear.

“You could feel it,” Seymour said. “Just watching the film, showed the guys all the tradition of the this team. For me to see guys like Howe Long and Lyle Alzado, it was really inspiring.”

Jackson said it was especially powerful when film of Woodson, Wisniewski and Biekert were shown.

“Guys could look around and see those people in the room,” Jackson said. “Being a Raider is an opportunity. It’s a family.”
Jason CampbellWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJason Campbell was sacked four times as the offensive line failed to protect their new quarterback.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It was a familiar scene for the Oakland Raiders, and that's a problem.

In one end of a sullen locker room sat the Raiders’ quarterback and his receivers. They didn’t say much. They were beleaguered after a completely ineffective performance in a 38-13 thrashing at the hands of the Tennessee Titans, who were by far, the superior, most prepared and most efficient team on the field Sunday.

Jason Campbell may be in and JaMarcus Russell may be out at quarterback, but the ineffectiveness that saddled and defined the Raiders last season still hovers over the team like an unforgiving and unrelenting stench.

“When I woke up this morning I didn’t think this is how the day would go,” Raiders tight end Zach Miller said.

The Raiders thought they had moved beyond this type of performance.

They thought they had turned the corner from being one of worst organizations in the league and had become a legitimate playoff contender. That is one of the reasons why the Raiders pranced around in T-shirts predicting they’d win the AFC West this year.

However, as they fly across the country Sunday night, the Raiders must realize that true NFL turnarounds occur on the playing field, not in the draft room or on the training-camp practice field.

It was only one game, but the 2010 Oakland Raiders look more like the 2003-09 Raiders, who lost 11 or more games for a record seven straight seasons, than the team Oakland thought it already had become.

After Week 1 of the NFL season, we cannot talk about the addition of a new, effective quarterback or a shiny new draft class that changed the defense. All we can talk about is that the Raiders are now 29-84 since advancing to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. For now, the misery in Oakland continues.

The complete beating shocked the Raiders and their coaching staff.

Oakland was convinced this season would be different, and maybe it still will be. But there is now a serious dose of doubt that was not present during the offseason.

[+] EnlargeRaiders
Kirby Lee/US PresswireThe defense couldn't stop the Titans as Tennessee put up 24 straight points in the first half.
The Raiders hired the respected Hue Jackson as their offensive coordinator. They traded for Campbell and cut Russell. They had a solid, smart draft. They performed, for the most part, solidly in the preseason.

All systems were go. Until kickoff. Then, the Raiders reverted back to being the same old Raiders.

Oakland’s Yamon Figurs fumbled the opening kickoff and the Raiders barely recovered the ball. But it was a sign of things to come. Oakland was sloppy and was outplayed on both sides of f the ball.

The Raiders never truly seemed to be in the game even though they took a 3-0 lead after a Vince Young turnover in Titans’ territory.

Oakland, who compiled some garbage-time yardage after trailing 31-6 after three quarters, had 136 yards of offense in the first half. Tennessee sacked Campbell four times in the first half and batted down three of his passes. He never had time to set up the deep pass and many of his 22 completions came on check-downs. Their longest pass play was for 27 yards and no other went for more than 16 yards.

They were 0-for-7 on third-down conversions in the first half. Starting receivers Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey combined for five catches for 39 yards. Heyward-Bey, the 2009 first-round pick whom Oakland has high expectations for this season, had one catch for 11 yards.

Campbell finished 22 of 37 for 180 yards. He looked hesitant and didn’t appear to completely trust his line, which was anchored by rookie center Jared Veldheer, a converted tackle. Campbell fumbled twice, losing one deep in Oakland territory. His one interception was nearly brought back for a touchdown.

Campbell wasn’t Russell. But he wasn’t Jim Plunkett circa 1980, either. Oakland owner Al Davis compared Campbell’s arrival to Plunkett’s arrival -- which sparked a title in the 1980 season. Jackson is supposed to revive an offense that scored only 17 touchdowns last season. Yet, the Raiders, who were penalized 10 times for 77 yards, didn’t score their lone touchdown Sunday until 9:58 remained in a blowout.

“We’re not proud of how we played today,” Campbell said. “I thought they were more detailed today than we were … it’s deflating.”

Defensively, the Raiders gave up too many big plays. While Oakland did a decent job of stopping rushing king Chris Johnson at times, he ended up with 142 yards in 27 carries. He had a 76-yard touchdown run and the Titans also had a 56-yard passing play for a score.

To his credit, Oakland coach Tom Cable -- who will once again be the subject of hot-seat talk if this type of play continues -- was clearly perturbed. Cable has earned a reputation for being an eternal optimist in his tenure as Oakland’s coach. Cable, who is now 9-20 as the Raiders’ head coach, didn’t paint a rosy picture Sunday.

“I’m very disappointed in this one game,” Cable said. “We were very hesitant in all three phases early in the game, and never seemed to get out of it.”

Again, it’s only one game, but it’s painfully obvious to Oakland that it is not out of the abyss yet.
What's the best attribute Jason Campbell brings to Oakland?

Very simple: He’s not JaMarcus Russell.

Campbell, after a fairly undistinguished career in Washington, has legions of believers in Oakland. The Raiders believe Campbell can lead them to places Russell couldn't. Russell’s three-year tenure in Oakland was soiled by his reputation for being unprepared and apathetic. Meanwhile, Campbell has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches with his professionalism and his makeup.

[+] EnlargeCampbell/Russell
AP Photo/Ben MargotThe Raiders are confident Jason Campbell (8) can do what JaMarcus Russell (2) couldn't.
Again, no one in Oakland seems to care that Campbell has never shown Pro Bowl ability. He has shown them he wants to be their leader and he wants to be the man behind a revival in Oakland. That goes a long way.

Even early in training camp, the book on Campbell by his teammates was that he was a dedicated worker. Again, it was a clear dichotomy from Russell, who was cut in May three years after he was the No.1 overall draft pick. Russell was 7-18 as Oakland’s quarterback and he was benched last year.

“He’s dependable,” said Oakland receiver Chaz Schilens of Campbell, in a loud-and-clear shot at Russell. “It’s really great to have a hard-working guy here every day. He has taken over this offense.”

The excitement over Russell starts at the top. Oakland owner Al Davis compared Campbell to Jim Plunkett, who after a so-so start to his NFL career elsewhere became the Raiders' starting quarterback in 1980. He eventually led the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles.

Davis' comparison might be pie-in-the-sky, but the point is Campbell has brought stability to the quarterback position in Oakland, which hasn’t been the case since Rich Gannon left after the 2004 season.

Oakland starts the Campbell era in Tennessee on Sunday. Oakland coach Tom Cable says this team has playoff potential. The team wears T-shirts that proclaim the Raiders as AFC West champions. That’s bold talk for a team that has lost 11 or more games for seven straight seasons, which is an NFL record.

Last season, Cable made it clear that he thought Oakland would have made a playoff run if it weren’t for Russell’s terrible play. Campbell is the missing ingredient -- at least, that’s how the Raiders feel. The Raiders will enter Tennessee knowing that their quarterback likely won’t make the mistakes to take them out of games.

The Raiders aren’t the only believers in Campbell.

Special ESPN.com contributing writer Roy S. Johnson believes Campbell’s addition in Oakland is perhaps the most intriguing storyline in the NFL. That might be a stretch considering Campbell led Washington to four wins last year and he was jettisoned by the new regime there. Still, in Oakland, Campbell’s addition is, indeed, big.

Campbell has the type of arm that can excel in Davis’ vertical passing game. Campbell was Washington's starter the past three seasons. He threw for a career-high 3,618 yards with 20 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions last season. Again, those are not Pro Bowl numbers, but Oakland will take Campbell and his average stats.

“He’s a pro, he’s been there,” Oakland defensive lineman Richard Seymour said. “He’s a guy who can help us win.”

Oakland’s genuine welcome should provide a spark to Campbell’s career. He wasn’t wanted by new Washington coach Mike Shanahan, who opted for an aging Donovan McNabb to run his offense instead of Campbell.

Campbell, 28, didn’t have much stability in Washington or at college at Auburn. He’s had eight different offensive coordinators in the past eight seasons.

He’s fine making it a ninth season directed by a different coordinator, this time Oakland's Hue Jackson. “One day I can be an (offensive coordinator) and draw from nine different playbooks,’’ Campbell quipped early in camp. He can now joke about his flux because he knows this might be the beginning of stability in his career.

“This is a good change for me,” Campbell said."I look forward to playing in the Raider Nation and bringing a winner back to Oakland.”

The feeling is mutual. After the Russell failure, the Raiders fully believe Campbell is the man to bring life back to Oakland football.

You pick it responses

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
3:00
PM ET
We had a tight race this week in our “you pick it’ feature. The winner, by a nose, was San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman ending his holdout.

It narrowly beat the story out of Oakland in which Raiders owner Al Davis compared new quarterback Jason Campbell to former quarterback Jim Plunkett, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories. The other candidate, former Oakland running back Justin Fargas, signing with Denver, also got some support.

I think the readers got this one right. The losing stories were both solid, but Merriman’s return can have a big impact on the division. Davis’ words are interesting, but what do they really mean right now? Fargas will have to prove he can help Denver. The Merriman factor is big in San Diego. So, nice job, readers.

Below are some of your responses. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Mike from Sacramento: The only real story is Merriman returning. That’s the news.

Tony from San Diego: Merriman is back and the Chargers are the class of the division. That’s the story of the week.

Al Clark from Bakersfield, Calif.: Well nothing jumped out at me this week as being real big news, the Broncos signing Fargas, good for him I liked him as a Raider, but as a short yardage back with probably a little left in the tank he won't likely be very impactful. And as a Raiders fan who actually likes Al davis, he was effusive in praise to Russel, deemed him telestrater worthy even, so we will see if that is true, it would be huge for the Raiders. So almost by default I say it's Merriman but not because he showed up to camp, but because it might just give you a peek into the mindset of S.D.'s front office and what is (or is not ) in store for Jackson and Mcniel, Presuming Merrimans agent did all he could to work something out longer term and was unsuccessful. We all knew Merriman had to report, and the other two have more leverage so for my money this remains the biggest story in the AFC west, I all deference to Tebow Palooza.

Manuelito from MexicaIi, Mexico.: I think fargas joining the broncos is news, I can only imagine him making the team and running over the raiders, what a nightmare. Campbell will have a good season with the raiders but he needs more time to adapt to the raiders and there young young receiving core, the running game needs to take the load, this need to be addressed for the raiders to have a chance to seek the playoffs..go raiders!!

Joe from San Francisco: I have to go with Al Davis saying that Jason Campbell reminding him of Jim Plunkett. I like Campbell alot but Plunkett was very special. There may be some things that are alike with the two but Plunkett had the ability to find a way to win. If Campbell can develop that trait, then the Raiders may return to glory and soon.

Jack N. from Chicago: Merriman's return is definitely the story of the week. The Chargers' pass rush looked ferocious against the Bears, racking up six sacks without arguably their two best pass rushers in Merriman and English. Add a healthy Merriman and an improved English to that mix and this team could be racking up the sacks this season. Barring major injuries, the return of the Chargers best defensive player should pretty much ensure they cruise to another AFC West title while the rest of the division rebuilds.

Josh from Mission Viejo, Calif.: I'm going to have to say that Merriman's return is the real story here. Al Davis does that sort of thing all the time. As you pointed out in your column, Davis once compared JaMarcus Russell to John Elway. Davis' antics haven't been news since the 1980s. Denver signing Justin Fargas also doesn't matter a whole lot. I don't see him producing that much. He didn't do it in Oakland, and as soon as anyone, even Buckhalter, is healthy, he won't be getting many carries. Merriman's return is not so important now as it will be later. If Merriman can really produce again, then that will have a drastic impact on the Chargers defense. Otherwise, they put in Larry English and send Merriman packing.

Thomas from San Diego: Merriman returns to Chargers. He may not be the same player he was in 06-07, but the Chargers are clearly a better team with 56 on the field. The knee should be healed and I look for Merriman to return to form in 2010 and get the long-term contract he desires in 2011, but not in San Diego. Merriman is back to work and now it's time to get Marcus McNeill back on the field as well.

Devon Self from Springfield, Mo.: Story of the week has to be Jason Campbell being compared to Jim Plunkett... As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, it made me sit back and think of the type of quarterback and leader the Raiders could have on their hands. And their possibility to be a sleeper in the AFC West. THEN, I watched the preseason game (I know, it's just preseason) and Campbell looked horrible. Plunkett won the heisman trophy in college, then led the Raiders to TWO super bowl victories in the NFL. I'm sorry, but I don't see Jason Campbell making any pro bowls, playoffs, or coming anywhere close to being considered in the Hall of Fame.

Raider Ed from Oswego, N.Y.: The story has to be Big Al's Campbell-Plunkett comparison. Merriman? Who cares? Fargas? Old news. Mr. Davis obviously wants to show support for Campbell and the similarities between Campbell and Plunkett are there. In truth it's probably wishful thinking for a similar story line. Campbell is, however, a HUGE upgrade over the previous several deadbeats who have masqueraded as NFL caliber QB's for Oakland since Rich Gannon retired. Campbell actually makes Oakland competitive, which as a Raiders fan, I'll settle for at this point. The AFC West is wide open. The Chargers have slipped. The Chefs are still rebuilding. Denver is a mess. The Raiders will compete because of Campbell, whereas last year they only competed in spite of Russell.

Marcos from Ft. Worth: With Knowshon and Buckhalter sidelined, the Fargas pickup was a shrewd move on the part of McDaniels for two reasons. One, obviously to be a veteran tailback who possesses the intelligence and attitude to contribute to an underrated offense. And two, to divulge Raider gameplans and information for Denver to continue its dominance over it's longtime rival. Don't think they haven't grilled him on what he knows. Mike and Mike said both predicted a 6-10 season for this club which proves how little they know about this team. Look for the Broncos to have more confidence and stability this season and to quietly win the division with a 10-6 record.Keep up the good work Bill!

Travis Gear from Wichita, Kan.: The storyline of the week is Shawne Merriman's return to the Chargers. It is significant because San Diego's defense needs Merriman, and with him in the fold they are a more talented, complete unit. However, it is also important because it sends a potential signal to Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill that it is time to get into camp and start working with the team.

Will from Harrisburg, Pa.: Bill, I think Al Davis likening Campbell to Plunkett could either be a really good thing, or a major negative depending on how JC took it. Obviously, Al is hoping for the same type of huge turnaround the Raiders had in the 1980 season (apparently the Raiders were generally picked to finish last in the division that year) in which they beat the Eagles in the SuperBowl. I just hope Campbell isn't feeling too much pressure from Davis's statements. That type of talk can make or break a person. This is the biggest story of this week. We knew Merriman would be back, and Denver has far more problems than at RB (although i do believe Fargus will shine there for them, as long as he stays healthy).

You pick it: AFC West storylines

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
12:00
PM ET
The candidates are:

Merriman returns: San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman ended his two-week holdout and returned to the Chargers.

Davis compares new QB to former star: Oakland owner Al Davis went on a radio show and said new Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell reminded him of Jim Plunkett, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins in the 1980s.

Fargas signs with Denver: The Broncos signed former Oakland running back Justin Fargas.

Choose your story of the week and hit my mailbag with your thoughts. I will post some of your responses later in the week.
It’s great to hear from Al Davis.

The man always has something to say when he talks publicly. His latest words that have caught folks' attention is that he compared new quarterback Jason Campbell to Jim Plunkett in a Sirius NFL Radio interview.

Plunkett’s name carries a lot of weight in the Raider Nation and for good reason. Plunkett resurrected his career in Oakland and led the Raiders to Super Bowl wins during the 1980 and ’83 seasons.

The comparison of Campbell to Plunkett’s career path is reasonable up until this point. But let’s wait on comparing Campbell's impact in Oakland to Plunkett’s until Campbell proves he is anything more than just an average player that the Washington Redskins gave up on.

I’m glad Davis is excited about Campbell, but let’s put this in perspective. One of the reasons Davis took on journeyman Kerry Collins was that he thought he was a scrappy vet who could re-energize his career with the Raiders. It didn’t happen. I’m not saying Campbell will be more like Collins as a Raider than Plunkett. I’m just saying Plunkett’s ride with the Raiders was special.

When I first heard of Davis’ comments, it brought me back to the NFL owners’ meetings in 2007. It was a month before the NFL draft and the Raiders had the No. 1 pick. Davis told a small group of reporters that there was a player in the draft who reminded him of John Elway.

That player? JaMarcus Russell.

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