AFC West: Tim Brown

I caught part of a replay of Super Bowl XXII the other day on NFL Network, and it was the start of the third quarter between the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos when announcer Al Michaels said something that caught my attention.

It actually made me pause the DVR, hit rewind and play again so I could hear Michaels one more time. And then another.

Sure, there had been rumors that Al Davis had been enamored with quarterback Doug Williams. But in the third quarter of that Super Bowl, after Williams had essentially won the game for Washington with an epic second quarter that featured five touchdowns, Michaels told the tale.

[+] EnlargeDoug Williams
AP Photo/Amy SancettaThe Raiders and Redskins reportedly discussed a swap for quarterback Doug Williams before the 1987 season.
He reported that Williams had been ticketed to the then-Los Angeles Raiders the Monday before the NFL’s 1987 regular season was to begin. Then-Washington coach Joe Gibbs had even told Williams he was on his way to the Raiders.

But then, according to Michaels, the Raiders balked at Washington’s price -- a first-round draft pick, or a very good player.

Now, we’ve already heard the tales of John Elway coming so close to being a Raider, and how the Raiders should have drafted Dan Marino in that same 1983 draft after the purported draft-day trade to land Elway fell through. And while the Williams-to-the-Raiders story might not have that same intrigue as either Elway or Marino wearing Silver and Black, it is interesting nonetheless.

Especially when you consider what Williams accomplished later that strike-torn season, and when you realize who the Raiders instead used that first-round pick on in the 1983 draft.

Williams, who had been the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting quarterback from 1978 through 1982 and had helped author three playoff appearances for them, was also a pioneer as an African American quarterback, following in the footsteps of James Harris and Joe Gilliam.

And we know that Davis looked beyond skin tone when it came to players he believed could play --Davis selected QB Eldridge Dickey in the first round of the 1968 draft -- and Williams had the big arm Davis was always in search of.

But after a contract dispute ended his time in Tampa Bay, Williams played two seasons in the USFL before resurfacing in Washington in 1986 as Jay Schroeder's backup.

Williams had not started an NFL game since Jan. 9, 1983, a playoff loss to the Dallas Cowboys, so yeah, you could imagine the Raiders not wanting to give up a first-rounder for him less than a week before the 1987 season.

Still, the Raiders were relatively unsettled under center entering that season as Jim Plunkett had retired and Marc Wilson and Rusty Hilger were the returners.

But even as the Raiders got off to a 3-0 start, the wheels quickly fell off, thanks in part to the strike, which cancelled one week of games and led to three weeks of replacement player games. The Raiders finished 5-10, their worst record since going 1-13 in 1962, the year before Davis arrived in Oakland. And two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Flores resigned following the season.

Would Williams have saved the season and steadied the Raiders' ship?

Meanwhile, in Washington, Williams still had to bide his time. Sure, he relieved Schroeder a few times in 1987 and even started two regular-season games, but he did not become Washington’s starter for good until there was 6:51 remaining in the third quarter of its regular-season finale against Minnesota.

Williams, a huge team favorite, led Washington on its playoff run, upsetting the Chicago Bears in the divisional round and then upending the Vikings in the NFC title game.

Then came Super Sunday, in which he threw all four of his touchdown passes in the historic second quarter and passed for a then-Super Bowl record 340 yards in Washington’s 42-10 victory over Elway’s Broncos as Williams became the first African-American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, a feat not matched until Russell Wilson did it with the Seattle Seahawks this past February.

The trade that never happened between Oakland and Washington seemed to work out best for Washington, at least on the surface.

But if the Raiders had given up their first-rounder in 1988, they probably would have missed out on Tim Brown, though the Raiders did do some wheeling and dealing later to acquire three first-rounders, which they used on Brown, Terry McDaniel and Scott Davis.

So, with hindsight always being 20/20, do you essentially trade Doug Williams for Tim Brown if you’re the Raiders?

Whatever your answer, remember this: the Raiders and Washington would get together for a trade in 1988, a deal that would haunt the Raiders as they sent offensive tackle Jim Lachey to Washington for… wait for it … Schroeder.

Williams would only play 15 more games over the next two seasons before retiring, while Schroeder could not fully win over the hearts and minds of the Raiders' locker room in five seasons.

Raiders Twitter mailbag

February, 8, 2014
Feb 8
11:00
AM ET
The Super Bowl is done so the season is officially over. Let's get our Twitter mailbag going ...

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While one former Oakland Raiders player made history Saturday, another will have to wait at least another year for his place in football immortality.

Ray Guy became the first punter to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, making the cut in his first year as a senior candidate while Tim Brown, who retired with the second-most receiving yards in NFL history, was eliminated in the first vote, from 15 candidates to 10, in his fifth year as a finalist.

Guy joins Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, Aeneas Williams and fellow senior candidate Claude Humphrey as the Hall’s Class of 2014.

“When you’re building a team, there are a certain number of positions," Guy told ESPN.com in a recent phone interview, “and every position on a Hall of Fame team is full except for one, and that’s the punter. But that is a position, I don’t care how important you think it is or isn’t, but it is a position and it needs to be filled.

“Whether it’s by me, or somebody else. Now, I would love to be the first one. But if not, let’s finally go ahead and complete the team so we can go out and play.”

Guy, widely seen as the best punter in the game’s history, was initially a finalist in 1992 and fought a bias against specialists in the selection room. But as a senior nominee -- 15 of the previous 18 candidates had won induction -- Guy’s chances seemed to increase.

Along with former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Humphrey, the cases of the two senior candidates were heard and voted upon by the 46 selectors before the other 15 modern-era finalists were debated.

There have been 51 different senior candidates since the category was established in 1972, and 40 have been elected, with 17 of the past 20 gaining election since 2005, including Guy and Humphrey.

“Long overdue,” former Raiders coach Tom Flores, who was Guy’s head coach from 1979 through 1986, said Saturday. “It’s not easy to be voted into the Hall of Fame, especially with the pulse of today’s voters, who seem to want to just vote in guys who retired five years ago, rather than taking the time to see the history of the game.

“But Ray, he was so good and had such an immediate impact on our team from Day 1. He was part of our game approach. We always knew with his help we would win field position. He was not just a punter, but a great athlete. He changed the game.”

The Raiders shocked the NFL when they used a first-round draft pick, No. 23 overall, on Guy in 1973, after he suffered a broken left ankle in his final college game at Southern Mississippi. He responded with six All-Pro selections, and his booming punts fostered the creation of the “hang time” stat.

Guy, now 64, never had a punt returned for a touchdown, nor did he miss a game in his 14-year career, and only three of his 1,049 punts were blocked. His punting average of 42.4 yards might not pop off the stat sheet, but it was his combination of hang time and directional punting that separated him.

Plus, he is one of just six to have played on all three Raiders Super Bowl title teams, along with linebacker Ted Hendricks, receiver Cliff Branch, center Dave Dalby, and offensive linemen Henry Lawrence and Steve Sylvester.

But Guy, who runs punting camps as well as serving as director of the Southern Miss m-club alumni association for men and women athletes, ran into financial straits in recent years and auctioned off his three rings for a reported total of $96,216.

“I took care of what I had to take care of, and I took care of my family,” he said.

Now, he’ll have a gold jacket.

Alas, Brown’s day will have to wait. Among the three finalists who were receivers, Andre Reed gained inclusion and Marvin Harrison, a first-year candidate, made the cut from 15 to 10, but was eliminated in the cut from 10 to five, meaning Brown is now behind Harrison in the packing order in selectors’ minds.

Brown, who played for the Raiders from 1988 through 2003 and then finished up with a season in Tampa Bay, was also second in NFL history in receiving yards (14,934), third in receptions (1,094), and tied for third in receiving touchdowns (100) when he retired.

He was a nine-time Pro Bowler who twice was selected as a kick returner, and ranked fifth in league history with 19,682 combined net yards.

Reed played in four Super Bowls, Harrison won with the Indianapolis Colts, and Brown caught just one pass for nine yards in the Raiders’ 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Still, including Reed, there will be 23 receivers enshrined in Canton, and Brown’s career intersected or missed by two years with nine of them -- Reed, Cris Carter, Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner, Steve Largent, James Lofton, Art Monk, Jerry Rice and John Stallworth. Brown’s career receiving yardage is higher than all but Rice. Plus, only Rice and Carter had more touchdown catches than Brown, whose 100 equaled that of Largent in that era.

With Guy going to Canton, the Raiders now claim 22 Hall of Famers: Guy, Marcus Allen, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Bob Brown, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Al Davis, Eric Dickerson, Mike Haynes, Hendricks, James Lofton, Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, John Madden, Ron Mix, Jim Otto, Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw and Rod Woodson.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Former Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy is on the cusp of history. Widely regarded as the best punter in the history of the game, Guy is one of two senior nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- along with Claude Humphrey -- and would be the first pure punter enshrined in Canton.

There have been 49 different senior candidates since the category was established in 1972 and 38 have been elected, with 15 of the past 18 gaining election since 2005.

[+] EnlargeGuy/King
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellHall of Fame hopeful Ray Guy has high hopes for current Raiders punter Marquette King.
As senior candidates, the cases for Guy and Humphrey will be heard first and separately, and then voted upon by the 46 selectors, with an 80 percent affirmative vote ensuring enshrinement. Then the 15 modern-era candidates, a group which includes former Raiders receiver Tim Brown, will be discussed and voted upon before the Hall of Fame Class of 2014 is announced the night before the Super Bowl. No more than five modern-era finalists can be elected.

Guy, 64, was shockingly drafted in the first round by Oakland in 1973 after suffering a broken left ankle in his final college game at Southern Mississippi. The six-time All-Pro was known for his booming punts that fostered the creation of "hang time," never had a punt returned for a touchdown in his 14-year career, and only three of his 1,049 punts were blocked as he averaged 42.4 yards.

He now runs his punting camps in the summer and is the director of the Southern Miss M-club alumni association for athletes. Guy spoke with ESPN.com in lengthy and wide-ranging phone interview from his Hattiesburg, Miss., home recently.

Q: You were first a modern-era finalist for the Hall in 1992. What would it mean to get in as a seniors candidate in 2014?

A: It would be great, fantastic. I mean, I'd be telling you a lie if it wasn't. I look at it like, when you're building a team, there are a certain number of positions. And every position on a Hall of Fame team is full except for one, and that's the punter. But that is a position, I don't care how important you think it is or isn't, but it is a position and it needs to be filled. Whether it's by me, or somebody else. Now, I would love to be the first one. But if not, let's finally go ahead and complete the team so we can go out and play. I don't know if it's been nine times already or what I've been nominated, so I get excited but I try to keep it at a minimum so to not get overwhelmed or overanxious because maybe it won't happen. If it doesn't, I won't be that down too much. That's the way I'm approaching this.

Q: Why do you think there has been a bias against punters in Hall voting?

A: I don't know, unless they apparently do not think that is an important position. Apparently they do not know enough about the sport itself. They probably have never played. I don't really know, but they probably never have played. But the deal is they started that position at the origin of the NFL or football in general. Really, the last 30 or 25 years, it has really become a very important part in a football game. I know it's not what you'd call a glamorous, from a reporter's eyes, position because the only time you get to see them is maybe one time a game, or 10 times, depending upon the offense. But it's still important, even if it might be one play. Look at all the teams that have gotten into the playoffs consistently and into the Super Bowls, every one of them had very good offense, defense and special teams. And the punter is one of the main ingredients in them getting to the Super Bowl. So don't tell me it's not an important part. I do know it is because I played defense, I know how important the punter is. And I played offense. So you've got to look at it with an open mind.

Q: You are widely considered the best punter of all time. Did you ever consider yourself as such?

A: No. I never have. I never let it get that far. I was doing something that I grew up as a youngster doing. I was playing a game that I enjoyed playing, whether it was out in the backyard or on a professional football field. Yeah, I might have been good at what I did, but hey, that was something that God gave me. He gave me ability. I would have rather played defense, or offense, more than any other because I grew up that way and played other positions all my life, what you might want to call physical positions, until I was drafted by the Raiders. I didn't try to put myself up on a pedestal just because I did something very well. I did it because of the team. It's like my dad always said to me and my two brothers, the three of us, he said, "Whatever you do, give it your best shot." That's what I did.

Q: You retired at 37, old for a physical position, so to speak, but relatively young for a punter.

A: Well, I was having a lot of problems with my lower back. That was something that began back in high school and I guess it progressed throughout my career. And then playing defense and offense before, you're always jamming your head against somebody. Then, look at the position I put my body in all the time [when kicking]. I don't think it was made to go beyond that point. But I was very flexible, I was very rhythmic and all that stuff. But my last few years with the Raiders it started giving me a lot of problems where I had to deal with it, even though it did not take away from my job and my productivity of what I was doing. But during the week, the training and the pain and the therapy, it kind of gets old after a while.

Q: Not only did you retire after the 1986 season, so did Jim Plunkett, Lester Hayes and Henry Lawrence. Cliff Branch retired the year before and even Tom Flores left after '87. You have a sense change was coming to the Raiders?

A: I actually kind of saw the change coming back around 1979, '80, right before we moved to L.A. [in 1982]. We had already lost a lot of great players to retirement or trade so technically the old Raiders were beginning to disperse. We had to make room for the young generation, the Marcus Allens and the Howie Longs and [Greg] Townsend and all those guys coming in. Sooner or later the older guys are going to have to step aside. It was starting to get to something I was not used to, as far as the unity. I mean, we were still good, don't get me wrong. There was just something missing, an ingredient missing from what the players had formed as a bonding body. I understand people coming in and trying to improve themselves but things were changing and I always said, if it got to be like work or if it got to be where it wasn't fun no more, maybe it was time to start thinking about hanging your cleats up and going home. I guess that's what we did.

Q: Obviously, you were known for your hang time, but later in your career it became more about punt placement. How were you able to make that adjustment?

A: Each scenario dictated certain things to do. Maybe it was right around the time we moved to L.A. I started focusing more on directional punting and not just kicking it down the middle of the field. Return teams got a little but more complicated. They got a little bit better and the returners out there were getting faster and quicker. I started thinking, "Well, it's fine and good to kick it down the field 70 yards but if they run it back 40 yards, that defeated your purpose." So it wasn't a major change in what I was doing, I just had to change my direction. Everything else stayed the same -- the tempo, the follow-through, the rhythm, the height of the ball. I just had to get it reprogrammed in my mind that when I got the snap, I had to turn to the right or left and go that way with it. It's not really complicated to do; it just takes a little work. Another thing was, I had to help my cover team out and the best way to do that was to re-direct the punt to a certain place on the field and make the returner have to go work. My [cover team] always knew it was going to be in a certain area and all they had to do was go there. And that's an advantage in field position. Now, a majority of times there, I really had to sacrifice some yardage [from my average] just so that they could cover a certain distance within a certain time to maintain our field position. It might have only been five yards or 10 yards but I had to sacrifice, which in turn worked out to our advantage because we'd still wind up winning. That's the whole key to it.

[+] EnlargeGuy
AP PhotoGuy needs 80 percent of the vote from the senior committee to be the first punter in the Hall of Fame.
Q: Two images of you -- hitting the scoreboard in the Superdome in the 1976 Pro Bowl and your acrobatic save of high snap in Super Bowl XVIII in 1984.

A: Well now, the Pro Bowl down there in New Orleans, that was the only time I would have ever tried to hit it in a game. Technically, the season's over anyway and it's a fun week. Why not, let's go for it? But when we played there again in '81 against Philadelphia down there in the Super Bowl, I had them raise that thing up before the game. That's a very important game there and I didn't want any idea that something could happen that could change the momentum or the flow of the game and I didn't want that to be a burden on my mind so I had them raise it up. And on that field down there in Tampa, against the Redskins where I had to jump so high, that was just a reaction. Good thing I played basketball in high school. It could have been a very bad, nasty situation, if you want to know the truth about it. If that ball had gotten away from me, that thing would have been down there around the goal line or probably in the end zone. I just reacted to it. I always practiced those kinds of disasters that might come up because you want to be some kind of prepared for it.

Q: Which punters do you like watching now and what are your thoughts on the Raiders' current punter Marquette King?

A: Marquette's going to be a very dominating punter as he gets more accustomed to the pro life and all that. I've talked to him a couple times on the phone and we've texted back and forth and I was honored to be there for the Philadelphia game and lo and behold, I didn't realize you had Donnie Jones on the Philadelphia side. Donnie is one of my boys that comes down the ranks of my camp I have in the summer and he's also been a staff member. Andy Lee across the Bay over there is one of my boys, one of my staff members. [Shane] Lechler came through. Brandon Fields from Miami is one of my boys. I've got about five or six out there that I am very proud of and very proud to say I had a little bit of assistance with them. All I really did was work with their mental game. Like I told Marquette, I said, "Marquette, be yourself, man. You know what you can do. Go do it. You don't have to prove yourself to anybody." When you start pressing, you start having doubt in your mind, and when you start having doubt in your mind, you might as well go sit on the bench.

Q: Speaking of coming off the bench, you were also the Raiders' emergency quarterback and in 1984, at the Bears, Plunkett was already out before Marc Wilson and David Humm were both knocked out. How close were you to going in and how fearsome would that have been?

A: (Laughs) We already had the play called when Marc came back [into the game]. I mean, I was ready. Hell, it was a brutal game on both sides of the ball. It looked like they were bringing bomb inspectors in and out on both sides of the bench. But that's just what football's about; it's a very brutal game. Coach [Tom] Flores and I had already talked about it and technically, of course, we couldn't run everything that was on the game plan but we were going to try some things that probably Marc couldn't do to kind of get away from that rush but he came back out [on the field]. He had jammed his thumb on somebody's helmet but he came back out and finished the game. I had one foot on the field, and one foot off.

Q: Many say that if you get into the Hall, it will right a wrong. But what about the other Raiders players that so many think deserve a bust in Canton? Is there hope for them, too?

A: With that separate [senior] division, it will make it easier on Plunkett and [Ken] Stabler and Tom Flores and guys like that, because you can't just run off and forget about us. These are pioneers of a sport that's escalated into a multibillion dollar corporation now. But you need somebody to lead the way and it's not just the Raiders but on other teams, too. Sooner or later, we're going to get all the pioneers in there and we're really going to see football, what it was, what it started and what it is now.

Q: You were a member of all three Raiders Super Bowl title teams, along with Ted Hendricks, Cliff Branch, Dave Dalby, Henry Lawrence and Steve Sylvester, in 1976, 1980 and 1983. So, which team was the best?

A: All of them.

Q: You auctioned off your three Super Bowl rings in 2011. Any regrets in doing that, or was it something you simply had to do?

A: That's just something in life that you have to come to a fork in the road and you hope you don't take the wrong fork. I have regrets, but I don't have regrets. I took care of what I had to take care of and I took care of my family.

Q: And I guess if you get a yellow jacket that would mean just as much as any ring?

A: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And who knows, maybe one of these days I might get them back. You never know.
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.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown has been named a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for the fifth consecutive year in making the cut from 25 semifinalists to 15 finalists (plus the two seniors committee nominees).

Brown joins punter Ray Guy, who played with the Raiders from 1973-86, as two of the 17 candidates the 46-member selection committee will discuss on Feb. 1 at its annual selection meeting. Guy is one of the two senior candidates, along with Claude Humphrey.

Former Raiders guard Steve Wisniewski, a first-time semifinalist who was with the Raiders from 1989-2001, did not make the cut, and neither did Raiders running back-for-a-season Roger Craig, who played for the Raiders in Los Angeles in 1991 and is a six-time semifinalist and a finalist in 2010.

Rules stipulate that between four and seven Hall of Famers are elected every year, with an 80 percent vote ensuring election.

Brown, a nine-time Pro Bowler who was the Raiders' first-round pick in 1988 (No. 6 overall) after winning the Heisman trophy at Notre Dame, was also an all-league kick returner. But he will find competition for Canton as fellow receivers Andre Reed and Marvin Harrison, a first-year eligible nominee, were also named finalists.

Their respective pass-catching stats: Brown (1,094 receptions, 14,934 yards, 100 TDs), Reed (951 receptions, 13,198 yards, 87 TDs) and Harrison (1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 TDs).

A year ago, Cris Carter was the lone receiver to be voted into the Hall.

The other 12 finalists are PK Morten Andersen, RB Jerome Bettis, LB Derrick Brooks, former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, LB/DE Kevin Greene, DE/LB Charles Haley, OT Walter Jones, S John Lynch, G Will Shields, DE Michael Strahan and CB/S Aeneas Williams.

The Raiders, meanwhile, currently recognize 21 Hall of Famers. Could Guy and/or Brown join them?

 
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Former longtime Oakland Raiders players Tim Brown and Steve Wisniewski, and Raider-for-a-season Roger Craig, are among the 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014.

Brown, whose 19,682 all-purpose yards rank fifth in NFL history, has been a finalist the past four years, while it is the first time as a semifinalist for Wisniewski, who was an eight-time Pro Bowl guard. Craig, who had his best years with the San Francisco 49ers, was a finalist in 2010.

The list of 25 was winnowed down from 126 nominees, which included former Raiders coaches Tom Flores, one of 13 coaches to have won at least two Super Bowls, and Jon Gruden.

The list of 25 semifinalists will be reduced to 15 by mail ballot to the 46 selectors, and those 15 will be announced on Jan. 8, and then be joined by the two Seniors Committee nominees as 17 finalists. Former Raiders punter Ray Guy is one of the two senior candidates.

Those 17 finalists will be discussed the day before the Super Bowl, and the final class, which will be between four and seven members, will be announced.

AFC West links: Starks expects competition

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
10:33
AM ET
Denver Broncos

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said he wasn't surprised that Wes Welker opted to sign with the Broncos. "I don't think anything surprises me anymore in the NFL," Brady said in an interview with WEEI sports radio in Boston. "I've been around long enough to see things happen at different times with the greatest players of all, whether that's Wes or Randy Moss being traded by the Raiders or Brett Favre and playing for the Jets and Vikings."

What made Tom Nalen, who will be inducted in the team's Ring of Fame, such an effective offensive lineman? "One, he was really strong and nasty," former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said via Mike Klis of the Denver Post. "And two, he was extremely intelligent. He knew fronts, knew defenses, knew where and when to go and where to send guys. I just remember him in the study room. He knew a check before I even made it. He helped me with the stuff if I was overloaded."

Kansas City Chiefs

Wide receiver Dexter McCluster hurt his hamstring during Thursday's voluntary workout, the AP reports. Andy Reid said that McCluster had a "mild" hamstring injury.

The Chiefs signed safety Sanders Commings, a fifth-round pick, according to the team's website. Only three of Kansas City’s eight draft picks remain unsigned.

Tight end Tony Moeaki is reportedly sidelined until training camp due to "a knee scope over the offseason," according to Joel Thorman of Arrowhead's Pride.

Oakland Raiders

Former Raiders wideout Tim Brown weighed in on the return of his former teammate, Charles Woodson, to the Raiders. "I think it's great. I think for C-Wood, it was probably the only move that he could have made," Brown said in an interview with Dan Brown of Bay Area News Group. "Once you get up there in age, you saw what (Brian) Urlacher did. He just said, 'I don't want to put on another jersey.' I think when you get up there in age, you want look around and say, 'OK, I have to go some place where I'm comfortable. Because I'm not trying to learn new people at 36 years old.'"

Rebecca Corman of Raiders.com has a report wrapping up the first week of organized team activities.

San Diego Chargers

Max Starks isn't taking it for granted that he'll be handed the starting left tackle job with the Chargers, who signed tackle King Dunlap earlier this offseason, writes Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. Starks: "I wouldn't want them to say, 'Hey, we've got a guy here, but as soon as you sign, we're just going to move him out. No. To my understanding, he's been here longer; he's been taking the reps so far. I'm a brand new guy, so I don't mind being the new kid on the block and earning my opportunities.”

Former Denver center Tom Nalen admitted he tried to hurt Chargers defensive lineman Igor Olshansky in a 2006 game. According to a U-T San Diego report, "Nalen dived at Olshansky’s knees in the waning seconds of a game the Chargers held on to win 35-27 on Nov. 19, 2006. Olshansky threw two punches at Nalen and was ejected. Nalen insisted it wasn’t a cheap shot but payback for what had happened on the previous play."
ESPN.com’s SportsNation "Madden NFL 25" cover vote is in the second round.

The old-school AFC West players are faring way better than three new-school players from the division. Denver linebacker Von Miller was the only current player from the division to march on.

However, all four old-school AFC West representatives have marched on: Terrell Davis of Denver, Marcus Allen of Kansas City, Tim Brown of Oakland and LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego.

You can vote here for your favorite players -- or against your least-favorite players, of course.
The "Madden NFL 25" cover vote is now on in SportsNation.

This year, there is a new-school and old-school competition.

In the new-school vote, there are some tough assignments for some AFC West players.

San Diego’s Antonio Gates is a No. 16 seed. He goes against top seed Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco. Oakland’s Carson Palmer is a No. 15 seed and he is facing No. 2 seed, NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. Denver’s Von Miller is a No. 6 seed, but he faces the popular Victor Cruz of the Giants, a No. 11 seed. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles is a No. 6 seed and he is facing Darrelle Revis of the Jets, a No. 11 seed.

In the old-school vote, this one will upset some folks. Marcus Allen is representing the Chiefs and not the Raiders. The Hall of Fame running back played 11 years for the Raiders and five years for the Chiefs. He is a No. 6 seed and faces No. 11 Tedy Bruschi of the Patriots.

Oakland's Tim Brown is a No. 6 seed and he faces Chad Johnson of the Bengals. Denver’s Terrell Davis is a No. 10 seed and faces Buffalo’s Jim Kelly, a No. 7 seed. San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson is a No. 10 seed and he faces Randall Cunningham of the Eagles.
Giving some life to a dead story, San Francisco Jim Harbaugh coach slammed former Oakland Raiders receiver Tim Brown for his January comments when he accused former Oakland coach Bill Callahan of “sabotaging” the team’s Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay 10 years ago.

Harbaugh was then on Oakland’s staff and he said Friday Brown should be “ashamed” of the comments. Brown repeated the claims last month, but when Callahan harshly rebutted and demanded a retraction, Brown backed off.

In other AFC West news:

No AFC West Hall of Fame shockers

February, 2, 2013
2/02/13
6:33
PM ET
There weren’t any AFC West surprises Saturday when the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced.

Curley Culp and Warren Sapp were the favorites of the four finalists with AFC West ties, and they ended up in the Hall of Fame class. Former Oakland receiver Tim Brown and former Kansas City guard Will Shields did not get into the final 10. They were both considered long shots.

Culp, a senior committee nominee, played his first seven of a 16-year career in Kansas City. Sapp played his final four seasons in Oakland. Sapp did little with the Raiders and will always be remembered as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

Culp does have legitimate AFC West ties. He was a key part of the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV-winning team. He was considered the first real 3-4 nose tackle. Culp is in the Chiefs Hall of Fame, and he participates in alumni programs. His election Saturday will be embraced and celebrated in Kansas City.

“On behalf of the entire Chiefs family, we’d like to congratulate Curley Culp on his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said in a statement. “Curley was a dominating force on the defensive line for the Super Bowl IV championship team and one of many great players that helped build the tradition and foundation of the Kansas City Chiefs. … We look forward to seeing him take his rightful place in Canton.”

Saturday’s developments are disappointing for Brown and Shields, but there are silver linings for both. Cris Carter finally gained election, so the receiver logjam lessened. I still think Andre Reed might get in before Brown.

There has been some chatter that Brown’s recent comments that former Oakland coach Bill Callahan “sabotaged” the team’s Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers 10 years ago might have hurt his chances. Brown was considered a long shot prior to causing that firestorm.

Shields was likely blocked by first-year nominee Larry Allen, who gained election. With Allen in, I can see Shields getting elected in the next couple of years.
Saturday is an important day in the AFC West.

Major 2012 season individual awards will be given and the 2013 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be announced.

Peterson
Manning
One of the key events will be the announcement of the NFL MVP award. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson are the primary candidates for the award. They are also the top candidates for the Offensive Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year awards.

The Manning-Peterson debate has raged on for the past few months. Manning led Denver to a 13-3 record after sitting out the 2011 season because of a neck injury that required four surgeries. Peterson finished nine yards short of setting the NFL single-season rushing record -- after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee late in the 2011 season.

Peterson has been stumping hard for the MVP award, while Manning has been quiet in his campaign. Manning has an NFL-record four MVP awards. Manning and Peterson should both go home with some hardware Saturday.

Denver linebacker Von Miller, meanwhile, is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. However, Houston’s J.J. Watt is considered the favorite.

Earlier Saturday, the Hall of Fame class will be announced. Four of the 17 finalists have AFC West ties: former Kansas City defensive tackle Curley Culp, former Raiders receiver Tim Brown, former Kansas City guard Will Shields and defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who ended his career in Oakland. Sapp and Culp are considered the favorites of those four to gain entry to the Hall of Fame this season.

Please check back Saturday for news and analysis on all of the developments pertaining to the AFC West.
Curley Culp is the perfect senior committee nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This is his last chance to gain election into the Canton, Ohio, museum. Really though, it's the first chance of election for the dominant defensive tackle who was a key part of the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV-winning team.

“I’ve never gotten this far before,” Culp said in a phone interview. “I’ve heard my name mentioned before, but I’ve never been this close before.”

[+] EnlargeCurley Culp
Manny Rubio/USA TODAY SportsFormer Chief Curley Culp (61) is one of two senior committee nominees for election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Culp, who played for the Chiefs from 1968 to 1974, is one of two senior committee nominees; he is one of 17 finalists for election into the Hall of Fame. The vote is Saturday. Senior committee nominees often have a terrific chance of gaining election. Players go to the Senior committee after their 25 years of eligibility in the general voting process expires.

Culp, 66, is among four finalists with ties to the AFC West. The others are Kansas City guard Will Shields, Raiders receiver Tim Brown and defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who finished his career in Oakland but is known more for his time in Tampa Bay. Along with Culp, Sapp is considered to have the best chance of election.

Now that he is on the cusp of gaining entry to the Hall, Culp admits he’s excited.

“It has not captured my every thought, but ever since I became a finalist, I’ve been thinking a lot about it,” Culp said. “It would be an honor to be part of so many great men in the special club. I’m just pleased to be part of this process.”

Culp, who operates a car service in Austin, Texas, would join a long list of Chiefs in the Hall of Fame; that, he said, is part of the excitement for him. Culp is part of the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame and he regularly participates in functions related to that.

“I am a Kansas City Chiefs fan,” said Culp, who noted he is fired up about the hiring of Andy Reid as coach. ”The Chiefs were a big part of my life.”

And Culp -- who went on to play seven seasons in Houston and two in Detroit -- was a big part of the Chiefs. At 6-foot-1, 265 pounds, Culp, who won the NCAA heavyweight wrestling title while at Arizona State, was a unique player. In the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV win against Minnesota, Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram put Culp over the center and it opened up plays for future Hall of Famers Buck Buchanan and Willie Lanier. Many people credit it for the beginning of the 3-4 defense.

Saturday, Culp might be rewarded for being part of NFL history.

Poll: Next Super Bowl team

January, 29, 2013
1/29/13
11:00
AM ET
It’s another Super Bowl week, and another Super Bowl without an AFC West participant.

SportsNation

Which AFC West team do you think will make the Super Bowl next?

  •  
    37%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    22%
  •  
    18%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,698)

The division has not been represented in the Super Bowl since Oakland lost to Tampa Bay (no, we’re not going to mention Tim Brown or Bill Callahan) in 2003. It is the longest divisional drought in the NFL. In fact, every other division has been represented in the Super Bowl at least twice since then.

What team in the AFC West do you think has the best chance of ending the dry spell?

Because Denver, which was the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs and lost at home to Baltimore in double overtime, was the only team with a winning record in the division in 2012, I’d think it has to be the favorite. And it has one of the best players in the NFL in quarterback Peyton Manning.

Still, anything can happen in the NFL. Please take our poll and express the your thoughts in the comments section below. We will review the poll results Wednesday.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD