- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our countdown of the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger continues with defensive end Howie Long checking in at No. 2.
Howie Long (Villanova, second round, No. 48 overall, 1981)
The Raiders had just won Super Bowl XV, thumping the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, and used a pair of first-round draft picks on Ted Watts and Curt Marsh when their second-round slot came up.
They used it on one Howard Matthew Moses Long out of Villanova, which was not exactly a football factory, and the way linebacker Matt Millen saw it, the Raiders wasted the pick.
Wait, what? Why?
“I was white,” Long laughingly told Ice Cube in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Los Angeles Raiders.
And yet ...
“Howie was,” Marcus Allen told NFL Films, “I always say he was one of the toughest white guys I’ve ever seen in my life, man.”
Allen then laughed nervously.
Truly, though, the only thing funny about Long in his 13-year Hall of Fame career was his solo on the Raiders’ so-bad-it-was-good rap song “The Silver and Black Attack” in 1986.
This Long’s not short
On quarterback sacks,
And I love to sit
On those running backs
Got it? Good. Because it’s good he kept his day job, that of one of the best defensive ends of his era, if not all time. The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Long epitomized the ferocious Raiders defense of the early and mid-1980s.
While the sack was not recognized as an official statistic until 1982, his second season, Long finished his career with 84 sacks, along with two interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries in 179 games.
From 1983 through 1985, Long had 35 combined sacks, with 13 coming in the Raiders' Super Bowl championship season of 1983.
His 84 sacks rank second in franchise history to Greg Townsend’s 107.5.
Perhaps most impressive about Long, though, was his versatility, as he could play anywhere on the Raiders’ defensive line in their then-3-4 alignment, and play well. And no doubt his taking on so many double-teams helped free up the likes of Townsend, who was a beast in his own right.
Long was named to eight Pro Bowls and twice was an All-Pro selection. And yet, he never felt satisfied on the field. His hard-knock-life upbringing in Boston -- he’s a “Townie” -- kept him grounded but fearful.
That drive is what made him excel on the field, as well as drove him to Canton in 2000, his second year of eligibility. Long was still in good enough shape after picking up his yellow jacket that Al Davis wanted him to return to the Raiders at age 40.
Long admitted to contemplating it before reality set in.
“Then I said, ‘You’re crazy,’” Long told NFL Films. “‘You’re out of your mind.’”
Long’s legacy, then, was safe.
Top 5-plus Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger
No. 5: WR Cliff Branch
No. 4: P Ray Guy
No. 3: TE Dave Casper
No. 2: DE Howie Long
No. 1: ?