Oakland Raiders: Ray Guy

Ray Guy kicks his way into Canton

August, 2, 2014
Ray Guy took his place among the game’s immortals Saturday night when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He made a little extra history along the way.

The Oakland Raiders' first-round draft pick in 1973 is the first pure punter to be enshrined. He is the 22nd Hall of Famer the Raiders recognize.

"Punters," former Raiders coach and fellow Hall of Famer John Madden said in his introduction of Guy, "are football players, too."

In a speech that lasted nearly 15 minutes, Guy spoke of his long and winding road to Canton from the fields of Georgia.

"There are no more games to play," he said, "no more records to set or championships to win. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I didn’t do it alone."

Guy, a seven-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro selection, thanked members of his family first, saying the greatest influences in his life were his late mother and father. He also mentioned his late college coach at Southern Mississippi, P.W. Underwood, as well as late Raiders owner Al Davis, who was represented in Canton by his wife Carole and son Mark, the current Raiders managing general partner. Two-time Super Bowl-winning Raiders coach Tom Flores was also in the audience.

"Playing in the NFL with the Raiders was my destiny," said Guy, one of just six players to have been on all three of their Super Bowl title teams.

Also a safety in college, Guy was an athlete. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. He also said he could have played in the NBA.

Just three of Guy’s 1,049 career punts were blocked.

"Ray Guy made people in the 'hood say, 'I’m Ray Guy,'" Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said on the NFL Network.

"There was nothing too technical or complicated" about how Guy kicked, he said. "I was taught to keep my ego in its place. I’d rather be in the background, just one of the people.

"I am who I am, and that’s all you're ever going to get."

Guy said he was told recently that the biblical meaning of his uniform number, 8, was a new beginning. As such, he hoped his inclusion at Canton was a new beginning for punters, as well as continuing to serve as an inspiration.

"Punters," Guy said, "keep the faith. You are an important part of every game.

"This is long, long overdue. But now, the Hall of Fame has a complete team."
It only seems natural that Ray Guy chose his first NFL coach to present him Saturday when the longtime Oakland Raiders punter is introduced for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

John Madden, who is already an enshrinee in Canton, Ohio, will do the honors. But Guy also said there was a certain pecking order to who he wanted introducing him.

The late Al Davis, who presented eight previous Raiders Hall of Famers, would have been Guy’s first choice, followed by Madden and, if Madden would have been unavailable, Guy’s only other head coach with the Raiders, Tom Flores.

“I wanted Al to do it, of course,” Guy said earlier this week. “We’re only here for a little while, basically, but I wanted him to do it and then, of course, he’s not going to be able to be there. He is there but he’s not there verbally introducing me.

“I wanted to keep it within the family, and when I say family, I’m talking about the Raiders, so the next obvious choice would be John.”

Madden was the Raiders' coach when Oakland used an unheard of first-round draft pick on Guy in 1973, and under whom the Raiders won their first championship, Super Bowl XI in the 1976 season.


With Ray Guy's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, who is the next most Hall of Fame-worthy Raider?


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“John is going to be a great inspiration to me when he’s standing up there,” Guy added. “I don’t know what he’s going to say, because nobody knows what he’s going to say, but you know, I wanted to keep it through the chain of command. And then, if John was not available, it would have stepped right down to Tom because Tom was there as the (receivers coach) all of my years until John retired and then Tom took over, so there was no change there, there wasn’t a change in anything it just kept the same thing.”

Under Flores, the Raiders won Super Bowl XV and then, with the franchise relocated to Los Angeles, the Raiders won Super Bowl XVIII. Guy retired following the 1986 season with back issues.

Guy is one of just six Raiders players to be on all three Raiders title teams, along with Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks, receiver Cliff Branch, center Dave Dalby, offensive tackle Henry Lawrence and offensive lineman Steve Sylvester. Guy will also be the first pure punter enshrined.

“So, I just wanted to keep it in the Raider family,” Guy said. “I could not have asked for a better presenter than John Madden, because he’s part of my family."
Our countdown of the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger continues with tight end Dave Casper checking in at No. 3 ...

Dave Casper (Notre Dame, second round, No. 45 overall, 1974)

The Raiders already had a serviceable tight end on the roster in Bob Moore when their turn came up in the second round of the 1974 draft. No matter, the call was made, even as Kent State linebacker Jack Lambert was on the board and went next to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I’m pretty sure neither team regretted the decision.

Casper, a former second-team All-America offensive tackle, redefined the tight end position for the Raiders as both a brutal blocker and a soft-handed pass-catcher, even if it took him a couple of years to become a threat as a receiver. (He caught only nine balls for 97 yards in his first two seasons combined.)

But in 1976, he erupted with 53 catches for 691 yards and 10 touchdowns in helping lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl XI championship. A year later, he authored one of the most famous catches in franchise history, the Ghost to the Post 42-yard over-the-shoulder catch from Ken Stabler that set the Raiders up for a late game-tying field goal in a playoff victory at the Baltimore Colts.

"I played a lot of outfield as a kid," Casper later told NFL Films, "and I used to practice running where I'd just put my head down real quick, run to a spot and quickly look back up. When I looked up, the ball, thank God, was coming right down into my hands. If I had looked up a second later I wouldn’t have seen it."

Errol Mann's 22-yarder tied the game and the Raiders won in sudden death on the second play of the second overtime when Stabler hit Casper for a 10-yard TD. It was Casper's fourth catch of the game, his third TD.

Casper would also recover the "Holy Roller" fumble in San Diego to stun the Chargers in 1978. He was sent to the Houston Oilers on Oct. 14, 1980, in a deal for picks that eventually became Ted Watts, Howie Long and Jack Squirek. Casper also spent part of the 1983 season with the Minnesota Vikings. He returned to the Raiders, in Los Angeles, in 1984. But with Todd Christensen firmly entrenched as the tight end, Casper appeared in just seven games, catching four passes for 29 yards and two scores.

The five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro retired after that season with 378 career catches for 5,216 yards and 52 TDs in 11 seasons. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Honorable mentions

No. 5: WR Cliff Branch
No. 4: P Ray Guy
No. 3: TE Dave Casper
No. 2: ?
No. 1: ?
Our countdown of the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger continues with punter Ray Guy checking in at No. 4 ...

Ray Guy (Southern Mississippi, first round, No. 23 overall, 1973)

Too high for a punter, even if he is headed for enshrinement this summer in the Pro Football Hall of Fame? No. Not at all. In fact, I toyed with the idea of making Guy the Raiders' best draft pick overall since the merger.

Guy was certainly the most unconventional, what with his draft slot as the first pure punter to be taken in the first round of the NFL draft. But he also may have been the most dependable.

“He was so good and had such an immediate impact on our team from Day 1,” said former Raiders coach Tom Flores. “He was part of our game approach. We always knew, with his help, we would win field position.

“He changed the game.”

Guy was named to seven Pro Bowls and six times was all-Pro. Just three of his 1,049 career punts were blocked and he never had one returned for a touchdown. And he was one of just six players to have been on all three Raiders Super Bowl title teams, along with Cliff Branch, Ted Hendricks, Henry Lawrence, Dave Dalby and Steve Sylvester.

Guy's career average of 42.4 yards per punt over his 14-year career may seem humdrum by today's booming numbers, but it was his accuracy, his ability to pin opponents deep in their own territory and his athleticism that separated Guy. And it was all on display on a single punt early in Super Bowl XVIII, when he leaped high to snag Todd Christensen's errant snap to avert a disastrous situation against Washington.

So when Guy, a seniors committee candidate for Canton, was voted in this past winter, it seemed to validate his place in history, even if the Raiders were already certain of his legacy.

“I didn't try to put myself up on a pedestal just because I did something very well,” Guy said. “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.”

Honorable mentions

No. 5: WR Cliff Branch

No. 4: P Ray Guy

No. 3: ?

No. 2: ?

No. 1: ?
Now that we've listed our "honorable mentions" for the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 merger, let's start our countdown of the Top 5 best draftees with receiver Cliff Branch checking in at No. 5…

Cliff Branch (Colorado, fourth round, No. 98 overall, 1972)

Of those listed on my Top 5, Branch is the only Raiders player not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though many see Branch just as deserving of a bust and yellow jacket as his contemporary Lynn Swann.

Branch may have been overshadowed earlier in his career by Canton-bound Fred Biletnikoff in Oakland but the speedy Branch was the epitome of Al Davis' vertical passing game. After Branch retired following the 1985 season, Davis spent the last quarter of his life searching for the next Cliff Branch to stretch the field and keep defenses honest.

All Branch did was average 17.3 yards per catch in his career, catching 501 passes for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns, including an NFL record 99-yarder from Jim Plunkett at Washington in 1983.

Branch, a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro who led the NFL with 1,092 receiving yards and 13 touchdown receptions in 1974, is also one of just six players to have been on all three Raiders Super Bowl title teams. The others: center Dave Dalby, right tackle Henry Lawrence, reserve offensive lineman Steve Sylvester and Hall of Famers Ted Hendricks, the versatile linebacker, and game-changing punter Ray Guy.

Yes, Branch was fast. He was a track star who kept in shape in the offseasons by playing tennis with strong safety George Atkinson. But Branch was also a football player, one whose 12 touchdown receptions led the league in 1976 as he also averaged a mind-boggling 24.2 yards per catch.

And in those three Super Bowl wins, Branch caught a combined 14 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

As a fourth-rounder, the Raiders got a lot of value out of the pick. Three rings worth, you could say.

Raiders Twitter mailbag

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

Pro Football Hall of fame Jason Miller/Getty ImagesEach of the Hall of Fame voters often has his or her own criteria for who's worthy of enshrinement.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Of course Tom Flores was happy for Ray Guy. After all, Flores was the transcendent punter's head coach with Oakland and then the Los Angeles Raiders for eight of Guy’s 15 years in the NFL. And Flores long has championed his cause as a player who, despite his specialist position, changed the game.

Yet when Guy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, more than 27 years after he boomed his final punt -- a 51-yard fourth-quarter beauty against the Indianapolis Colts at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 21, 1986 -- something else bubbled up to the surface.

Something bittersweet.

“I don’t know if it’s a wrong being made right as much as it’s long overdue,” Flores said of Guy’s election. “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.

“At least we got one more in.”

And there it is. With the endless controversies and snubs (real and perceived) that come about in the immediate wake of each new Hall class, the system in which those new Hall members are fitted for yellow jackets and sized for bronze busts in Canton has come under renewed fire.

Just about every team in the league thinks it has a legitimate gripe, that it has one, two or more Canton-worthy candidates who, year after year, get left by the wayside.

No, Flores was not pounding his chest for himself -- his two Super Bowl titles as a head coach, his standing as the first minority head coach to win a championship and his history as a player, assistant and general manager (OK, the GM part in Seattle didn’t work out so well as he drafted Dan McGwire and Rick Mirer, though he did select a future Hall of Famer in Cortez Kennedy) and four total Super Bowl rings should speak for themselves.

But for every Flores, there’s a Marv Levy already enshrined after coaching the Buffalo BiLLLLs (yes, one ‘L’ for every Super Bowl loss). And for every Thurman Thomas, there’s a Roger Craig, the first running back in history with 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season and part of three Super Bowl titles in San Francisco. And for every Andre Reed, voted in this year, there’s a Tim Brown, whose stats trump those of his contemporary.

No, this is not a Bills versus Raiders harangue. More likely, it’s a rage against the machine, the system itself, one that lends itself to so much second-guessing and rumor-mongering and yes, a log-jamming of worthy candidates.

One that the Pro Football Hall of Fame itself embraces and wants.

“There have been over 18,000 players in the NFL,” Joe Horrigan, the Hall’s vice president of communications and exhibits, told me a few years ago. “And there are [287] players in the Hall of Fame. It’s a pretty exclusive club. For a lot of guys, it’s not a matter of if [they get enshrined], but when.”

The process begins on a grassroots level as anyone can nominate any player, so long as said player has been retired at least five years. The 46-member selection committee -- comprised of one voter from each NFL city with New York having two because it has two teams, a representative of the Pro Football Writers of America and 13 at-large delegates -- is polled by mail ballot to reduce a list of 126 nominees to 25 modern-era semifinalists. Then, those 25 are cut to 15 finalists by another mail ballot for a face-to-face discussion by the selectors the day before the Super Bowl.

In addition, two senior committee candidates, taken from a pool of players inactive for at least 25 years and named by a nine-person committee among the already existing 46 in late summer, join the 15 finalists for a separate conversation that involves a simple yes-or-no vote. An 80 percent affirmative gains Hall inclusion.

That’s when things can get heated in the room. The 15 finalists are presented respectively by the selector from the city in which he played the bulk of his career. The news hunters and gatherers become newsmakers, or sponsors in a way.

A vote is taken and the list of 15 is reduced to 10. Then, because Hall bylaws stipulate that between four to seven new members are selected each year, with a maximum of five modern-era candidates, the 10 are cut to five. A secret ballot of the final five is taken and whoever gets 80 percent of the votes in that group joins the senior nominee(s), who also must get 80 percent of the vote.

This part of the process is called “getting in the room” and if it evokes images of dimly lit cigar smoke-filled joints with seedy you-vote-for-my-guy-and-I’ll-vote-for-your-guy deals, then so be it.

Some see this part of the progression as the most transparent and credible Hall voting process in all of sports; others see it as a joke that 46 people sit in a room for seven hours once a year to determine history. Besides, what if a presenter believed his appointed “candidate” was not as worthy as other guys on the same team? Wouldn’t human nature lead to a less-than-spirited advocacy? One writer told me he disliked the process so much he took a pass when asked to join the committee.

Those back-room deals may have been the old-school norm but, as ESPN Insider Mike Sando puts it, “I’ve never seen anything like that in my five years on the committee.”

Sando presented the case for former Seattle Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones, whose career spoke for itself and he was elected in his first year of eligibility.

The Hall debate is especially subjective for pro football. Each of the 46 selectors can, and often do, have his or her own set of criteria.

“Did he dominate for a decade? That’s a good place to start,” Sando said.

Jeff Legwold, who covers the Denver Broncos for ESPN.com’s NFL Nation and is also a member of the Hall committee, agrees with his colleague.

“I’m looking for greatness, the best of the best," he said. "Now, that can be longevity, or did he have four historical seasons in a row? Was he groundbreaking? I think that’s the problem, sometimes. We all have different ideas.”

Which is why the Hall wants the selectors sequestered to make the final picks. And it’s anything but easy. As 15-year committee veteran Legwold noted, of their final 15 one year, 10 were all-decade players. And that was not counting the contributors (non-players) who were on the ballot.

Therein lays the backlog problem ... and a potential solution. While the selectors essentially have only five spots to fill, they are going to lean toward a player more than a coach or an owner. Legwold hopes a contributors division, like the senior committee, is added soon.

“This process is what the Hall wants,” Legwold said. “I’m sure that everyone that’s willing to participate takes it seriously and puts in the time to make sure we’re doing the best we can.

“What used to be the watercooler is now the world.”

So go ahead, scream about your favorite player, coach or contributor getting snubbed until you lose your voice. The way the system is set up, if the candidate is truly worthy, he’ll get in ... eventually.

Be angry at the system, in other words, not the selectors. And if you want to put someone in Canton, who are you going to take out?

“Judge it by who makes it in,” Sando said, “rather than by who might not get in in any given year. The Hall is not embarrassed by anyone who gets in.”

But shouldn’t it be a tad discomfited if the Hall is seen as an incomplete shrine because of who’s missing, and whose time is running out ... in every sense of the word?

As such, the senior committee route seems to be the best way now for former Raiders Jim Plunkett and Cliff Branch, both of whom now belong to the senior committee pool (Flores, who coached until 1994, has a few years yet to reach the 25-year threshold for senior committee eligibility). Brown, meanwhile, has fallen behind Marvin Harrison in the receiver pool, as Brown was eliminated in the cut from 15 to 10.

Even Guy, frustrated with the two-decade wait since he first became eligible for Canton, unloaded in the week before he was selected.

“Sooner or later, we’re going to get all the pioneers in there,” Guy said, “and we’re really going to see football, what it was, what it started and what it is now.”

Until then, the bittersweet waiting game continues.
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 receiver Tim Brown assuredly has Hall of Fame-worthy stats.

When he retired, following the 2004 season, Brown ranked second in NFL history in receiving yards (14,934), third in receptions (1,094) and tied for third in receiving touchdowns (100), figures that, nine years later, rank sixth, fifth and tied for seventh.

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

And still, this is the fifth time Brown has been a finalist.

A year ago, in the wake of his "sabotage" comments about former Raiders coach Bill Callahan and Super Bowl XXXVII again coming to the forefront, Brown was among the first wave of cuts when the 46 Hall selectors reduced the finalists from 17 to 12. Receiving contemporaries Cris Carter and Andre Reed made that initial cut with Carter being voted into Canton.

Now, Brown not only faces competition as a receiver from Reed again, but Marvin Harrison is also a finalist. Plus, former Raiders punter Ray Guy is also one of two senior candidates, and 15 of the past 18 such nominees have been elected.

In a certain pecking order, it would seem that Reed is ahead of Brown, based on last year's vote. And Harrison could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. A look, then, at the trio's career pass-catching numbers:
  • Harrison: 1,102 receptions, 14,580 yards, 128 TDs, 190 games, 13 seasons.
  • Reed: 951 receptions, 13,198 yards, 87 TDs, 234 games, 16 seasons.
  • Brown: 1,094 receptions, 14,934 yards, 100 TDs, 255 games, 17 seasons.

Then there's this: Reed, an eight-time Hall finalist who caught his first career TD pass from Vince Ferragamo on Sept. 22, 1985, played in four Super Bowls, while Harrison won a ring in 2007. Brown, meanwhile, caught just one pass, for nine yards, in the Raiders' 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Still, a case could be made that Brown's accomplishments are more noteworthy considering the motley assortment of quarterbacks he had throwing him the ball. Meanwhile, the bulk of Reed's and Harrison's careers were spent catching passes from future Hall of Famers in Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning.

Brown? From Brown's rookie season of 1988 in Los Angeles through his last year in Oakland in 2003, the Raiders had 12 starting quarterbacks -- Steve Beuerlein, Jay Schroeder, Vince Evans, Todd Marinovich, Jeff Hostetler, Billy Joe Hobert, Jeff George, Donald Hollas, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Rick Mirer and Marques Tuiasosopo.

In the Bay Area, many Brown supporters say he would have had Jerry Rice's career had he played in San Francisco with 49ers quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young.

There are 22 receivers enshrined in Canton, and Brown’s career intersected or missed by two years with eight of them -- Carter, Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner, Steve Largent, James Lofton, Art Monk, Jerry Rice and John Stallworth. Of that group, Brown’s career receiving yardage is higher than all but Rice and only Rice and Carter had more TD catches than Brown, whose 100 equaled that of Largent in that era.

But if the Hall simply is a case study in stats, then yes, Brown deserves to rock a yellow jacket. It just seems like Brown is in for a wait, especially with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss coming down the pike soon and selectors seeming to have a relatively short memory.

Or have you forgotten that former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann was a 13-time finalist before his 14th year was the one?

Which brings us back to other -- if not just as worthy but perhaps even more deserving -- Raiders candidates than Brown, whose Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame matters not in this discussion.

Guys like, well, Guy, a punter who revolutionized the game. And Tom Flores, who was the first minority coach to win a Super Bowl and actually has four rings. And Jim Plunkett, who won two Super Bowls and has a comeback story for the ages. And Cliff Branch, who has three rings. And Lester Hayes, a four-time Hall finalist who once had 13 interceptions in a season. And Ken Stabler, a former league MVP. And Dave Dalby, who was a starting center on three title teams. And Steve Wisniewski, a first-time semifinalist this year.

Alas, in an era in which the receiver pipeline to Canton seems clogged, Brown's proponents should seemingly push his early-career success as a kick returner as he had a combined 1,542 return yards as a rookie -- his first career touchdown was a 97-yard kickoff return -- and he finished his career with a combined 4,555 yards with four TDs returning kickoffs (one) and punts (three) while rushing for another score.

The Raiders currently recognize 21 Hall of Famers to have played for them in Marcus Allen, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Bob Brown, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Al Davis, Eric Dickerson, Mike Haynes, Ted 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 ...

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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 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.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Former Oakland Raiders punter Ray Guy, who was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Seniors Committee for the Class of 2014, will return to the O.co Coliseum to light the Al Davis Memorial Flame prior to Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles, ESPN.com has learned.

Guy, 63, was a first-round draft pick by Davis in 1973, No. 23 overall, and was a six-time All-Pro selection while being picked for seven Pro Bowls and was the NFL’s All-Decade punter for the 1970s.

He was also a member of all three Raiders Super Bowl championship teams and had a career average of 42.4 yards per punt. Guy also had 209 punts inside the 20-yard line from 1976 through 1986.

“He changed the way the game was played,” former Raiders coach Tom Flores said recently.

Guy, along with fellow seniors committee finalist Claude Humphrey, a defensive end, must receive at least 80 percent of the vote on the day before the Super Bowl to gain enshrinement.