Oakland Raiders: Tom Flores

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.
Our countdown of the best Oakland Raiders draft picks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger concludes with running back Marcus Allen topping the list at No. 1 ...

Marcus Allen (USC, first round, No. 10 overall, 1982)

The Raiders were still technically calling Oakland home, even if they would play the strike-shortened 1982 season’s home games in Los Angeles. And, yes, the Raiders were on the hunt for a running back in that 1982 draft.

Their top two targets -- Stanford’s Darrin Nelson and Arizona State’s Gerald Riggs -- were already gone by the time the Raiders went on the clock. And even then, the room was split, then-coach Tom Flores once told me.

Many wanted the bruiser from Richmond, Barry Redmond.

The others, they wanted the reigning Heisman Trophy winner out of USC. Kid by the name of Marcus Allen. And even when saner heads prevailed, the Raiders had to get Al Davis on a payphone outside a courthouse in Los Angeles to green-light the pick, Flores told me.

And with that, the Raiders had their best draft pick since the merger, a selection that is now 32 years old and still looking strong.

It paid immediate dividends with Allen being named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year in 1982 after leading the NFL with 11 touchdowns in the nine games, his winning Super Bowl XVIII MVP honors a year later with 191 rushing yards and two TDs, including his reverse-field 74-yard score, and winning league MVP honors in 1985. That year, he led the NFL with 1,759 rushing yards on 380 carries, and had at least 100 yards rushing in 11 of the Raiders’ last 12 games and his 2,314 yards from scrimmage also led the NFL.

Allen was the face of the franchise, the coolest guy in ultra-hip L.A. and he produced.

Then, it all changed. He was already under Davis’ skin for holding out in training camps and asking to run the ball more -- Davis’ response? Take some laps after practice -- when he essentially cost the Raiders a game by fumbling deep in Philadelphia Eagles territory in 1986, the stuff hit the fan.

The feud with Davis became fodder nationally and Allen again split the room, becoming a sympathetic figure to most, an ingrate to many others.

From 1986 through 1992, Allen saw running backs Vance Mueller, Napoleon McCallum, Bo Jackson, Greg Bell, Roger Craig, Nick Bell and Eric Dickerson all brought in by Davis.

True, Allen was not utilized to the best of his talents after his MVP season by the Raiders, and he experienced a rebirth in Kansas City and went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. But in being almost an accidental draft pick of the Raiders in 1982, Allen’s mere presence set the tone for the franchise for more than a decade.

His return to the Raiders in 2012, at the behest of the late Davis’ son Mark, to light the torch honoring the former owner brought the story full circle.

Top 5-plus Raiders draft picks since 1970 merger

Honorable mentions

No. 5: WR Cliff Branch

No. 4: P Ray Guy

No. 3: TE Dave Casper

No. 2: DE Howie Long

No. 1: RB Marcus Allen
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: ?
We conclude our look at the Oakland Raiders' top 5 free agent signings of all time with Jim Plunkett checking in at No. 1 ...

If it truly is all about the rings, then there should be no other choice than Plunkett as the Raiders’ top free agent signing of all time after helping lead the team to two of its three Super Bowl titles, in 1980 and 1983.

And yet, there is also the Lazarus effect, which only adds to the legend, Plunkett resurrecting himself after being out of the game following a pair of painful stops in New England and San Francisco. In fact, Plunkett was out of the game in 1978, when the Raiders signed him to hold a clipboard behind Kenny Stabler.

[+] EnlargePlunkett/Flores
AP PhotoJim Plunkett and former coach Tom Flores at the Superdome in New Orleans during the week leading up to Oakland's 27-10 win in Super Bowl XV.
But when the Raiders traded Stabler to the Houston Oilers for Dan Pastorini in 1980, Plunkett was frustrated that he did not have the opportunity to compete for the starting job. He went to coach Tom Flores and told him he wanted out. But after Flores spoke with Al Davis, the Raiders owner was not about to ship out his only veteran presence behind Pastorini (Oakland had just used a first-round draft pick on Marc Wilson).

Plunkett, the 1970 Heisman Trophy winner out of Stanford and the top pick of the 1971 draft, bided his time. Five games into the season, the Kansas City Chiefs broke Pastorini’s leg and Plunkett took over as the Raiders sat at just 2-3.

“One of the things that’s always stuck with me when I took over in ’80, Mr. Davis told me, ‘It doesn’t matter if you play well; it’s only important of we win the game. We can play well next time,’” Plunkett said.

The Plunkett-led Raiders ran off a six-game winning streak and Oakland claimed a wild-card spot, beating Stabler’s Oilers in the playoffs, the Kardiac Kid Cleveland Browns and the high-powered San Diego Chargers before pasting the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV, 27-10.

Plunkett’s Cinderella season came to fruition as he was named the game’s MVP.

The Raiders were again champs three years later, this time with Los Angeles serving as the team’s home, when they went 12-4 and beat the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks by a combined 68-24 before thumping defending champion Washington, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII.

That 1983 season, though, was not without drama for Plunkett, not when he was benched with the Raiders sitting at 5-2 in favor of Wilson in the wake of Wlison getting a reported five-year, $4-million deal to keep him away from Donald Trump and the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.

“You know, having played quarterback, it’s pretty hard to bench your quarterback, your starter, especially a guy that’s won a Super Bowl for you,” Flores told Silver and Black Productions. “But he was beat up pretty good early in the year, and Jim was the kind of quarterback that he was, just such a warrior that he didn’t avoid too much contact, so we did make a change and we put Marc Wilson in.”

Wilson had a good game on national television against the Dallas Cowboys, but the Chiefs again came to Plunkett’s rescue, so to speak, this time breaking Wilson’s shoulder. A recharged Plunkett never looked back, though he did cause a stir by skipping the team’s championship parade in L.A.

Some saw it as his silent protest against being benched that season.

“Who knows, maybe it was, but I don’t want to be petty,” Plunkett told me for my upcoming book, "100 Things Raiders Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die."

“There were a lot of reasons; I was living up north and it was a long year for me. My rent was up. It was time to go home.”

Plunkett laughed, though not too hard lest the pain return. He is still recovering from a left shoulder replacement surgery, one of 16 football-related procedures he’s undergone, including both knees being replaced.

He retired after the 1986 season and has remained close to the Raiders' organization. And in his last years, Davis pumped Plunkett for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I said it then and I believe it now,” Davis said in 2008, “that Jim Plunkett was one of the truly great players of our time. He won two Super Bowls and has never gotten the acclaim he desires or deserves. He was a Heisman Trophy winner, he was a Super Bowl winner, he did as much in pro football as John Elway did, who it took 15 years to win a Super Bowl.”

Who's on Raiders' Mount Rushmore?

February, 13, 2014
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LeBron James says by the time all is said and done, he will be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore. And with the game-winning 3-point dagger he dropped on the Golden State Warriors Wednesday night, James brought out a chisel.

The only massif the Warriors’ Oakland neighbors feature, meanwhile, is a tarped-off piece of concrete aptly named Mt. Davis. So if the Raiders were to erect a Mount Rushmore of their own, whose four faces would be featured?

It’s not an easy answer, not with so many characters, stories and, well, iconic figures in the franchise’s history. Go ahead give it a try. Here’s my Silver and Black-clad Mount Rushmore.

Al Davis – Any questions? No other person personified their franchise more than the late Raiders owner. He was a coach, general manager, owner and commissioner of the AFL who, to borrow a line from Paul Anka (look it up), did it his way. And even if he did become a caricature of himself in later years, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if that’s all you remembered of him. He was a pioneer in equal opportunity, both in the front office and on the field as he took on the establishment. Just don’t ever forget that he was in charge.

John Madden – Not as slam-dunk a choice as you’d think. Not with five straight trips to the AFC title game and only one Super Bowl trip and victory to show for it. Sure, his regular-season record was impeccable, but to a newer generation of fans he’s known more for being a broadcaster than a game-changing coach. Yet, his persona still casts a large shadow over Silver and Blackdom. Make room for Madden. BOOM!

Tom Flores/Jim Plunkett – Wait, what? Yeah, I know, it’s a cop-out. But there simply is no way to separate the two so we need to hire a sculptor who can give us a face that is half Flores, half Plunkett. Not only was Flores the Raiders’ first-ever quarterback, predating even Davis’ arrival in Oakland, he won twice as many Super Bowls as Madden and was the first minority coach in NFL history to win a title. But he probably does not do it without Plunkett under center, his Lazarus tale becoming reality with the Super Bowl XV MVP trophy and his steady leadership three years later in Super Bowl XVIII.

Jim Otto – The man has literally given a limb to the franchise – he has shown off his prosthetic leg covered with the Raiders logo – and it’s a crying shame that he retired a year before the Raiders finally broke through to win Super Bowl XI. Otto is the ultimate Raider, a 10-time All-AFL selection at center who lasted 15 years in the trenches and even longer as one of Davis’ most trusted advisors. He still bleeds Silver and Black. Just listen to him spin a yarn like he spun nose tackles back in the day.

Would Raiders draft Michael Sam?

February, 10, 2014
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Does Missouri defensive end Michael Sam coming out as gay Sunday night on ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" affect the Oakland Raiders' thinking on the NFL draft prospect?

Doesn't sound like it, so long as Sam has the skill set to play in the NFL.

"The Oakland Raiders have long championed diversity and opportunity," Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a team-issued release Monday afternoon. "The organization will evaluate Michael Sam based purely on his ability as a football player."

Indeed, as an organization under the late Al Davis, the Raiders hired a Latino head coach in Tom Flores, who became the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl as he won two, the first African-American head coach in modern NFL history in Art Shell, who was the league’s coach of the year in 1990, and the highest-ranking female executive in former CEO Amy Trask.

Sam, who was the SEC’s co-defensive player of the year with 11 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss, would seem to fill a need for the Raiders, who are in search of an edge rusher. Plus, defensive ends Lamarr Houston, Jason Hunter and Vance Walker are all free agents.

Still, Oakland already has a project in Jack Crawford and the 6-feet-2, 260-pound Sam might be a bit undersized for the Raiders’ needs in their 4-3 defensive alignment. If he is still around in the later rounds of the draft, perhaps the Raiders take a shot.

Raiders players have been silent on their Twitter feeds regarding Sam’s announcement but Pro Bowl fullback Marcel Reece took part in a public service announcement last summer regarding gay athletes.

The theme was "If you can play, you can play," and Reece joined other Bay Area sports personalities such as San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, Oakland Athletics center fielder Coco Crisp, San Francisco Giants pitcher Barry Zito, Golden State Warriors guard/forward Klay Thompson, San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton and San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski in the inclusivity-promoting PSA.

Raiders Twitter mailbag

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

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. -- A Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers might have been just too much for the Oakland Raiders and their fans to bear.

A title game between one of the Raiders’ most bitter rivals from the Mile High City and their cross-bay brethren? Imagine the smack flying their way with such a matchup. Or did you miss former Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman’s tweet early Sunday?


Someone had to win the AFC Championship Game, though, and when the Broncos held off the Patriots 26-16, the Raiders’ virulent division opponent’s ticket was punched for New Jersey, which left the NFC title up for grabs.

Just like Colin Kaepernick’s floater to Michael Crabtree that Richard Sherman knocked into the waiting arms of Malcolm Smith for an interception with 22 seconds to play to clinch the 23-17 victory for the Seahawks and give Kaufman, who played his college ball at Washington, a sigh of relief.

And yet, as noted in this space last week, the Seahawks used to live in the same division as the Raiders, too. From 1977 through 2001 they were AFC West roomies, if not necessarily homies, and they even met in the 1983 AFC title game for the right to play in Super Bowl XVIII, when the Raiders called Los Angeles home and the Seahawks had more aesthetically pleasing uniforms.

The Raiders won that game and the Super Bowl -- and have not hoisted a Vince Lombardi Trophy since.

Plus, there’s the Tom Flores connection. Flores, who won two Super Bowls as the Raiders' coach, was burning out and hoped to take a year off after the 1987 season. But Al Davis hired Mike Shanahan instead, and Flores went up north to become the Seahawks’ president/general manager in 1989 and added coach to his title in 1992. He lasted three years.

Flores, after going a combined 91-56 with the Raiders from 1979 to 1987, including the playoffs, was just 14-34 coaching the Seahawks, with whom his draft picks included future Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and quarterbacks Dan McGwire and Rick Mirer.

Alas, Oakland knows Denver and Seattle well. In fact, the Raiders’ all-time winning percentages against the Broncos (.561, 59-46-2) and Seahawks (.549, 23-23-0) rank 10th and 12th, respectively, against all opponents.

Then there’s this: With the Broncos set to represent the conference, the Raiders, who played in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003, will no longer be the most recent AFC West team to play on Super Sunday.
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. -- Matt McGloin will start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders this weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs, coach Dennis Allen said in his weekly media conference Monday, despite speculation that Terrelle Pryor earned more playing time in the Raiders’ eventual 37-27 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.

Pryor spelled McGloin on the Raiders’ third series of the day and, after the offense stalled under the undrafted rookie, Pryor led Oakland on a 14-play, 58-yard drive that culminated with a 41-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.

But as called for by the game plan, McGloin returned to the field and Pryor to the sidelines.

The game plan, though, did not call for the Raiders to be pinned at their own 2-yard line for McGloin’s return, nor for McGloin to throw an interception to Ed Reed that was returned to the 4-yard line.

Nor was it to have McGloin go three and out and have Marquette King’s punt blocked and returned for a touchdown to put the Raiders in a 20-3 hole on the next series before stalling at midfield on the following possession and punting again.

McGloin said leaving the game and then returning was not optimal for him, though he knew it was coming.

“Anytime you have quarterbacks coming in and out, especially in cold weather, it gets difficult sometimes,” he said after the game. “But it’s not an excuse or anything like that for the way we played.”

At halftime, many wondered if the Raiders should go exclusively with Pryor in the second half.

“I would,” offered two-time Super Bowl-winning coach Tom Flores on the team’s radio broadcast.

But McGloin returned and found a rhythm as Oakland scored on their first four possessions of the second half.

So if McGloin is the starter going forward -- the Raiders close out with three games against AFC West opponents -- what happens to Pryor, who started eight of Oakland’s first nine games and went 3-5?

“That’s something that we’ll game plan on a week in and week out basis, where we can use him and how we can use him,” Allen said.

“Matt’s obviously going to be the starting quarterback in this game and we’ll look at each game plan and see how we can utilize Terrelle and what skills we can use to take advantage of what the defense is doing.”

JFK Remembered: Tom Flores

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
7:00
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Tom FloresBernstein Associates/Getty ImagesTom Flores, former Raiders QB and coach, remembers being at practice when hearing the news.
The former Oakland Raiders quarterback and Super Bowl-winning coach reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

"No question, I remember it vividly. It was a Friday morning and we were at a public park in Berkeley working out. That's where we practiced when Al [Davis] first came to us, a public park, and it was kind of our area in the park but people were looking through the fence and all over the place. It was interesting. The facilities were nothing; they were just sparse. Spartan at best. That was his first year with us [as our head coach]. We had a game in two days against the Denver Broncos, in Denver. So we would have been traveling the next day.

"So it was going to be a light practice, just walking through things, special teams, things like that. Then, just before practice was to begin, Al came out and you could see there was something wrong with him. He knew before we did, obviously. Visibly, he was shaken. It was so raw when he gathered us and told us what happened. We were just shocked. And he said, 'I don’t know about you guys, but I won't be there [at the game] on Sunday.'

"And then later that day, they called off the weekend games, all the AFL games, Joe Foss [AFL commissioner] did. So a bunch of us, since we were off until Monday, we just got together that night with our wives. It was a very somber thing and we went to different places just to be with other people. My wife and I went to church. They had a special mass on Saturday for John, for the President and we were shocked. I mean, this was a big thing in our lives.

"And then, that Sunday, we came back as a team and afterwards, obviously, it was tough getting adjusted after what had just happened, but life went on after that. Still, that was a pretty traumatic weekend. I didn't even turn on the TV. I didn’t watch the NFL at all. They were playing, not me. It wasn’t important."

Flores, 76, as told to ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez
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.

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