Thinking of narrowing down the Raiders elite seems near impossible. There are so many options at every position, leaving lots of combinations and setting up lots of discussions. If we’re talking Raiders all-time best team anyone could put together, here’s my dream team. Retired players only though.
Probably the forefront of almost every Raiders fan’s mind is Ken “The Snake” Stabler. He played his first decade in the league with Oakland and led them to their first World Championship.His off the field antics and bad boy persona detracted from his on the field genius. He was a rough and tumble quarterback, who got sacked a LOT. Even so, he always went down swinging and was responsible for many of the most memorable plays in Raiders history. One of the biggest travesties of his career was that he never got to wear his gold jacket. He was inducted into the hall of fame posthumously, just a year after his death.
Marcus Allen is widely considered the best running back in Raiders history, and some believe he’s the best player in the franchise’s tenure. Allen was responsible for one of the most memorable Super Bowl runs in history. In SB XVIII, Allen ran for a record-setting 74-yard touchdown run, totaled 20 carries for 191 total yards and 2 touchdowns, earning him the Super Bowl MVP award. And that was just the beginning of his legendary career. He spent most of his career in Silver and Black, before moving to Kansas City after a long battle with owner Al Davis.
Prepare to be angry. Bo Jackson was the best running back in Raiders history. In addition to his football career, he was a spectacular baseball player, putting him at the top of my list of best athletes ever. Discounting his short run in the league, he ran roughshod over his opponents. His first game came against the Seattle Seahawks. The game would go down in history as one of the most impressive performances, and most effective trucking runs in history. The Raiders were in the third quarter of the game and in striking distance of the end zone. The Raiders were on the two-yard line and Jackson was handed the ball. He proceeded to plow through linebacker Brian Bosworth, producing one of the most embarrassing failures in linebacker history. Bo also ran for 2 additional touchdowns, a 14-yard pass from QB Marc Wilson, then a massive 91+ yard touchdown run through the end zone and down the tunnel, ending up somewhere in Tacoma, according to commentator Dan Dierdorf.
Mark Van Eeghen
The men on this list are not interchangeable by any means, but everyone knows the gray area between fullback and running back/tailback. All of the backs i’ve listed could have played fullback with ease, and in fact Marcus Allen was listed as a fullback for part of his career. But the best fit in the fullback position is the Raiders’ second-leading rusher of all time, and year three of his career showed why. In the 1976 season, he ran for 1,012 yards and followed that up with two more consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons. That’s all just for rushing. Add that to his career 174 receptions for 1,583 yards and he looks pretty damn good.
As a wide receiver, Biletnikoff doesn’t necessarily look great on paper. He was small, slow, and only had one 1,000+ yard season. Still he caught 589 passes in his 14-year career, all in the Silver and Black, and turned in 76 touchdowns in that time. The primary reason he wins the race is because of his clutch performances. In the 1974 divisional playoff, he made a one-handed catch in the end zone that would put Odell Beckham Jr to shame. There were more than just a few plays that saw Biletnikoff winning a game for the Raiders, and when clutch counts, there was nobody better. Check this out, it’s worth the watch.
Who? Art Powell. Learn his name, study him, read up on him because this is a name worth remembering. He was big, fast, and could juke a defensive player as well, if not better than, receivers even in today’s league. Powell was one of the first true slot receivers. He was smart and his route running was second to none. Three of his four seasons in Oakland were well over 1,000 yards, he turned in 50 touchdowns during his tenure with the Raiders over just four years. To put that into perspective, Jerry Rice, NFL’s all-time leader, played 20 seasons and totaled 197 touchdowns at retirement. That’s an average of 10 per year. Powell averaged 12.5 in his 4 years in Oakland. Like I said, remember his name and use it at your next Raiders trivia party.
I have to, I have to, I HAVE TO include this man on my all-time list. Gadget players are so special in their own right because they master multiple positions, a skill that not many players possess. Clem Daniels is the AFL’s all time leading yardage producer. He was a true gadget player, running, catching and even passing the ball. He was integral in the deep passing game that the Raiders are known for even now. He gets overlooked because he wasn’t on a championship Raiders team, but he had the chops and he deserves the nod.
Enjoy some Art Powell and Clem Daniels.
Choosing between Todd Christensen and Dave Casper is like choosing your favorite child. I couldn’t do it. Or so I thought. Yeah, I know, Ghost to the Post is its own highlight reel. But a Raiders dream team wouldn’t be complete without Todd Christensen. He was called a renaissance man, turning in three 1,000+ yard seasons as a tight end in four years, and nearly broke that mark in the third of that 4-year span. 1983 = 1,247, 1984 = 1,007, 1985 = 987, 1986 = 1,153. It took over 20 years for any tight end to break the 3-consecutive seasons mark, which was accomplished by Greg Olsen in the 2016 season. No other Raiders tight end has turned in anywhere close to Christensen’s numbers. Casper’s highest season was 852. Seems like an easy choice, although I know there will be a lot of angst about this one.
One of the best O-Line tandems in NFL history was Shell/Upshaw. Art Shell was named to 8 pro-bowls in his career, with his most impressive performance during Superbowl 11, when he humiliated the Vikings’ star defensive end, Jim Marshall, holding him to zero tackles. He was also called the second best player that the Raiders ever had by personnel extraordinaire Ron Wolf, second to Marcus Allen. High accolades from one of the most respected names in the business. Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes, and he’s the top of the heap. Watch his run blocking. There’s nobody better.
Art Shell’s partner on the line was Gene Upshaw. Upshaw was feared by his opponents because he hit hard and often. He was masterful at bending the defense to his will and thrived on the fear he saw across the line of scrimmage. He opened up holes for his runners big enough to drive a truck through. There wouldn’t be Ken Stabler without him and the rest of that intrepid line.
A superstar offensive line starts with the center. The greatest center to don the Silver and Black was without a doubt #00, Jim Otto. Otto was passed up by every team because he was small for a center. He was drafted to play for the proposed Minneapolis AFL team, but when it fell through, he was sent to the Raiders by default. It turned out to be an accidental miracle for the Raiders. A true iron man, he played 308 consecutive pre-season and regular-season games without injury. And prepare for the list of accolades.
2x 1st team All-pro
1x 2nd team All-pro
9x AFL All-Star
10x 1st team All-AFL
3x NFL All-star
AFL All-time team
Otto joined the team in their first Super Bowl appearance, but never was able to bring home a ring. To date, Jim Otto’s number is the only one ever retired by the Raiders franchise. I’d like to think it’s not just because the NFL doesn’t use #00 anymore.
A member of one of the best offensive lines of all time, Bob Brown mirrored Art Shell. Brown was a 5-time first team all-pro, named to 6 pro-bowls, and the 1960s all-decade team. He’s considered one of the most underrated players in history. Brown was an outspoken member of the team and at 300 pounds, people listened when he spoke. By all accounts, he was too smart for most defenses to keep up with and carried the strong side of the O-Line on his huge shoulders.
Most people don’t know Mickey Marvin. He was a member of two Superbowl teams, making up part of the offensive line that led the Raiders to two of their three championship wins. He matched up well against opposing linemen and nose tackles, and he turned in a notable performance versus the Eagles, all but eliminating the defensive charge by NT Charlie Johnson, and LBs Bill Bergey and Frank LeMaster, to help the Raiders win Superbowl XV.
Before Khalil Mack was even born, there was Howie Long. Long was the greatest edge rusher to ever step foot on a Raiders field. He joined the Raiders not long before the beginning of a long and very dark period of the team’s history, but he was still somehow able to shine, forcing the opposition to change their entire strategy when it was “Raiders week”. Every team now and then had Raiders Week, and it was in no small part due to men like Howie. You simply had to adjust for someone who could play any position in the front seven and eat your offensive line for breakfast. He rolled off blockers like water off a duck’s back, and even though he was often double- and sometimes triple- and quadruple-teamed, he made his way to quarterbacks. The video below at 1:31 says it all. He blows through significant holding by three defenders to rip the helmet off of Cincinnati QB Ken Anderson on his way to another sack. Howie Long is venerable, legendary, and simply the best the Raiders have ever produced.
The Raiders career sack leader has without a doubt earned his place in history. Over his career, he accumulated 109.5 sacks, top 25 in the league all-time. He had 7 double-digit sack seasons, 4 of them consecutive, and was elected to the Pro-Bowl 4 times in a row. He stood out opposite Howie Long, and the two seemingly competed for the sack title season after season, accumulating 23.5 in 1983 between the two of them. If Howie didn’t take you down, Greg would. Townsend brought one thing to the party that most defenders didn’t. He brought the pain. He hit hard and fast and brought men to the ground with authority. They didn’t forget those hits. He played 11 seasons with the Raiders, moving the Philadelphia for one season, then he came back to the league for one last season so he could retire in Silver and Black.
At 1:10, Townsend ruins Mr. Elway’s day.
Chester McGlockton was a defensive gadget player. McGlockton was drafted 16th overall in the 1992 draft, listed as a tackle and end. McGlockton was also elected to the pro-bowl four times as a tackle. He racked up at least 3 sacks each season as a Raider and was a solid tackler on a team that struggled in the 1990s. His best season was in 1994, when he doled out 9.5 sacks, atop his 62 tackles.
In the mid-80s, Bill Pickel joined the Raiders defense to shore up the front four, completing the onslaught threat that the team was known for. Pickel was a good complement to Howie Long and Greg Townsend, seen as the quiet one on-field until it was time to jump off the line. He had 3 consecutive 11+ sack seasons, 12.5 each in ‘84 and ‘85, and 11.5 in ‘86. Pickel’s play dropped off after that season and he never quite found the same glory, but he peaked high and helped in getting the team to the last Super Bowl the Raiders would win to date.
There weren’t many linebackers more aggressive and more dominating than Ted Hendricks. He stood 6’7” and had a crazy sneer, meant to instill fear and hesitation in their adversaries. He’s in the conversation as one of the best of all time and was certainly the greatest mentor that a young Howie Long could have. The Mad Stork was a member of all three of the Raiders Super Bowl teams, 8 pro-bowl appearances, 4-time first team all-pro, a member of both the 70s and 80s all-decade teams. Hendricks finished his career with 60.5 sacks, 26 interceptions, and 4 safeties, and blocked more kicks than any other player in the league. Enjoy the madman.
Greg Biekert was drafted in 1993 in the 7th round. He was the Raiders lead tackler for 4 straight seasons, 6 in total. Biekert ended up with 1,096 tackles under his belt, barely missing out on the top 20 NFL leaderboard. He also recovered the infamous Tuck Rule fumble. That alone puts him in the Raiders hall of fame.
For the next few categories, I’m going with the Dime Defense, simply because I can’t eliminate any of the following players.
There was a group of players in the Raiders secondary that stalked, hunted, and killed running backs and receivers alike. The Soul Patrol, which included Dr. Death, The Assassin, Butch and Willie, sounds like an awesome superhero movie, doesn’t it? If it were made, it would be the villain movie, just ask the men knocked out, broken, and even paralyzed by the fearsome foursome.
George “Butch” Atkinson
I’m cheating here, simply because an all-time best team wouldn’t be complete without every member of the Soul Patrol. Most well-known as part of the legendary secondary, Atkinson was also a very capable kick returner. In only 4 seasons of returning kicks, he accumulated 4,480 yards, averaging nearly 25 yards per return. In 1968, he set the Raiders single-game punt return record with 205 yards against Buffalo. Adding to the fact that he was one of the most feared safeties in football makes a good case for him to be in any position on my list.
Originally #24 was worn by someone not named Woodson. A member of the greatest secondary of all time. the quiet one of the bunch, Willie Brown was a master of disruption. He silently worked his way into the playbooks and etched himself in history. Career 52 interceptions for 472 yards and 2 touchdowns. NINE pro bowls. FIVE-time first-team all-pro. Nuff said.
Skip Thomas – Dr. Death
Dr. Death was commonly known for his rough tackles, even though that’s not where his nickname came from. According to John Madden’s book, “Hey, wait a minute! (I wrote a book)”, Thomas was given his nickname long before he cemented the title on the team. He posted back-to-back 6-interception seasons and was a member of the first Super Bowl win in Raiders’ history.
Mike Haynes/Lester Hayes
They had great careers individually but no one could match the duo. Mike Haynes played the first half of his career for the New England Patriots. When he moved to Oakland, we were all gifted with the Haynes-Hayes connection. Haynes made up half of the duo that tops the list of most feared cornerback duo, and greatest of all time. He was a true shutdown corner before he got to the Raiders, and was the last piece added to create the best secondary of all time. And here comes the judge! The other half of the duo, Lester Hayes appeared in two of the Raiders’ Super Bowl victories and was named to five Pro-Bowls. Hayes was known on his own as one of the greatest shutdown corners in the business, so when he met his soulmate in Haynes, opposing offenses met their match. Hayes was well-known for his use of Stickum in the games, which some say gave him an advantage for interceptions and pass defense, but since the practice was common, no harm, no foul. He almost claimed the single-season interception record, falling one short of Dick “Night Train” Lane’s record of 14.
Jack Tatum – The Assassin
The Assassin. Enough said. But if you need more, the man regularly took heads off, and that’s only a slight exaggeration. He was the most feared man on a football field due to his long list of nasty hits. You didn’t even have to piss him off to bring the pain, you just had to show up. Probably the worst and most infamous altercation was during a preseason game against the Patriots, when the Assassin hit New England’s Darryl Stingley, paralyzing him from the neck down. The list of victims in his wake continued to grow, and his hits are reminiscent of a time when football was truly down and dirty. Call me twisted, but clips of Tatum’s play just give me chills.
An 18-year vet of the NFL, Charles Woodson was not only one of the best safeties of all time, but he was also probably one of the most dynamic players the league has ever seen. He played both cornerback and safety, as well as a little wide receiver in college, but excelled in the safety position. Before retiring in 2015, he nabbed his 65th career interception from one Mr. Peyton Manning. The two were drafted in the same class, and it was Woodson’s first pick off of Manning. Great way to close it out. The interception was a sweet victory for Woodson, and it tied him for fifth on the all-time leaderboard.
There aren’t many kicking virtuosos coming out of the Raiders locker room. Their all-time best kicker is still on the field. Beyond that, you have to go all the way back to the 60s-70s era Raiders, when everybody had more than one job. George Blanda was a true iron man, playing both quarterback and placekicker for the Raiders between 1967-1975 and retired as the oldest player in NFL history. He was a key piece of the team that went to Super Bowl II.
No other punter will compare to Ray Guy ever. He remains the highest punter drafted in NFL history and was worth the effort, helping Al Davis avoid the rumors that he was a total lunatic. He was even drafted with a broken foot. Guy was so powerful that after a booming punt hit the roof of the Superdome, they had to raise the TV screens from 90’ to 200’ to avoid him hitting the roof. AGAIN. His longest punt was 77 yards, with an unofficial hangtime of five seconds. Count that in your head and think about how many punts you’ve ever seen that hang in the air like that. He also perfected the Coffin Corner Kick, dropping punts inside the five-yard line and pinning Raiders’ opponents up against their own end zone.
I know I’ll get arguments here, and rightfully so. There’s always an argument between the great Tom Flores and Mr. Telestrator himself, John Madden. Although both are two of the greatest and most trailblazing coaches in history, the math works out in Madden’s favor. Madden coached the Oakland Raiders from 1969-1978. He led the team into their golden era, including their first Super Bowl appearance and first Super Bowl win. He boasts the second highest win percentage in NFL coaching history, nudged out only by Guy Chamberlin, who coached from 1922-1927. Simply, John Madden is the winningest coach in modern-era football.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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