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“From Coaches to Players; Why Are the Raiders 3-5 & How & When Can They Fix It”

jack del rio hc

With so many expectations, the Raiders are a disappointing 3-5 half way through the 2017-18 NFL Season. Let’s look at why this has happened, and how and when it can be fixed.

Reggie McKenzie:
You heard a whole lot of Raider fans using the expression, “In Reggie We Trust” this off season. Many are now looking for him to either be fired or put on the hot seat.

I’ve written about McKenzie in the past. He’s done some good things but he’s also had some really bad signings and drafts. For every Derek Carr & Khalil Mack, there are the DJ Hayden’s, Jihad Ward’s and Clive Walford’s. Reggie has missed on several high picks and it’s hurt the Raiders.

The Raiders philosophy of trying to fix the defense with DB’s is wrong. They’ve been doing it for years. The Raiders need to stop pouring money and high draft picks into DB’s, and start building a dominating front 7. If you can’t rush the passer, you can’t stop teams in today’s NFL.

Fix:
Khalil Mack’s contract is now up and Oakland must pay him. This will make things even harder for the Raiders and they can’t have so many misses in their signings and their draft picks.
The Raiders need a physical front 7 that can stop the run and get to the passer. They need to draft and sign players to fix this part of the defense. McKenzie has to dump many of the contracts that are coming off the books in the off season including Reggie Nelson, Sean Smith, and David Amerson. They need to get tougher as well.

I’d love to see the Rams disgruntled stud DT Aaron Donald on the Raiders. He may be the most dominating player in the NFL today. A pass rushing DT would be my first priority. If I’m GM the teams defensive identity would be a physical one that gets to the QB. On offense I’d run a power running game with an emphasis on throwing deep. With their financial belt tightened you better be right on who you sign and draft.

Jack Del Rio:
Another popular phrase this off-season was in “Jack we trust”. Now many are questioning whether he is a winner and if he’s a good enough leader.

When Jack was hired, I was of the few that really wasn’t into this signing. Del Rio is a very popular coach with the owners and players. He’s likeable, says the right things, and makes sure the guys writing his checks are happy. He also has limited success. In 12 years of coaching Oakland and the Jags he has only 4 winning seasons and one playoff win. At Jacksonville things got worse the longer he coached. In his last 4 years coaching the Jaguars he was 23-36 and was let go during his last season with them.

Del Rio is usually very loyal to his players and coaches and is not one to throw anyone under the bus. That is a good trait, but he’s also not good in press conferences during bad times. His “I don’t know what happened” comment in press conferences have a bad look to it and fans of the Raiders like it as much as Jacksonville’s fans did before.

Fix:
The Raiders have to get an identity and stick to it and that is Jack Del Rio’s job. Bill’s head coach Sean McDermott has built an image in Buffalo that is equal to his. He’s also gotten rid of players that didn’t buy into his philosophy. The Bills are now tough, physical on defense, and have a good running game. Buffalo does not have a good QB and they are last in the NFL in passing offense but are 5-2 and they straight up believe.

Are the Raiders a pass happy team that doesn’t care about the run? Do they want to be a power running team that can throw deep? Do they want to be a physical defense that gets to the QB? Choose an identity and follow it.

Del Rio also has to be more authoritative and take control. Saying it’s my fault or saying we have to work on a better scheme is a lot better than shrugging your shoulders and saying I don’t know what happened. Some in the media have said he’s played a big role in the defense and it hasn’t helped. If the Raiders struggle for the next season and a half, his job won’t be his anymore.

Offense:
Even some in the media are now saying Derek Carr might be overrated. That’s way too simple. The truth is Carr is a good but not great NFL QB. He’s also a QB that gets rattled under a pass rush. Carr’s interceptions have got to him mentally. He’s now throwing to the check down receiver much more than in the past, and he’s trying to pinpoint passes in between defenders instead of airing it out and throwing deep. Some have said the Raiders threw deep more than anyone last year and that’s not true. The Raiders were 11th in completed passes past 20 yards and 12th over 40 yards.

There were more than a few bad passes yesterday that were caused by the pressure Buffalo was putting on Carr. He looked like he did when he was a rookie at times. He anticipated the rush instead of feeling it and it showed. Last year he was the best protected QB in the NFL and he thrived. This year the OL has struggled and so has he. NOT a coincidence.

Raiders OC Todd Downing is also getting trashed by many and he deserves some of the heat. He’s made few changes to the offensive scheme and the rest of the league has changed a lot to defend the Raiders. For instance on the turnovers yesterday, each play Buffalo played in the face of the Raiders WR. Instead of airing it out, Carr nervously went for the check down passes or tried to pinpoint the ball in between defenders.

Marshawn Lynch struggled his last year with Seattle, and he’s still struggling. He looks like a 31 year old RB and RB’s usually don’t get better or faster with age. He’s taken a lot of punishment over the years.

The Raiders have solid RB’s that can run, block and catch the ball but the Raiders have to run more. Some fans tried to say after yesterdays game, “see; look how bad the Raiders RB’s are”. Well they ran only 14 times all game with DeAndre Washington leading the way with 6 carries for 26 yards. The Raiders are an amazing 26th in the NFL for the number of rushing attempts so far this year. Last year they ended the year with the 11th most rushing attempts.

Fix:
Unless Downing steps up, a new coordinator is needed. They also need to back to the power blocking scheme and run the ball down teams throats. Marshawn Lynch enjoys the zone blocking scheme for his OL but it hasn’t worked. The identity of the offense should be a power running game and then use the deep ball with the play action pass. You can’t blame Todd Downing with poor play calling and not get on Carr. Carr is the coach on the field and he’s got to audible more. He has the final say on what play will be called. Part of being a QB is calling a great game and he was fooled a couple of times when the Bills showed blitz but didn’t.

Defense:
Where do we start. At the start of the year some publications said that the Raiders had the worst LB’ s in the NFL. The Raiders still have 17.5 million guaranteed until next year with CB’s David Amerson and Sean Smith. Reggie Nelson’s 4.25 million will be off the books too. Amerson struggles guarding the deep ball and Smith has struggled with everything. Reggie Nelson is on his last legs and Karl Joseph still struggles defending the passing game. Gareon Conley’s rookie year is pretty much not going to amount to much and that’s another round 1 pick that didn’t help much their first year.

The Raiders defensive line still can’t create a pass rush or stop the run. Khalil Mack had only 2 tackles yesterday with no sacks and was kept out for a small part of the game without any injury. The team has only 12 sacks in 8 games and it’s the same old story, different day.

Fans posting that the Raiders have this amazing amount of talent on defense and all they need is good coaching are ridiculous. They need talent big time on defense. Ken Norton Jr. and Jack Del Rio may not be the answer to fix the defense, but until they improve the talent, NOTHING is going to change.

Fix:
Blow it up. Get an experienced, quality coordinator. The Raiders want to win now. Mario Edwards Jr. has his moments but he’s not the answer so far. Jihad Ward was a bad pick. Keep Navorro Bowman but they need more help at LB. Let Amerson, Nelson and Smith walk. They have to get a DT that can put pressure on the QB and stop the run adequately. The Raiders have been fooling themselves on the defensive side of the ball for years. What they’ve done for 15 years hasn’t worked. It needs to be fixed yesterday.

Jim’s Jamz:
Most feel it will take 10 wins to ensure a playoff spot this year. If that is true, Oakland will have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. The Raiders have games left at home with Dallas, Denver, and the Giants and have to play Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia on the road. In regards to the struggles the Raiders had with the weather in rainy Buffalo, that is a beach party compared to playing in Kansas City and Philadelphia in December. This doesn’t include a game in Mexico with the Patriots right after the bye week.

Next week the Raiders play at Miami which is always a tough game for them. Realistically they will have to play amazing football the rest of the season to get to the playoffs. The offense can be improved to a point this year with some adjustments but the defense needs a lot more help that must be addressed in the off-season.

The Raiders players have a good attitude saying that they are going to work hard and stay committed. They are sticking together and not throwing blame to each other. They also can’t think about playoffs but they do need to think about the next opponent.

The Raiders will have to play amazing football the last 2 months to make the playoffs. The off season darlings of the NFL are in trouble. The castle that looked so sturdy is now having it’s foundation checked for damage. Time will tell how much work will need to be done to fix the team and if they do it right.

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“What the Oakland Raiders Must Do To Beat Kansas City Tonight; The Season is on the Line”

 

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders
Raiders OC Todd Downing & QB Derek Carr

I’ve seen some of the craziest theories for some fans and even writers trying to explain the issues with the Raiders.  I’m just not that smart I guess; I break it down to what is and not to what might be so let’s look at the statistics.

Raiders Issues:

If you follow the NFL you know that owners and coaches have 2 flaws.  They hate change and when they do change they copy someone.  Right now the Raiders need to change their philosophy on both offense and defense to combat the changes other teams have done to stop them.  For 4 straight weeks they’ve refused to adjust and it’s cost them against teams with less talent.

What Needs To Change On Offense To Beat the Chiefs:

The Raiders have completed only 2 passes over 40 yards this year and 15 passes for over 20 yards.  That is on the same pace for last year.

The problem with that is for the last 4 games teams have begun to play press coverage on the Raiders.  Commentators have talked about how teams no longer give the Raiders the easy short throws and the Raiders have to stretch the field.  So far they haven’t adjusted to the defensive changes of other teams.

Bill Musgrave is not a genius and he was not a big loss even though some are getting way too carried away with his importance.  He’s now the QB coach at Denver and Trevor Siemian is borderline atrocious, and is a big reason their offense struggles.  What OC Todd Downing and Derek Carr are not getting is that they need to adjust their philosophy and they aren’t.  Teams are taking away the short game so now you have to throw deep.

The first thing I’d do tonight is run a play action pass on first down and throw the deep ball.  Even if it isn’t caught, it will give the threat of it.  Cordarrelle Patterson is lightning fast and so is Amari Cooper & Johnny Holton.  What good is that speed if you are not going to stretch the field?  The NFL is a game of adjustments and those that don’t adjust, fail to keep their jobs.

Marshawn Lynch & The Formula to Beat Kansas City:

I was in the 1% who did not like the Lynch signing.  He’s not the same player and he’s lost his burst.  I like youth at RB; always have.  Also the Raiders changed to a zone blocking scheme to accommodate his running style.  The zone blocking scheme is more for smaller and quicker OL.  The Raiders have a mammoth sized OL and they should be running the power scheme and NOT zone blocking.  The running game has suffered for it.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are 5-1 against the Chiefs in their last 6 games.  Why?  Because they stopped the nonsense of throwing 40-50 times and ran the ball down Kansas City’s throat each time.  They also took away the run and the short pass to the RB’s and TE’s and tried to force Alex Smith to throw deep which is not his strength.

The Raiders need to run and run often.  Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington have to run the ball more.  He’s quick to the hole where Lynch isn’t.  If it were me Lynch would not even start, Richard would.  I would employ Lynch as a short yardage or goal line back.

What Needs To Change On Defense:

The Raiders are 27th in the NFL in sacks with only 11.  Sound Familiar?  If you can’t rush the passer your defense will not be good; end of story.  Especially in todays game with the rules protecting WR.

The Raiders also lack talent and you can’t fix that mid-season.  Navorro Bowman was a great signing for the LB’s but he’s nowhere near what he was in the past.  He’s had two terrible leg injuries and his speed has suffered a lot.  If he can get there he can make a tackle that is for sure.  On the Raiders though he immediately becomes their best LB.  Bowman is not a blitzer; he’s a straight up LB and in his prime was as good as anyone in the game.  All these ridiculous predictions of multiple sacks and 12-15 tackles and multiple fumble recoveries are fun stuff on Facebook groups I guess but it’s far from the real world.  Hopefully Bowman can get into a regular rotation and get his sea legs in the Raiders defense for his first game.

The philosophy for years for Oakland was to sign and draft great db’s to fix the defense.  That plan has failed miserably.  With the rules today making looking at a WR a penalty, the QB and WR stats are like pinball scores.  You have to have a pass rush or your DB’s are toast.  The Raiders have failed to emphasize the DL and the LB and focus on DB’s and it doesn’t work.  Right now they can’t cut Sean Smith who has around 9 million in cap room.  They have to wait until next year.  David Amerson who struggles with the deep ball, has 8.5 million on the books.  That’s a huge amount of wasted money on limited return.

The Raiders DL still can’t rush the passer and for another painstaking year it’s killing the team on defense.  Add that the last 2 weeks Mack has been quiet as well and wasn’t double teamed very much, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

It will take a miracle for the Raiders to win big with this defense but you have to make do.  If I’m Jack Del Rio I go crazy with my play calls.  The Raiders do not have the talent on defense to stop a lot of teams so I make sure on any third down with more than 5 yards to go I blitz someone.  In fact I would blitz a lot but I’d change it up.  If the Raiders do not get to the QB their DB’s and LB’s can’t cover.  Karl Joseph struggles a lot covering TE and the LB’s coverage skills are so bad, ex-Raider Rich Gannon said he’d throw to the RB’s almost every time.  The thought of Kareem Hunt and Travis Kelce running wild after catching passes tonight is a definite worry.

The Player The Raiders Need To Change Their Defense Immediately:

Rams DT Aaron Donald is extremely unhappy where he is.  This guy at times is unblockable.  He’s double teamed often but he still gets big numbers.  He is probably the best DT in the game.  He’s 26 and in the prime of his career and he want’s big money.  Well I make it work.  The Raiders overpaid for some free agents and their money is coming off of the books.  Sign him and Mack and now you have a special tandem.

I’d play Donald on the same side as Mack.  I’d then start moving Mack around when teams figured that out. This would give the Raiders a pretty much unblockable DL especially on obvious passing downs.  Now THIS tranforms your defense immediately.  Not a DB that you hope works out when you don’t have a pass rush.  Will the Raiders give that type of money to the DL along with Mack?  Probably not.  A man can dream can’t he?

What is Going To Happen Tonight?

If the Raiders do nothing to their schemes and keep throwing short and keep trying to play their defense straight up, then a close loss at home is probable and a 2-5 start will destroy their season.

If the Raiders wake up and start throwing deep and setting that up with a physical running game, then they can score some points.  Their defense also needs to become much more aggressive on blitzes to hide their deficiencies in coverage.  If they do these adjustments I think the Raiders win.  If not, a 2-5 start is assured and this is with the hardest part of their schedule waiting ahead.  And if I’m the GM and they don’t make these adjustments for the entire year, both coordinators will be looking for jobs elsewhere.  I’d also tell Jack Del Rio he will be next if they don’t adjust.  When teams adjust NFL coaches, change is good.  I guarantee it.

“The Two Reasons Why the Raiders Offense Is Struggling & How to Fix it; A Quick Evaluation of the Raiders & AFC West”

 

derek carr

After the Raiders 16-10 loss to the Denver Broncos, there were more questions than answers in Oakland.  The Raiders have fallen to 2-2 and this was supposed to be a part of the schedule that was easier than the daunting last 7 games of the season.  Let’s look at what has happened the last 2 weeks for the Raiders and how they can fix it.

 Offense:

Washington’s defense played a great game and Denver’s defense is getting back to being dominating, but both teams made adjustments that most teams are sure to do in the future.

Last year, teams were afraid of giving up the deep ball to the Raiders.  Almost all teams played off the WR; sometimes 10-15 yards; often giving up easy passes.  For all his annoying sayings and talking up each player like they are all headed to the hall of fame, Tony Romo gets what is going on.  “Teams are taking away the easy short passes the Raiders are used to getting”, he said in the 4th quarter.

First off, for fans complaining about play calling, remember that Derek Carr is the last coach on the field.  He can change the play anytime he wants so if the play is not a good one, he needs to change it.  That’s one thing that separates great QB’s from really good ones.

In regards to the passing game, Washington and Denver both played physical, press coverage.  For newer fans that means that the DB’s play on the line of scrimmage and are in the WR faces to not allow for easy passes.  The last two weeks NOTHING has been given to the Raiders passing game and they are struggling big time.

And no EJ Manuel didn’t all of a sudden play great when Carr struggled.  Carr is still really good.  What did Denver do when EJ Manuel came into the game?  They did what most NFL coaches do; they got conservative and almost blew it.  They stopped playing press coverage and it allowed the Raiders to get back into the game.  Yes the cover 2 defense helped seal the win with the last interception when the Safety came over to help, but it also allowed Manuel to hit wide open targets who weren’t open at the start of the game.  The Broncos kicker missed an easy kick and Denver got conservative which almost cost them the game.

How do you beat press coverage?  You throw deep.  The Raiders have a lot of speed with Johnny Holton, Cordarralle Patterson, Amari Cooper, and Jared Cook is also fast at TE and can get deep.  Wheel routes to the RB’s also would work.  Teams have adjusted to the Raiders offense and now they have to make changes.  The Raiders are pretty much running the same offense as last year and they need to get that most teams are going to risk getting beat with the deep ball, by stopping their short and medium passes.

Amari Cooper has to step up. He is a talented but passive person and the Raiders lose their mojo and aggressiveness when Michael Crabtree is not in the game.  Cooper has to establish himself as the deep threat that he was in his rookie year.  When the Raiders start stretching the field with the deep ball, now you pound the ball with 4 quality running backs.  A sweep once in a while with those two quality guards pulling isn’t the dumbest idea either.

Offensive Line:

The OL of the Raiders has basked in a little bit of glory due to their mild success, but they have to get back to work and be physical and play to their potential.  This is the engine of the Raiders.  If they play well, so do the Raiders.  They have to step up and just get back to playing like they are capable of.  No real changes other than quality play is needed. Many publications have pointed out that 25% of the Raiders salary cap was spent on the offensive line.  No team has spent more money on their OL.  This unit is not as good as last year for some reason.  Where teams often blitzed last year, that is no longer the case.  All night Denver and Washington got to Derek Carr rushing only 4 players.  If you get to Carr he struggles like he did with Washington and Denver.  Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger can handle big rushes, but Derek Carr doesn’t have that skill.

If  your passing game isn’t working, teams stop respecting the deep ball and the DB’s play up close to the line.  If they are afraid of the deep ball the DB’s play back worrying about getting beat deep.  With a bad passing game, the run game becomes predictable.

The play calling has been just that at times, but the run game has also not been the same due to the OL’s poor play and the lack of success in the passing game.  Where the Raiders wore teams down, they now struggle running the ball when they have to.  The Jets are awful and the Titans defense just gave up 57 points to a rookie QB, but Washington’s is pretty good and Denver’s is elite.  The Raiders should handle Baltimore next week but against the better defenses, they need to make adjustments.

Carr HAS to have time.  He was the best protected QB in the NFL last year and it wasn’t a coincidence he had an amazing year.

Defense:

Jack Del Rio said it several times in interviews this off season.  “We just haven’t put in the money into our defense. To our defense there isn’t enough money to go around”.  This is why teams of today always have some kind of weakness.  Khalil Mack is the only player getting to the QB for four quarters.  For whatever reason, Mario Edwards looks great in the first quarter of games and then he disappears.  If Khalil Mack ever got hurt, this DL would be scary to watch and that’s in a bad way.  Many teams do not double team Mack and I think that’s crazy.  He is Oakland’s only consistent pass rusher.

The LB’s are struggling big time in pass coverage and aren’t exactly dominating against the run.  Trevor Siemian is not a good QB and at times the Broncos seem lost with their play calling.  When they tried to run the ball exclusively they struggled.  When they started to pass the ball they opened up the run game.  Overall Denver’s offense isn’t that good, but the Raiders have good offenses to play in their future.

The DB’s played better but Siemian missed several passes.  Emmanuel Sanders was wide open up the middle twice for long passes but Siemian wasn’t even looking at him.  The Raiders pass defense struggled again.  When teams start passing to their RB’s and TE’s the Raiders are toast because their back 7 can’t cover them.  They are going to have to continue to mix up their schemes with blitzes and zones and just hope for the best.

Denver Broncos vs. against the Oakland Raiders, NFL Week 17

The State of the AFC West:

It’s obvious for right now that the KC Chiefs are the best team in this division.  Their offense is better and they can beat you with their quick passing game or their run game.  With Justin Houston playing well, their pass rush is back to form.  With a deep throwing new hot shot QB breathing down his neck, Alex Smith has finally started to throw deeper passes which has opened up their offense.  KC plays Washington tonight, which was the same team that dominated the Raiders so it will be interesting how they do.

Phillip Rivers is a media darling but he’s overrated.  He is the poster boy for today’s NFL.  The rules have allowed even average QB’s to get pinball passing numbers which makes them look better than they are.  The Chargers now have gone 24 straight games without a 2 minute drill touchdown and no team has struggled in the second half and the fourth quarter more than the Chargers over the years.  I was ripped on by those that tried to tell me in week one that San Diego was a sleeper team and is a dark horse to get to the Super Bowl and I just kind of laughed.  They are now 0-4 and 0-3 at home.  Hmmm

Siemian isn’t a good QB and the Broncos are limited offensively.  Their formula is to get ahead early, and then rely on their defense to close out the game.  Denver is not the type of team to make big come backs and I don’t see Siemian winning many games late.

The Raiders have to adjust on offense.  Teams are no longer willing to give them the easy throws.  The smart ones are going to try and force them to throw deep which Oakland has to do successfully.  Watch the DB’s.  If you see them playing up, look to see if the Raiders throw deep to gain their respect.

If the Raiders don’t score, they are going to struggle.  This defense is no where near a championship defense and if they don’t score, they don’t win.  With quality offenses on the horizon, they need to make sure that they make changes on how to attack the press coverage that teams are likely to use in the future.

Players on the defense have to step up, but you wonder if they have the talent to do that.  Even Jack Del Rio has said at times the Raiders D is like the Khalil Mack show.  Unless they get a consistent pass rusher not named Mack, the back 7 are going to be exposed week by week.  Will the offense adjust to the changes on how defenses attack them?  And will Amari Cooper and Carr rise to the occasion behind the offensive line that finally plays up to their talent level.

The talk from fans before the season was all about the Super Bowl.  Now they have more questions than answers about the poor start of the Raiders.  Unless they make the proper changes, this dream season will be just that; a dream.  This winning the Super Bowl thing is not as easy as you think kids.

“The Oakland Raiders lose another NFL Hall of Fame Worthy Icon From the Past in Dave Grayson”

 

Dave Grayson Nemiah Wilson willie Brown Dave Grayson George Atkinson
Oakland Defensive Backs Nemiah Wilson, Willie Brown, Dave Grayson & George Atkinson

The Oakland Raiders lost another link to their storied past when AFL historian Todd Tobias announced on Twitter that Raider great defensive back Dave Grayson had passed away at the age of 78.  No cause of death was given at this time.

Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970.  He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.  Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon.

dave graysonryreyr

Al Davis Traded for CB Dave Grayson in 1965 (he traded him for future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) from the Chiefs and then traded for Willie Brown from Denver in 1967.  This allowed the Raiders to play the physical bump and run style that has been a trademark of the team for years.

When NFL and former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt was asked who were the 4 best cornerbacks in Dallas history his first 3 were not a shock.  Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly & Deion Sanders.  “I also include Dave Grayson.  He didn’t play with the Cowboys but he’s so good I’m including him.”

Dave Grayson went undrafted because at 5’ 10” and 185 pounds, he was dubbed too small by many NFL experts including Cowboys coach Tom Landry after the Cowboys briefly signed him and then let him go.  Gil Brandt liked him a lot and told the upstart AFL team the Dallas Texans (eventually the Kansas City Chiefs) to give him a shot.  Grayson was a key cog in the KC return game and at defensive back.  Grayson was fast and a ball hawk, something the Chiefs coaches loved.

dave grayson jim tyrer earl faison bud mcfadin ladd
Dave Grayson hamming it up with AFL All Stars Jim Tyrer, Earl Faison, Bud McFadin & Future Iconic Pro Wrestler Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd

Grayson held the AFL record for the longest interception return for a touchdown at 99 yards against the New York Titans in 1961.  Dave made many other key plays for the Chiefs including his famous interception off of Houston QB George Blanda in the Texans epic double overtime win in the 1962 AFL Championship game.

For the Raiders he was a great player both in the regular season and in the post season.  He ended up with 48 total interceptions with an amazing 933 return yards after his interceptions.  His best year was in 1968 where he had 10 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery.  He was also a quality top 10 kick return man as well.

Other career highlights:

-48 career interceptions with an amazing 19.4 yard return average

-25.4 kick off return average

-6 time AFL all-star

-4 time First team All Pro

-2 time AFL Champion

-Voted on the AFL all time team

-Career interception leader in the AFL

The Greatest Defense Nobody Knows About:

Dave was a part of the amazing Oakland defense called the 11 angry men.  This defense is one of the greatest of all time that never gets their due.

In the amazing 1967 season, the Raiders had an astounding 67 sacks & 30 interceptions.  Teams averaged 3 turnovers a game against the Raiders.  This was also only in a 14 game season.  The record for sacks is held by the 1984 Chicago Bears at 72, and with almost a 5 sacks per game average, it’s pretty safe to say that the Raiders would have eclipsed that record fairly easily in 16 games.

raiders defense 11 angry men
Houston trying to come back from 3 touchdowns behind against the Oakland Raiders “11 Angry Men” in the 1967 AFL Championship Game

Even with only 14 games, the Raiders STILL hold the record for causing the most yards lost while an opponent passes.  This record is now 50 years old.

Another record that stands is that the Raiders lead the league in sacks for 3 straight years.  Another 5 decade old record.  Oakland also has the all time record for leading the league in sacks at 5.  That’s how great they were. The offense always gets the publicity but even in their Super Bowl wins and in the 1960’s, getting pressure on the QB was paramount to the Raiders success.  Offense puts butts in the seats and gets all of the publicity, but defense wins championships.

(Below are the all time stats for sacks by a team; many records are held by the Oakland Raiders)

http://www.nfl.com/history/randf/records/def/sacks

Amazing Names:

With the likes of Ken Davidson and Tom Keating leading the way the Raiders had a huge and ferocious defense.  The names of the past are a who’s who of Raider lore.  Two more underrated DB’s in Rodger Bird, Kent McCloughan and Warren Powers were teamed up with Howie Williams, Dave Grayson and Willie Brown.

Dan Conners played MLB while Bill Laskey & Gus Otto shored the outside positions.  Dan Birdwell and Ike Lassiter, Carleton Oats and Art Thoms; so many proud names of the past that helped the Raiders to unreal records in the 1960’s.  From 1967-69 the Raiders were a ridiculous 37-4-1, the best record in football.

dave grayson 2

Hall of Fame:

I’ve written at length about the biases of the NFL Hall of Fame and why some are not in the hall.  There are many that should be in the hall of fame (i.e. Cliff Branch) and I’ve written about them below.  I’m glad that more people are agreeing with me.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/oakland-raiders-defensive-players-who-shouldshouldnt-be-in-the-nfl-hall-of-fame/

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/02/09/what-oakland-raiders-players-are-next-into-the-hof-whos-in-whos-not/

One of the great biases with NFL historians, is their turning their noses up at the AFL saying how it was no where near as good as the NFL.  In the beginning days I totally agree.  As time went on though, that myth was changed when the Jets beat the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl 3.  More than a few people feel the Raiders and the Chiefs of the 1960’s had more talent and speed than the aging Green Bay Packers but they were overwhelmed in the Super Bowls against a mythical team with the greatest football coach of all time and an aura and mental toughness and a refusal to make mistakes.

dave grayson chiefs

It’s a shame that only 3 all time AFL defensive players are in the NFL HOF.  There are others that deserve it and I think Dave Grayson is one of them.  With his speed and ball hawking skills, he made big plays at big times and he’s never received the credit he deserved, much like the great Raider defenses of the day.

I hope that others will join me in giving appreciation for this great Chief and Raider player.  Another forgotten icon of the AFL and NFL who should never be forgotten.

dave grayson raiders

“Win or Lose in Denver; Who Will the Raiders Play In the Playoffs: How Can Matt McGloin Succeed”

mcgloin

With Derek Carr injured, it’s all about Matt McGloin right now.  Let’s look at what he brings to the table as well as the playoff picture for the Raiders.

The Good and the Bad of Matt McGloin:

With a handful of Raider fans using Youtube videos to try and convince people how amazing Matt McGloin is and some Raider fans making fun of them, it’s become just another internet drama. You’d think they’d just want the Raiders to win but it’s just how things are in today’s world.  Let’s deal with the truth as we always do without all the drama.

McGloin is as tough as it gets. The word that many people use to describe him is grit. He was a 3 star athlete out of high school who wanted to go to Penn St. He ended up going there but had to make the team as a walk on. He eventually won a scholarship during the tumultuous Jerry Sandusky scandal and played fairly well but was far from a great college QB.   Most felt he was a semi-long shot to make the NFL as a backup. He was signed by the Raiders as an un-drafted free agent.

I looked it up and as a starter he is 1-5.  He played most of the game in the 2015 opener against Cincinnati (33-13 loss) when Carr got hurt but he didn’t start.  He hasn’t started a game with the Raiders since 2013 and he now finds himself in the eye of the tornado.  When he did start, he played on some bad teams.  At times he played very well but he also had some real rough spots.

McGloin does have some skills. His main one is he is pretty accurate. He is good on timing patterns and short to medium range passes to the outside. He also has a knack for finding tight ends and that could be a big plus in the Raiders passing game.

On the bad side his pocket awareness at times is lacking and that has gotten him into trouble in the past with turnovers against a pass rush. His delivery can be painfully slow when he’s not aware of the pressure.

His main weakness; which he also had in college; was that he doesn’t stare down his receivers; he gazes into their eyes. After McGloin takes the ball from center, you almost always know where he’s going to throw the ball. He struggles with medium to long throws down the middle because of it. Former Raider great Lincoln Kennedy a few years ago during the Raiders-Bengals game in Oakland was just frustrated. He was the Raiders sideline reporter that day for their radio team. When asked what was wrong with McGloin, Kennedy told the Raiders radio crew, “I literally know where he’s throwing the ball even before he takes the snap.   Every pass he throws he’s staring down his receiver”.

carr-injury

How to Set Up McGloin to Succeed:

One thing the Raiders need to do is to make sure they use quick throws, preferably to the outside.   Especially against a team like Denver, you don’t want him to stay in the pocket long with that pass rush all around him.

The run game is the key though. Their offensive line has had a great year and it needs to continue. The Raiders need to run the ball just like they did in the first game against the Broncos. So sick of the Bronco media saying their downfall is due to their offense because it’s just half of the reason. Their offense last year was one 19th in scoring and this year so far they are 22nd. Last year they had a running game, this year they don’t. Peyton Manning had 18 interceptions (the worst in 2015 was 19) last year and he did that in only 9 starts. Manning had the worst Super Bowl performance of any winning QB in history and was 1 for 15 on third down. Manning was 29th in passing in the NFL last year. He was atrocious. But this year so is Denver’s run defense which is getting a pass.

How Do the McGloin Lead Raiders Beat Denver:

This year the Broncos run defense is 29th in the NFL (last year #3) in rushing yards per game.   The national media isn’t doing their homework blaming all of their ills on the offense.  This defense is a shell of what they used to be last year.

The Raiders need to run the ball and run it some more. A first down pass to shake things up, followed by a physical run game. Denver gave up 218 rushing yards to the Raiders, 136 to the Patriots, 238 against the Chiefs, 180 against Tennessee, and 154 against Jacksonville. And this is just in the past six weeks! In those 5 games they are 1-4.

raiders-offensive-line

Who Will The Raiders Play In the Playoffs:

If they Beat Denver:

This Denver game may make or break the Raiders season.

If the Raiders can pull out a win against the Broncos, they now are the #2 seed.   That gives them a bye the first week and then a home game against probable winner Pittsburgh.  If Miami somehow wins; which I doubt very much; the Raiders will then play the highest seed left.   Again it’s hard not seeing Pittsburgh winning.   Miami is another overrated team with only a plus 4 point differential.  Playing Pittsburgh in Oakland is a lot better than a contest in the cold of Pittsburgh. The Winner will then probably get New England on the road; a very cold, winter game. Whatever happens, the AFC championship will probably go through New England.

If they lose to Denver:

If they lose and KC beats San Diego, the Raiders will be the 5th seed.   They will go to Texas and play Houston in the first round. Houston is far from a good team and they are in a bad division. This game is very winnable. If they win they then go to Kansas City or New England. Not a fun road to go down. Asking Matt McGloin; and even Carr for that matter; to win 3 road games with 2 being in the cold, is just too much. This Denver game is pivotal.

playoff-nfl

Why the Raiders Can Make a Post Season Run:

Let’s be real; if ANY team loses their starting QB, they are in trouble. Think of Pittsburgh without Ben, or the Patriots without Brady.   Other than the Cowboys with Tony Romo, no one really has a good backup.

The QB position in the NFL may be the worst it’s ever been. The Raiders alone had backups in the past such as Ken Stabler, George Blanda, and Jim Plunkett. Earl Morrall lead the 1972 Dolphins to the only undefeated season when starter Bob Griese was injured in week 5. Griese made 2 appearances late in the season and played in the Super Bowl, but without backup Morrall, the Dolphins don’t end up with a perfect season.

(side note; that Miami team was the only Super Bowl team in the modern era never to be invited to the White House due to the Watergate scandal. In 2013 the 1972 Dolphins were honored at the White House by President Obama).

The NFL longs for parity. They want a new Champion every year and this year they got it. Both Super Bowl teams won’t even make the playoffs and they are thrilled.   This allows for different fan bases to be involved in the big game and the playoffs.

A funny thing happened on the way to the bank though. The NFL ratings are down. What the NFL arrogantly felt is that fans would watch the NFL no matter what.   That hasn’t happened. The Thursday night games have mostly been bad and there are no more great teams. In the 1960’s-90’s you had some of the greatest teams of all time; especially in the 1970’s; so when the best teams played it was must see tv. The NFL world stood still with such Matchups as the Raiders-Steelers, Steelers-Cowboys, 49ers-Cowboys and so many amazing rivalries.  Now you have teams like Houston who are in first place and are going to the playoffs and they have a MINUS 42 point differential so far in their season. They’ve been outscored by 6 touchdowns this year and will make the playoffs.  They are also 3-4 against teams with a winning record. That’s smelly.

In the AFC there really are only 2 QB’s to fear in the post season for the Raiders. Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. And sorry KC fans. Andy Reid and Alex Smith are more conservative than Ronald Reagan at Bohemian Grove so they will never win a Super Bowl in my opinion. You win Super Bowls; you don’t hope not to lose Super Bowls.

Injuries have also hurt teams badly. Kansas City is now wondering if pass rushing star Justin Houston will ever be the same, again struggling with his health after coming back from surgery.   Their other pass rushing great Tamba Hali says he has no cartilage left in his knees and can only play on passing downs.

The Texans get a myriad of players back but they have greatly missed JJ Watts this year.

Pittsburgh’s offensive line is finally getting healthy but they are still struggling to keep healthy on the defensive side.

New England has their best offensive threat in RB Dion Lewis back from last years surgery but that gaping hole you see in their offense is the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski who is out for the year.

What all this means is that no team is unbeatable. Everyone has weaknesses but the Steeler’s and Patriot’s have their trump cards in two great post season quarterbacks.

Derek Carr will be out 6-8 weeks and being young, he will probably heal up quickly. If somehow, someway the Raiders get to the Super Bowl, it will be right on the 6-7 week time frame. Can he come back? Yes; many have come back and much sooner than that, but time will tell.   For right now they can’t worry about that. If they lose to Denver they play an ordinary Houston team who they can beat but then they will probably get into some murky waters in Pittsburgh and New England or Kansas City. And with a backup QB, that’s not the place to be swimming.

The Raiders though have their own ace in the hole; the second best offensive line in the NFL. If the Raiders give McGloin the time they gave Carr, McGloin can have a chance to play well. The Raiders also have to use their 3 headed monster running game, using all of their RB’s to keep them fresh.

Jims Jamz:

This Denver game is bigger than people think. The Raiders being the #5 seed I think gives them little to no chance of making a deep run. If they beat Denver though and are the #2 seed, they now have to gut out one home win; probably against the Steelers; to get to the Championship game against the probable winner New England. And oh the online drama. The media and fans everywhere will be in their dramatic social media glory. It will look like a Jr. High School love triangle with the melodrama of the Tuck Rule.  For the meantime though the Raiders need to think one thing; beat Denver.

“A Football Family Reunion for the Ages; Ken Stabler’s NFL HOF Induction”

 

ken stabler hof bustA family reunion for the ages.

In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.

With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night.   All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681148/Ken-Stabler-Enshrinement

Brett Favre’s Moment:

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-hall-of-fame/0ap3000000681185/Hall-of-Fame-QB-Brett-Favre-shares-a-story-about-Ken-Stabler

Why He’s Loved So Much:

I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.

When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich.   He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.

Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.

 

 

Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:

Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.

If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.

Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules?   Now you understand OUR excitement.   As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room.   The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”

A Leader to the End:

The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way.   He was a leader on the field and off.   Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away.   Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.

“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”

The Closest Team in the NFL:

Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were.   Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.

Jim Jamz:

We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s.   I visited them recently.

Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.

“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us.   Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”

After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”

It sure does Mr. C.   It sure does.

 

“The Oakland Raiders All-Time Greatest Late Round Draft Picks & Steals”

cliff branch

When you look back at the history of the Oakland Raiders, it is a work of art on how to build an NFL dynasty.  Some drafts would get several starters and some even multiple HOF players.  Ron Wolf & Al Davis made it an art form to pick up late round talent and pick players that others had no desire to choose.

http://www.raiders.com/history/draft-history.html

Yesterday we talked about some of the worst picks; today lets look at the top 15 Oakland Raider late round picks of all time; 4th round on dow.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/pimps-drugs-busts-the-oakland-raiders-top-10-worst-draft-picks-of-all-time/

Honorable Mention;  Bo Jackson; 

Even though Bo Jackson was originally drafted by Tampa Bay, he was put back into the 1997 draft and the Raiders took him in the 7th round so technically he wasn’t an original pick.  Al Davis was the only owner that allowed him to play both football and baseball.  Bo never had 1000 yards and only started 23 games and ran for 2782 yards in his career, but his long touchdown runs were fun to watch and will always be remembered.

#15 Reggie Kinlaw DL (1979; 12th round 320 overall)

At the University of Oklahoma, Reggie Kinlaw was a superstar using his great speed to dominate defenders. At 6’ 2” and 245 lbs. experts said he was a huge long shot to even make the NFL let alone be a quality player. He played for the Raiders for 6 years and started on two Super Bowl teams. Many Raiders have said Reggie is one of the unsung heroes in the history of the Raider legacy.

# 14 Shane Lechler P: (2000; 5th round 142 overall)

After a record setting career at Texas A & M, Lechler was selected in the 5th round by the Raiders. He has had a stellar career and is a perennial pro bowler. He currently kicks for the Houston Texans.

#13 Pete Banaszak HB: (1966; 5th round AFL Draft)

A solid player at the University of Miami, he was chosen in the 5th round of the AFL draft.   The Raiders were the first to employ a short yardage RB full time and for 13 years Banaszak played that role to a tee. In 1975; his best year; he ran for 16 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl against the Vikings he scored 2 touchdowns. Nicknamed the Rooster by fans and teammates, he could do anything in the clutch including catch the ball. He was a key element of the Raiders domination in the 1970’s.

#12 Charlie Smith RB: (1968; 4th round 110 overall)

A standout at the University of Utah, here is another unsung hero and my mom’s favorite player.   Charlie Smith was a classic change of pace back of the time that could do anything. He was a great pass catcher with speed and he was an integral part of the Oakland Raiders offensive machine. His most famous touchdown was never seen. He scored the go ahead touchdown in the famous Heidi game.

#11 Tony Cline DE:   (1970; 4th round 102 overall)

One of the great players from the great defenses of the early Oakland Raiders, Tony Cline was as good a pass rusher as there was in football. He has the unofficial rookie sack record in the AFL at 17 ½ sacks in 1970.   Some say due to the hate the NFL had with anything AFL, the NFL does not acknowledge the sack record. Officially the NFL didn’t record sacks until 1982 even though the AFL did. Tony’s son Tony Cline Jr. also played in the NFL. Raider fans will never forget Tony Cline.

#10 Marv Hubbard RB: (1968; 11th round 277 overall)

“Take it to the Cupboard Hubbard” and “Run Like a Mother Hubbard” were favorite signs of Raider fans in the 1970’s. The NFL yawned when Marv Hubbard was taken out of Colgate. Slow and not athletic, he was not expected by most experts to make the NFL. Boy did he ever. He became a 3 time pro bowler and helped lead the Raiders to 4 Western Division titles and 3 AFC Conference Finals.

Hubbard is ranked 4th all time in NFL history in yards per carry (4.8) for fullbacks and is 13th overall. “Marv was one of the toughest players to ever play for the Raiders. I’ve never seen anyone look for contact and then actually enjoy it”. The wars between Hubbard’s Raiders and the Chiefs and their bulldozer Ed Podolak were much awaited games for NFL fans everywhere. Hubbard had a knack of hitting holes perfectly and getting every yard that he could out of runs.

Marv never left the bay area and he had a lot of interactions with fans. He loved muscle cars and could always be seen waving to appreciative fans everywhere. His death last year was a sad end to an amazing life. He also released two music singles. Smart and outgoing, he will never be forgotten.

#9 Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas DB: (1972: 7th round 176 overall)

Another fan favorite, the USC product was a key member of the famous Soul Patrol defensive backfield of the Oakland Raiders. His physical play was as intimidating as any DB before or since. Thomas could play safety or cornerback but his play in the Super Bowl shutting out Vikings WR great Sammy White in the first half will always be remembered as one of the key’s to a huge Super Bowl win. He played his entire career in Oakland and he had back to back 6 interception years. No one will ever forget Dr. Death.

#8 Dave Dalby C:   (1972; 4th round 100 overall)

Another beloved Raider who left us too soon, he is on UCLA’s all century team. He played 14 seasons and NEVER missed a game. He replaced hall of famer Jim Otto and many feel Dave Dalby deserves that same honor. He made one pro bowl and he started on 3 Super Bowl winning teams.   I still see his friends talking about him at times online. A kind person who is really missed.

#7 Clarence Davis RB: (1971; 4th round 97 overall)

A 1969 All-American, Clarence Davis slipped through the cracks in the 1971 NFL draft. People forget that Davis was a part of the famous “All Black Backfield” at USC. With Sam Cunningham and QB Jimmy Jones, it was the first time in college history that a backfield purely made up of African Americans was created.

When USC went to Alabama in Tuscaloosa, they steam rolled the Tide beating them 42-21. This convinced Bama coach Bear Bryant to allow non-whites to play on the team. It also made the Alabama fan base insist on integration to keep up with the west coast schools.

Scouts didn’t think Davis was good enough to be an NFL starter and he was smaller than advertised (5’ 10”, 190 lbs.). Davis was the classic Raider RB of the day. He could block, catch in the clutch (didn’t have great hands though), and play special teams. He ran back kicks his rookie year.

Davis will forever be remembered for his catch in the “Sea of Hands” game and his clutch post season performances. His amazing record setting game in the Super Bowl win against the Vikings put an exclamation point on a great Raider career.

#6 Greg Townsend DE: (1983; 4th round 110 overall)

Greg Townsend was a standout player at TCU who was considered more of an NFL project than super star. He ended up being the all time sack leader for the Raiders with 107.5 sacks and is 16th all time on the NFL list at 109.5. He was a 2 time pro-bowler and a 4 time all pro. He also recovered 8 touchdowns in his career with 3 of them going for touchdowns. A great career for another later round pick.

#5 Rod Martin LB:   (1977; 12th round 317 overall)

The ultimate underdog.  After being drafted out of USC by the Raiders, he was cut. He then signed with the 49ers and was cut again. The Raiders then resigned him and the rest is history.   No one really gave Rod Martin much of a chance to make the NFL. With his weight fluctuating between 200 and 210 lbs., he was the classic tweener.   He was a linebacker trapped in the body of a safety. The Raiders had him gain 20-25 pounds and eventually he took over the starting OLB job.   He then became one of the best LB’s in the NFL.

He was on several all pro teams and made 2 pro bowls. His 3 interception game in the Super Bowl win against the Eagles is still considered by many as the greatest defensive game of all time in the Super Bowl. A clutch player, people forget he also had an interception and fumble recovery in another Super Bowl win against Washington. He also stopped John Riggins on a fourth and 1 in the third quarter when Washington was trying to get back in the game & he had a sack.

Rod Martin now works at USC and remains a beloved member of the great Raider teams of the past.

#4 George Atkinson DB: (1968; 7th round 190 overall)

Not much was known about Morris Brown standout George Atkinson at the 1968 draft. He was a good player at Morris Brown but he was not considered a top prospect by NFL scouts. Boy were they wrong.

In 10 years with the Raiders he played in 16 playoff games and won a Super Bowl ring. He still holds the punt return record in a game for the Raiders with 205 yards against Buffalo in 1968. He ended up with 30 interceptions and 13 fumbles. He was a key element of the famous Soul Patrol and many feel he and Jack Tatum were the greatest safety tandem of all time and that the Soul Patrol was the greatest defensive backfield of all time. The trash talker of the group, George was a mixture of great speed and toughness and will always be a big part of Raider lore.   He still works for the Raiders doing the pre and post game show for their home radio station.

#3 Lester Hayes DB:   (1977; 5th round 126 overall)

When the Raiders picked Texas A & M safety Lester Hayes in the 5th round, the NFL kind of shook their head. Many felt he wasn’t fast enough to play DB in the NFL and in pre-draft interviews many teams said that Hayes was not a very bright person. Most had little confidence in him due to his lack of social skills.

What teams didn’t know is that Lester Hayes had a massive stuttering issue. He also had severe nasal problems including chronic sinusitis.   As a child he had severe head and jaw pain and would wake up with apnea. After using nasal medications for years, he finally got surgeries to correct it after he retired; it took 3 of them. In an interview Hayes said, “As a young player I sounded like Cousin It in the Adam’s family. No one could understand me”.

When he was drafted he literally cried in front of Al Davis begging him not to move him to cornerback. He felt if he went there he’d be cut but Al Davis asked him to trust him and the rest was history. Hayes explained, “It was so much pressure playing CB in our glory years of the 70’s and 80’s. We had to be right in the face of the WR because we were obsessed with rushing the QB. Our defense would blitz constantly and you could see the fear in the QB. They had to get rid of the ball quickly and if we weren’t all over the WR we were going to get burned. The pass rush and our coverage though helped us win and play at a high level.”

In 1980 Hayes won defensive player of the year after his NFL record tying 13 interceptions. He is a 5 time pro bowler, 2 time Super Bowl champion and a member of the 1980’s all decade team. He shares the all time Raider record for interceptions with Willie Brown at 39. How The Judge is not in the Hall of Fame is a miscarriage of NFL and sports justice.   Ridiculous.

#2 Cliff Branch WR: (1972; 4th round 98 overall)

At 5’ 10” and 170 lb. Cliff Branch was a standout track star at the University of Colorado. He was also a 5 year standout in football running back an amazing record 8 kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.   Many felt he didn’t have the size or the hands for the NFL and early on he struggled with drops. After a lot of practice and mentoring through the likes of Fred Biletnikof, Branch solved that problem and for 14 years was a top WR in the NFL.   He holds the record for the longest pass play in Raider history at 99.

When Branch retired he led the NFL in post season receptions (73) and yards (1289) for an average of 17.7 yards per catch, while scoring 5 TD’s. And remember this was in the time where DB’s could do anything they wanted to WR and get away with it. He remains the only Raider WR with 3 Super Bowl rings. He was a 4 time pro bowler and a 4 time all pro. He ended up with 501 receptions, 8685 yards and 67 touchdowns.   He was a semi finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame and him being omitted from the HOF is another ridiculous miscarriage of NFL & sports justice.

#1 Jim Otto C: (1960; 24th round AFL Draft)

If you look up Oakland Raider in the dictionary, a picture of Jim Otto will appear.  The epitome of what it is to be a Raider, he was undersized, undervalued and a pure winner.  A 9 time all star, 3 time pro bowler, 3 time all pro and a Hall of Famer.  He also was selected to the all AFL team.  In 15 years he never missed a game because of injury.  In his life he’s had 28 knee surgeries and 74 total surgeries.  In 2007 due to infection he had to have a leg amputated.

When he was eligible for the draft, no NFL team wanted him.  He finally was drafted by the Raiders in the 24th round.  At 6′ 2″ and 240-245, it was thought he was no way big enough.  Otto later stated it was a great chore to keep his weight at 250-255 lbs.  The NFL Network voted Jim as the 63rd greatest football player of all time.

Final Thoughts……….

It’s amazing to see how great the Raiders were at drafting good players late in the draft in the 1960’s and 1970’s. NO ONE was as good as Ron Wolf and Al Davis at evaluating College football talent. They remain the gold standard of the NFL draft and how to build a winner.