Remembering the 1976 Oakland Raiders

T.R. TaylorCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

When it comes to great teams in Raiders history, many teams come to mind. Between the 70's and 80's, the Oakland Raiders were the winningest team in all of professional sports.

Jim Plunkett and the Raiders of the 1980 season became the first wild card playoff team to win a Super Bowl. The 1983 Raiders crushed the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII while Marcus Allen set the game's record for rushing yards. The Raiders of the early 2000's and their high powered offense also deserve mention.

However no team epitomized the Oakland Raiders quite like the team of 1976. No team was as crazy off the field, especially with their owner's approval. No team struck quite as much fear into opposing teams on the field. This is why the 1976 Oakland Raiders are my favorite team of all time.

Al Davis and John Madden had a great philosophy for running their team: You can be who you are off the field as long as you win on Sunday. This meant many practices with hangovers, late nights before games, and whatever antics the players brought with them. It also meant a lot of wins.

Leading the team at quarterback was Ken "the Snake" Stabler, known for his 4th quarter comebacks and off the field antics. Though not in the typical sense of the word, Stabler was a true leader who had the respect of his teammates and opponents alike.

Stabler was blessed with a great set of targets to throw to. Hall of Famer, Fred Biletnikoff, was the prototype hard-nosed possession receiver, while tight end Dave Casper, also a Hall of Famer, was always a big clutch play waiting to happen.

However, most teams feared the speedy deep ball artist, Cliff Branch, even more than Casper and Biletnikoff. I have no idea how Branch is not in the Hall of Fame.

The offense was also fueled by a great offensive line. Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, and Dave Dalby made up arguably the best left side of any offensive line in the history of the game. This line made life easy for running backs like Clarence Davis and Mark Van Eeghen.

The defense struck fear into all opposing offenses. Jack "the Assassin" Tatum and George Atkinson made the hardest hitting safety duo in the games history, while Hall of Famer Willie Brown and Skip Thomas, a.k.a. Dr. Death, made one of the best cornerback duos ever.

As if that secondary wasn't enough, Hall of Famer Ted "the Mad Stork" Hendricks and Phil Villapiano made a linebacking corp no team looked forward to facing. It was also the Raiders first year with the late John Matuszak at defensive end, a giant who was a crazy on the field as he was off of it.

The Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI. Oakland's offense put up 32 points, led by the stellar performance of Super Bowl MVP, Fred Biletnikoff. Meanwhile, the Vikings offense was shut out in the first half and managed 14 points in the second half.

The Raiders defense showed up in full force as rookie receiver Sammie White found out when Jack Tatum and Skip Thomas knocked his helmet off with a vicious hit (pictured above).

The Oakland Raiders of 1976 were the most feared team of all. They had seven Hall of Famers (if you include John Madden) and quite a few more players who should be in there. They were and still are the true epitome of the Silver and Black.