Four Raiders On Semifinalist List For The Hall Of Fame

James WilliamsonSenior Writer INovember 29, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 1:  Cliff Branch #21 of the Los Angeles Raiders runs the ball against Mel Blount #47 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Divisional playoff game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 1, 1984 in Los Angeles, California.  The Raiders won 38-10. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
George Rose/Getty Images

Despite their recent slump, I have always had an infatuation with the mystique and history of the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.

To me, the Raiders are the greatest team of all time, not because of their three Super Bowls, but at how dominant they are at every position of the game.

They have Hall of Famers at nearly every position from secondary to linebacker to defensive line on defense.

And on offense, they have Hall of Fame busts at tight end, receiver, quarterback, guard, center, tackle, and running back.

With so many dominant players in their storied history, it’s remarkable that there may be a few more on the way now.

The Hall of Fame announced its semifinalist list a few days ago and out of 25 names, four were lifetime members of the Raiders.

Lester Hayes was the 1980 Defensive Player of the Year and a talented cornerback with the team, winning two Super Bowls with them in the 80s.

He was a five-time Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro once. He picked off 39 passes over his career and was the reason that stick'em (a glue-like substance put on gloves to help get a better grip on the football) was outlawed.

Ray Guy is, to me, the most dominant punter of his era, if not all time. His powerful kicks would have five-second hang times and few return men ever had a chance to run with the ball.

Guy had only three punts blocked and never had a return taken back for a touchdown in his 14-year career. The seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, was so dominant the NCAA’s annual award for best punter is named after him.

Tim Brown is third on the all-time receiving list behind Jerry Rice (also a candidate) and Isaac Bruce. Brown caught 1,094 balls for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns. In his 17-year career, he had over a 1,000 yards nine times.

He was also a brilliant return man, scoring on three punts and one kickoff. His combined total yards from scrimmage, rushing, receiving, returning punts and kicks, add up to 19,679 yards.

That's more than 11 miles in total offense.

Last, but certainly not least, is Cliff Branch. He was to me, the most dangerous guy that team had during the 70s. John Madden remembers how Branch would say to him, "Coach, I can beat my guy deep." He even said it sometimes during the anthem, and Madden said, "Cliff, we haven't even played a down yet. How do you know who your guy is?"

He was just so fast. I remember reading an interview of Mel Renfro, Hall of Fame cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys and he said, if I remember correctly, "The guy could outright fly"

When you think about Branch, he was such a dangerous weapon, and he was on all three Super Bowl teams for the Raiders. He was such a consistent target.

He only had 501 catches, less than half of Tim Brown's, but he had 8,685 yards. If you double the catches and numbers, he had more yards receiving than Tim Brown with 92 fewer catches.

A four-time Pro Bowler, and a three-time first-team All-Pro with 67 touchdowns and a 99-yard reception over a 14-year career with the Raiders.

Out of all these guys, I would like to see Cliff Branch in the Hall of Fame above the rest. He is one of my all-time favorite Raiders.

All four of these men have a chance to go to the Hall of Fame this year for the Silver and Black.

Let's hope the Hall of Fame recognizes at least one.