This week, the Hall of Fame semifinalists were announced, and it was nice to see some deserving Raiders on there. I have lobbied for Cliff Branch before, and if any punter ever deserved to be in the hall, it is Ray Guy. But even though we have a number of players up for election, I have always felt that it was the players left out that was a clear indication of anti-Raider bias.
You, no doubt, have your own; here are my top three.
The first is a no-brainer for me. Kenny Stabler was the leader of a great Oakland team through the 1970s, and to the fans he is still an icon. Statistics aren’t always the measure of a player's worth to his team, and Stabler had that ability to inspire those around him to get the best out of themselves, which is one of those intangible qualities a quarterback must have.
His two-minute drill was comparable to any quarterback in league history. He was a leader off the field as well as on and one of the league’s true characters.
But to return to statistics, no one thinks that Terry Bradshaw doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, and Stabler’s stats compare very favourably here. They are within 100 yards of career passing yardage, but Stabler completed 59.8 percent of his passes to Bradshaw’s 51.9. They have a similarly high winning percentage as starters, even though Stabler played for three different teams. He was also selected to four Pro Bowls to Bradshaw’s three.
They both led the NFL twice in passing touchdowns. Bradshaw never led the league in passer rating. Stabler did.
I know Terry Bradshaw has four Super Bowl rings, and Stabler only has one, but the Snake led the Raiders to five consecutive AFC championship games (1973-1977), and was two bad officiating calls (1975 & 1977) from being a three-time Super Bowl winner. He also led the Houston Oilers to the 1979 AFC Championship Game.
The Hall of Fame excludes him for some reason. I still fail to see why.
What is defensive football about if not hitting? No players ever hit harder, or better, than Jack Tatum. He was feared by runners and receivers throughout his entire career, and I mean feared .
Tatum stood alone as the most intimidating defensive back in football, and his bone-jarring hits literally knocked players senseless, just as he did to Vikings receiver Sammy White in Super Bowl XI. White was one of many. Tatum was selected to four Pro Bowls, and his now famous autobiography They Call Me Assassin , just like Tatum, pulled no punches.
He was an underrated pass defender who made 37 interceptions in a 10-year career, has a Super Bowl ring and played in all those AFC championship games with Kenny Stabler.
But they won’t let Jack Tatum into the Hall of Fame because of one incident that happened on Aug. 12, 1978, in a preseason game against the New England Patriots. In a tragic accident that was a result of an entirely legal hit by Tatum, Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley fractured the fourth and fifth vertebrae in his neck. Stingley was a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. He died in 2007.
I don’t believe that Jack Tatum can be blamed, however emotive and tragic this subject is, because of a hit on a receiver that was entirely legal. Jack Tatum belongs in the Hall of Fame, but no one dares mention his name in the same breath.
The "Wiz" has been retired eight years now, but still somehow isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He was nominated on the 2008 list but didn’t make the final cut.
In order to be selected, a player needs to be one of the top players, if not the top player at his position for the time that he played. Steve Wisniewski played 13 seasons for the Raiders (1989-2001), and in that time he made eight Pro Bowls, and was selected to the NFL’s '90s all-decade team.
Out of 208 possible career games, he played 206, and there are few players in league history that can beat that kind of durability.
The only knock on Wisniewski is that he didn’t play in Super Bowls, but many players have made it into the hall without being part of a successful team, as long as they were the best players at their position for the era in which they played. He was an excellent pass blocker, and a crushing run blocker.
In his final year, in a playoff game against Miami, he hit linebacker Zach Thomas so hard when pulling on a sweep, Thomas had to be assisted from the field by two trainers.
I don’t think anyone can dispute that during his career, Wisniewski was up there with the elite that were the best at what they did. Dan Dierdorf played 13 years on an unsuccessful Cardinals team, and made only six Pro Bowls; Jackie Slater was selected to seven playing for the Rams. Both are already inducted.
So does anybody know another player who has eight Pro Bowl selections and isn’t in the Hall of Fame (well, who isn’t an Oakland Raider)?