Oakland Raiders History: Jersey Numbers that Should Be Honored (Defense)
In a previous article , I suggested 10 offensive numbers that I felt should be retired. That position didn't go over as well as I expected.
Raider Nation made it clear they liked the fact that Al Davis didn't retire numbers. The readers made a strong case, and I must admit, my mind was changed. That isn't something that happens very often.
The consensus seemed to be that the Raiders shouldn't retire numbers, but that the fans would very much like to see a "Hall Of Excellence" or something to honor these legendary jersey numbers and the men that wore them.
Based on my change of heart, this article will not suggest that any numbers or jerseys should be retired, but rather jersey numbers that should be honored.
Let's take a look at some of the defensive numbers that should be honored...
No. 22—Mike Haynes
In his seven years in Oakland, Mike Haynes was considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
Three Pro Bowls and two All Pro selections as a Raider, Haynes was a member of, and an integral part of, the Raiders' Super Bowl XVIII championship.
Haynes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. Now it's time for the Raiders organization to honor the jersey of this consummate professional.
No. 24—Willie Brown
"Old Man Willie" Brown is arguably one of the best cornerbacks in NFL history.
As a member of the "Soul Patrol" in the 1970's, Brown helped the Raiders win Super Bowl XI by making one of the most iconic plays in Raider history—intercepting a Fran Tarkenton pass and running it back for a touchdown to seal the win.
Brown played 12 seasons with the Raiders and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame in 1984.
Charles Woodson did this number proud for eight years, and Michael Huff is wearing this number now. Huff hasn't quite lived up to it yet, but he still has time to play up to the legacy Brown set while wearing it.
It's time for the No. 24 to be honored by the Raiders' organization in some way.
No. 32—Jack Tatum
Jack "The Assassin" Tatum played hardcore, no-apologies Raider football for nine years. He made three Pro Bowls in that time.
This jersey was given to Marcus Allen in 1982, who more than lived up to it. But, as far as defensive players, none have done this number justice yet.
Tatum's great play and hard-hitting style exemplified Raider football, and it is now time for Al Davis to honor this jersey somehow, some way.
No. 43—George Atkinson
As one of the founding members of the "Soul Patrol," George Atkinson punished opposing receivers for a decade.
There are not a lot of instances of other players wearing this number, but those that have, haven't quite lived up to its mystique.
Being the glue that held together one of the best secondaries in NFL history, as well as one of the best kick returners in the league in his day, should have earned Atkinson and the No. 43 a place in Raider history.
No. 53—Rod Martin
For 12 seasons Rod Martin wreaked havoc on Raider opponents. An amazing tackler, great athleticism, and a football IQ off the charts made him feared and game-planned against by opposing offenses.
Martin found himself robbed of earning Super Bowl MVP honors in Super Bowl XV. A game in which he made three interceptions, a then Super Bowl record.
Thomas Howard wears this number now and is doing a decent job, but he's no Rod Martin.
It's time this jersey was hanging in a place where fans could read about how good Rod Martin really was.
No. 60—Otis Sistrunk
Known as "The Man From Mars," Otis Sistrunk was often the center of controversy off the field. On the field, he was the engine that made the Raider front seven go.
In seven years, Sistrunk only made one Pro Bowl, but that doesn't mean much to most people that actually know football. He was greatly undervalued by the league.
The No. 60 isn't that popular amongst defensive players, so the odds of it being assigned to a new player are slim. That doesn't diminish the fact that Al Davis should find a way to honor this number and the man the wore it.
No. 72—John Matuszak
Known as one of Al Davis' first reclamation projects, John Matuszak came to Oakland in 1976 and helped the Raiders win two Super Bowls.
Crazy off the field antics that included posing for "PlayGirl" magazine, "The Tooz" was more than just a personality; he was a beast of a football player.
There are no current Raiders wearing this number, but any one that might in the future will have some big shoes to fill.
Al Davis needs to get John Matuszak the honor he deserves by displaying this jersey somewhere.
No. 75—Howie Long
There is only one Howie Long. There will never be another.
Howie was drafted out of Villanova and played 13 seasons which included eight Pro-Bowls, two All Pro selections, and two Super Bowl championships.
Left tackle Mario Henderson is wearing this number now, but as an offensive player it's tough to determine how his career will stack up to Long's.
This jersey should be one of the first "committed" to a Raiders "Hall of Excellence" if it ever gets built.
No. 77—Lyle Alzado
"Three Mile Lyle" was nicknamed after the Three Mile Island nuclear facility that nearly melted down in 1979. Like that facility, you just never knew when Alzado was going to explode.
His intensity and ferocity raised the level of play of those around him. He was another of Al Davis' reclamation projects, as the Browns and Broncos couldn't handle him.
Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy is wearing this number now and has shown promise. He appears to be well on his way to living up to its legacy.
Even though Alzado was only a Raider for four seasons, he made quite an impression and should be honored sooner, rather than later.
No. 83—Ted Hendricks
Ted "The Mad Stork" Hendricks was one of the best pass rushing/coverage linebackers in the league while he played.
His long arms and wild antics gave him his nickname, but it was his play that took him to four Pro Bowls, two All Pro selections, and all three of the Raiders' championships.
This number is no longer a valid defensive number, so any player that will wear it in the future will likely be a wide receiver or tight end, but that won't give them a pass if Raider Nation thinks they're not living up to The Stork's high standards.
It would be great to see this jersey hanging somewhere for fans to learn about the great player that donned it.
Of course I couldn't get to all the players that have earned the right to be honored in one Top-10 list, so here are some more.
26-Skip Thomas & Vann McElroy
I'm sure there are more.
Ultimately, this article was a lot of fun to write. It allowed me to lay out who I thought were the greatest players in Raider history, but it was more than that.
It made me realize that there were a lot of players that wore the same number that I never knew about. I knew who Ben Davidson was, but I had forgotten that he wore the same number as Ted Hendricks.
I'd really like to see some sort of a building designed specifically for displaying the jerseys and telling the story of these great players for all the fans to admire. It would help connect new fans to the history of this great franchise.
So tell me Raider Nation, who did I miss? Let's hear it!
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