Oakland Raiders: The Top 10 Teams in Franchise History
The Oakland Raiders are a proud franchise that many call "the team of the decades." This is because in the five decades of the AFL-merged NFL, the Raiders have been to Super Bowls in four of them and a conference championship in all five.
The Raiders have six more years to get to or win another one as we began the sixth decade in 2006. While they look to be regain that greatness, I wanted to re-live some of the great teams they've had in their history.
Of course there are the three Super Bowls the franchise has won, but there were many near misses and contenders along the way. Each team had their own road and set of circumstances to overcome, but I am going make a top 10 from them.
I will judge them on wins, how far the made it and roster talent.
Turn the page to see who I think were the Raiders eight best teams.
10. 1990 Raiders
I know the 1990 Raiders were blown out 51-3 in the AFC Championship game, but they did get there. Center Don Mosebar, guard Steve Wisniewski, and defensive end Greg Townsend were three of only four Pro Bowl players on a very talented roster.
Speaking of talent, how about the super-talented Bo Jackson.
The defense was ranked No. 4 overall, No. 4 against the pass, and No. 14 against the run. The defense had Howie Long, Terry McDaniel and Eddie Anderson to go along with the Pro Bowler Townsend.
On offense, Tim Brown was at receiver with Willie Gault while Marcus Allen was in the backfield with Jackson to go along with Wisniewski and Mosebar. The offense was rated No. 19 overall, No. 23 in passing and No. 9 in rushing.
The Raiders parlayed that into a 12-4 record in 1990 and a 20-10 win in the divisional playoff game. Unfortunately, the Raiders had to go to frigid Orchard Park in Buffalo where they figuratively and literally froze.
There's no excuse for 51-3, but losing Jackson to a career-ending injury a week prior didn't help.
Allen and Long were the Hall of Famers on that team.
9. 1974 Raiders
I have the 1974 Oakland Raiders at No. 9, but John Madden believed that they were the best. I guess that's why he has them rated so high among his historical teams in his video game.
They did have six Hall of Famers in kicker George Blanda, corner Willie Brown, receiver Fred Biletnikoff, center Jim Otto, guard Gene Upshaw and tackle Art Shell. With most of the Hall of Famers included, the Raiders had nine players make it to the Pro Bowl that year.
The offense was the mainstay of that team, ranking No. 2 overall, No. 3 rushing and No. 6 passing. The defense was average, ranking No. 16 overall, No. 13 against the pass and No. 21 against the run.
But the defense stepped up in the playoffs, ranking No. 4 overall, No. 1 against the pass and No. 7 against the run. The Raiders compiled the rankings on the way to a 12-2 record and an AFC Championship game.
Manny believed the Raiders loss was due to complacency after beating the defending champion Dolphins. Madden did provide some bulletin material by saying, "The two best teams in the NFL just played today."
The Steelers did hear that, but I believe the Raiders lost because of the exciting, emotionally draining "Sea of Hands" game they just won. In the closing seconds, Kenny Stabler on the way down but somehow threw ball, and Clarence Davis pulled it in from a "Sea of Hands" to score the winning touchdown.
I saw it on NFL Films, and the celebration was at least as big as any AFC Championship win. Unfortunately, it was only the divisional round so there was no week off before they play again like the Super Bowl.
The Pittsburgh Steelers then showed the drained Raiders how to start a dynasty.
8. 1968 Raiders
The 1968 Raiders are the No. 8 team on my list.
They were also led by the "Mad Bomber" but he was not a Pro Bowl player that year. The players that did make it were Otto, Upshaw, fullback Hewitt Dixon and receiver Warren Wells.
I have to give some special mention to Wells, who average over 20 yards per catch as the Raiders' deep threat. Statistically, the Raider offense was ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 passing and No. 3 rushing.
The Raider defense had Grayson, Atkinson at quarterback, middle linebacker Dan Conners, defensive end Ben Davidson and defensive tackle Dan Birdwell. This team is one year before the 1969 team, so they obviously didn't have defensive stats.
The Raiders looked like they were going to the Super Bowl after going 12-2 and blowing out the Chiefs 41-6 in the divisional playoff game. They were then set to face the Jets, who they already beat in the "Heidi Bowl" that year.
But there was no late game magic in that game as the Jets won a close one 27-23.
Upshaw, Otto Brown and Blanda were the Hall of Famers on that team.
7. 1969 Raiders
The 1969 Raiders are my No. 7 team on the list as they were also led by Lamonica, a Pro Bowl quarterback. He was joined in the Pro bowl by Biletnikoff, Otto, Upshaw, tackle Harry Schuh and tight end Billy Cannon.
Brown, safety George Atkinson, linebacker Gus Otto and safety Dave Grayson joined him on defense. Blanda, Brown, Otto and Biletnikoff were the Hall of Famers who wore the Silver and Black that year.
This defense looks good on paper, but there's no way to tell how good because they didn't keep defensive statistics back then. Meanwhile, the Raider offense was ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 in passing and No. 3 in rushing.
The '69 Raiders used that to propel themselves to a 12-1-1 record and a trip to the AFL Championship game. After blowing out the Houston Oilers in the divisional game, they were beat by the rival Chiefs in that Championship game.
I rated them ahead of the '68 Raiders because their regular season was one game better in the loss column.
Everything else was pretty much a wash.
6. 1977 Raiders
The 1977 Raiders come in at No. 6 on my list.
They have to be the best team that didn't get to a Super Bowl because they were the defending Super Bowl Champs and made it to the AFC Championship game. This is another Raider team that should have went to the Super Bowl was drained for a double overtime win against the Colts a week before.
As it stands the Broncos edged the Raiders 20-17 to go to the Super Bowl and lose to the Cowboys. Along the way to their loss to the Broncos, the Raiders went 11-3 and got into the playoffs as a wild card.
The defense was a little suspect that year ranking No. 15 overall, No. 22 against the pass and No. 7 against the run. On offense, the Raiders were ranked No. 2 overall, No. 11 in passing and No. 2 in rushing.
The Raiders were led on offense by Pro Bowlers Shell, Upshaw,Stabler, center Dave Dalby, tight end Dave Casper and receiver Cliff Branch. On defense, the were no Pro Bowlers but Atkinson, Tatum and Brown were there to go along with linebacker Ted Hendricks, defensive end Otis Sistrunk and other end John Matuzsack.
Biletnikoff, Casper, Shell, Upshaw and Hendricks are the Hall of Famers on this team.
5. 2002 Raiders
The 2002 Raiders are in at No. 5 on my list.
The team went 11-5, won the AFC West and went to the Super Bowl where they were beaten soundly by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Former Raider head coach Jon Gruden was the opposing coach in the game, and he was in the Raiders' huddle.
How could he not be?
He built that huddle.
Then there's (God help him) Barrett Robbins coming up missing on the week of the Super Bowl. Though they were routed 48-21 in the Super Bowl, this was a great team led by Pro Bowl quarterback Rich Gannon.
Robbins of all people was also a Pro Bowler on that offense along with Brown, Jerry Rice and Lincoln Kennedy. Mammoth guard Frank Middleton and versatile running back Charlie Garner were also on the high powered offense that ranked No. 1 overall, No. 1 in passing and No. 18 running the football.
The defense wasn't the strength of the team but wasn't bad, ranking No. 11 overall, No. 23 against the pass and No. 3 against the run. Wow, that had to have been the last Raider team to rank so high against the run.
Hall of Famer Rod Woodson was the lone Pro Bowler on the team that had an older Bill Romanowski and a young Charles Woodson.
Brown and Rice were the other Hall of Famers on the team.
4. 1967 Raiders
The 1967 Raiders are No. 4 on my list.
This was a fully loaded team that did everything but beat Vince Lombardi's Packers, going 13-1. There were now defensive stats at the time, but the offense was ranked No. 3 overall, No 5 in passing and No. 4 in rushing.
The offense was led by Pro Bowlers Lamonica, Cannon, Otto, Biletnikoff, Blanda, guard Wayne Hawkins, tackle Harry Schuh and fullback Hewitt Dixon. This offense also featured Upshaw and Wells at times, averaging 23.2 yards per catch.
Upshaw and Blanda were the Hall of Fame players on offense.
Again, there were no defensive stats but the Raider defense was stacked Brown, Davidson, Conners, defensive tackle Tom Keating and corner Kent McCloughan.
Brown is the lone Hall of Fame player on the defense.
This team was all that but just couldn't handle Lombardi's Packers as they were beaten 33-14.
3. 1980 Raiders
The 1980 Raiders are No. 3 on my list.
Of the Raiders' Super Bowl winners, the 1980 team did it the ugliest by being the first Wild Card team to win the Super Bowl. Speaking of ugly, quarterback Jim Plunkett had a quarterback rating of 72.9, but he made plays when he had to.
Shell, Casper and running back Kenny King were the offensive Pro Bowlers, but Upshaw was also there with Branch and fullback Mark Van Eeghen. This offense ranked No. 16 overall, No. 19 in passing and No. 10 in rushing.
The defense ranked No. 11 overall, No. 19 against the pass and No. 5 against the run. Hayes and Hendricks were the Pro Bowlers on a defense that had Matuszack at defensive end Rod Martin at outside line backer and rookie Matt Millen at inside linebacker.
Casper, Hendricks, Shell and Upshaw were the Hall of Fame players on the team. This team went through more than its share of ups and downs during the season was tested in the playoffs.
The Raiders then dominated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in the Super Bowl.
2. 1976 Raiders
The 1976 Raiders are the No. 2 team on my list.
I particularly liked the way the put a break in the Pittsburgh Steelers' dynasty after being a top '70s team that couldn't win the big one. Their reward for going 13-1 and beating the Steelers in the playoffs was to play the Minnesota Vikings, another team that couldn't win the big one.
The Raiders were ranked No.18 overall, No. 23 against the pass and No. 10 against the run. But they stepped up to the top seven in all three categories in the playoffs to lead to their 32-14 win against the Vikings.
Phil Villapiano was the only Pro Bowler on the defense that year buy the had the "Soul Patrol" of Atkinson, Brown, corner Skip Thomas and safety Jack Tatum. Brown and Hendricks were the Hall of Fame players that played on that defense.
Stabler, Branch, Casper, Upshaw and Shell were the Pro Bowlers on the offense that got help from Van Eeghen, the fullback and running back Clarence Davis. Biletnikoff, Shell and Upshaw were the Hall of Fame players on an offense that ranked No. 5 overall, No. 5 in passing and No. 1 in rushing.
This was the first Raider team to "bully" their way to a Super Bowl win.
1. 1983 Raiders
The No. 1 team on my list is the 1983 Raiders.
This is the most dominant team the Raiders have ever had as their 38-9 Super Bowl win over the Washington Redskins would indicate. The defense was dominant with a No. 4 overall ranking, No. 13 against the past and No. 4 against the run.
Don't get the No. 13 against the pass twisted, the Raider traded for Haynes midseason to team up with Hayes. The Raiders' defense ended up with the No. 2 pass defense in the playoffs that year with Hayes, Hendricks, Long, Martin and safety Vann McElroy.
Christensen and tackle Henry Lawrence were the offensive Pro Bowlers along with kick returner Greg Pruitt. Branch was also there along with Allen, who had an off second year only to come on to win playoff MVP and Super Bowl MVP honors.
The Raiders' offense ended up at No. 7 overall, No. 9 in rushing and No. 10 in passing with those players. This team was very physical with the "seek and destroy" mentality that was unmatched.
This is the team that current Raider head coach Hue Jackson wants to build his "bully" after.
This was a difficult but hard list to put together until I got to the very top.
I only know many of these teams through NFL Films but I like the list and I'll put it against any other. While doing this list, I couldn't help but notice a pattern of how the teams are put together except for the 2002 team.
On offense, they run the ball well and throw the ball deep off of it so the quarterback isn't usually too sexy. Raider quarterbacks are required only to make plays when they get to opportunity to.
On defense, they always have a dominant defensive line that can get after the quarterback without the blitz. To go with that, they have two great, bump and run corners, hard hitting safeties and solid linebackers.
Minus a couple of pieces, I see the same thing coming together now.
While we wait to see what the C.B.A. is going to be, I had fun taking a trip down memory lane.