In my lifetime, I have seen the Raiders make the playoffs only a few times.
I was born in 1988, but I began following the Oakland Raiders when they were still in Los Angeles. I have vague memories of the 1993 season and started forming clearer ones during the 1994 season.
My dad has been a Pittsburgh Steelers fan all of his life, dating back to the 1970s. When I told him of my allegiance to the Silver and Black, I'm not sure if he was proud that his five year old son had chosen a historic team like the Raiders over the hometown Jets or Giants or if he was mortified that I had chosen a franchise that was exactly the polar opposite of his.
My guess is somewhere in between.
I had chosen the Raiders primarily because of my affinity for pirates. Every Halloween, I dressed up like a pirate. My decision came down to the Raiders or the Buccaneers. Even at a young age, I realized something was just...off about Tampa Bay's logo at the time. The Raiders' logo was simple and classic, and the figure wasn't as, um, dashing as the Bucs'.
As a Raiders fan over the years, I was ridiculed in elementary school. Everyone teased me for liking such a futile franchise, but I never wavered. See, for me, the Raiders gave me an identity.
My dad had liked the Steelers and I think part of me wanted to be different. I knew nothing about the Immaculate Reception, yet something deep down drew me to the Raiders. I relished in my team. They became a part of me. This is what being a true fan is all about.
Even through all the bad years, I have been proud to call myself a fan of the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. Here, I am going to present you with a slideshow celebrating Raiders at each position that stuck out for me. I said it was the 1990s in the title, but for all intents and purposes, it will be from when I jumped on board. Roughly 1993.
Well, the the image on the first slide gave it up so I might as well start here. This one should be a no-brainer anyway.
Rich Gannon was brought on by head coach Jon Gruden after the 1998 season, his first with the team. The team had gone 8-8 that season, but had a clear hole to fill at quarterback. Unless you consider the three-headed monster of Jeff George, Wade Wilson, and Donald Hollas sufficient.
Enter Gannon. Primarily a career backup, his career was rejuvenated under Gruden's West Coast system. He made the Pro Bowl from 1999-2002 and was the league's MVP in 2002.
Unfortunately for many, Gannon will be remembered by his performance in Super Bowl XXLVII, where he threw for a Super Bowl record five interceptions.
I'll remember him for his play against the New Orleans Saints in 2000, where he was scrambling and evading defensive lineman for what seemed like minutes and then found Andre Rison for a touchdown.I'll remember him for the clinic he put on against the Steelers in 2002, throwing for over 400 yards or when he completed near every pass against the Broncos that same year.
Gannon was scrappy and gutsy, and he embodied everything a quarterback of the Raiders should be.
It's not too early to anoint him. Darren McFadden is the real deal.
Though he has been in the league only four years, he has already become one of the NFL's premier players. Injuries and a slow start to his career had the Raider Nation quietly wondering whether he was another bust, but Run DMC has proved his critics wrong these past two seasons.
In thirteen games last season, McFadden compiled over 1,100 yards rushing to go along with ten total touchdowns; averaging 5.2 yards per carry average as well. Through three games this year, McFadden is leading the lead in rushing with 393 yards. He also has four total touchdowns thus far, and it is safe to say that he is the Raiders' most valuable player on offense right now.
I was tempted to give love to players like Napoleon Kaufman, Charlie Garner, and Tyrone Wheatley, but McFadden is truly a special player who combines elements of the other three. He's big, fast, and can catch. The sky's the limit for him.
Gave serious consideration to Marcel Reece, but Jon Ritchie IS the Oakland Raiders. His statistics were not very memorable, but his bloody forehead sure is.
He was the Raiders' lead blocker during the Gruden years and the Super Bowl run. He was an absolute mauler and was a viable option as a receiver out of the backfield.
Not only do I have Ritchie as the best fullback in my time of watching the Raiders, but he is one of my favorite players of all-time.
I would have given Tim Brown his own slide, because he was a big reason why I began following the Raiders. He was everything I admired; humble, quiet, and did his job. And boy, did he do it well.
For years, Brown was forced to do it alone. Yet, he still consistently put up over 1,000 yards each and every season. For many bad teams, Brown was the only offensive weapon, but teams couldn't do anything about it.
Instead, I decided to include Jerry Rice, who needs no introduction. When he joined the Raiders, Brown and Rice, even though both were in the twilight of their careers, formed one of the most dangerous wide receiver tandems in the NFL. Both were still getting it done, amassing nearly 1,000 yards receiving apiece.
There really was no comparison to these two. Nobody even comes close.
I hate to do this, but there really isn't anyone else.
The fact is, Miller was able to produce even with Jamarcus Russell throwing him the ball. He was the most reliable target on some offensively bad teams; starting all but three games during his Oakland tenure that saw him amass over 50 receptions in every campaign but his rookie season.
He had more than any Raiders' wide receiver in that same amount of time.
Miller defected for Seattle this offseason, leaving the Raider Nation with a bitter taste in their mouths. Miller seemed like a Raider for life, but instead decided to follow Tom Cable to the Seahawks. In time, though, the current Raiders' tight end may eventually stake a claim in this list. For now, however, it's Miller's spot.
This is more of an indictment on how bad the Raiders' offensive line has been for years. The little over a year of action we have seen of Veldheer has been the best I have seen.
I considered including Barry Sims in here, because up until the Super Bowl, he was a very solid left tackle. Yet, he completely fell apart at the seams after the Super Bowl and was never the same. Speed rushers and penalties plagued him.
Veldheer was solid, but unspectacular last season. Like his predecessors, he too struggled against speed rushers. This season, however, he looks improved after working hard in the offseason.
He doesn't have to do much to impress the Raider Nation. The bar is set pretty low at this position.
Wisniewski was an all-time Raider great. His nephew, Stephen, has a lot to live up to after being drafted by the Raiders this season and inserted into his uncle's old position.
Wisniewski, now one of the team's offensive line coaches, was a road grader at the left guard position. For years, he was one of the few bright spots in a paltry Raiders offensive line. He excelled in run blocking and was an exceptional pass blocker.
The Silver and Black 76 jersey is synonymous with his name. With what Stefen has shown thus far, though, we see that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Wisniewski was voted to the Pro Bowl a whopping eight times.
I try not to let the bad times cloud my judgment with Barret Robbins. You all know the bad by now and many fans feel hurt and saddened by the downturn his career and life has taken.
That being said, when he replaced Don Mosebar full time in 1996, Robbins became an anchor on the Raiders' offensive line. He was only the fifth Raiders' starting center in their history at the time. He became instrumental in their playoff runs in the early 2000s and made the Pro Bowl in 2002.
As the signal caller of the offensive line, I still contend that his absence in the Super Bowl was a contributing factor as to why the Raiders lost that game. His contributions to that team were very underrated.
My memory of Gogan is hazy, but I remember him solidying the interior of the offensive line with Wisniewski for a few years while Gogan was with the Raiders. He was also decent in Madden too.
An eleven-year veteran in the league, Gogan was with the Raiders for only three, but made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the team. He was also a member of the Dallas Cowboys in their heyday and later on the 49ers, Dolphins, and Chargers.
One of my favorite names in all of sports, Kennedy really hit his stride late in his career with the Raiders. He was always a solid right tackle with the Raiders, but between 2000 and 2002, he made the Pro Bowl each year.
He was a castoff from the Atlanta Falcons and found a home in Oakland. Like so many Raiders, he had a forgettable Super Bowl in 2002 that he was not able to shake. His career ended shortly thereafter. Yet, the man named after two presidents will always be remembered fondly by this Raider fan.
In between analyzing this coming Sunday's game against the New England Patriots and previewing next week's game against the Houston Texans, I will unveil part two of this series and reveal the best defensive players I have seen don the Silver and Black.
With the present Raiders looking like an up-and-coming squad, it is important to look back and celebrate the history of this once proud franchise and see how the present fits in.