Oakland Raiders Glory Year: The 1980 Cinderella Story

Raider Card Addict@RaidercardadictSenior Writer IMay 14, 2009

1984:  Quarterback Jim Plunkett #16 of the L.A. Raiders passes the ball. (Photo by Tony Duffy/Getty Images)

Some people who follow the Raiders enjoy those blowout teams. Some enjoy the flash and power of a franchise ready to take on the world.

For me, There was a team that have everything possibly go wrong, went right and it lead a castoff QB and a team of rebels to the championship in 1980.

For the Raiders, it was going to be interesting for a number of reasons. The first, was losing Ken Stabler due to a conflict over his contract. As it was, Al Davis decided to deal the Snake to the Houston Oilers, who felt he was the last missing cog they needed. The Raiders also watched Jack Tatum leave and shortly into the season Dave Casper would leave the team as well.

As to make matters worse, the player picked up to quarterback for Stabler, Dan Pastorini was injured in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In that game, the team was handed over to Jim Plunkett, a former Heisman winner, an overall number one pick with the New England Patriots who was out of work when the 49ers released him. When Jim Plunkett took over the club on October 15th, Jim proceeded to throw five interceptions, with two TDs in junk time.

But, apparently Tom Flores saw enough fire in this quarterback, to keep him as the starter.

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At 2-3, the Raiders may have been aging, but still have a lot of fight left in them. Guys like Ted Hendricks were playing with guys like Lester Hayes. Ray Guy was still trying to hit small birds in the air. And guys like Art Shell and Gene Upshaw were still playing decent football.

Plunkett found himself leading a team that would win their next six games, before losses to the Eagles and Cowboys, would give them a wake up call.

The Cowboys loss, put the team at 9-5, with games against the Denver Broncos and New York Giants, both games on the road.

The Raiders took down Denver in a close game, 24-21, and then put away the Giants 33-17 to get back to the playoffs for the first time since the 1977 season.

For the playoffs, the Raiders felt like they were playing a mirror. Their first opponent, the Houston Oilers, was made up of several former teammates. To the Raiders credit, they held Stabler without a TD pass, two interceptions, and kept Earl Campbell without 100 yards in the game.

The next opponent, was yet another case of fate, luck or just plain bad play calling. The Raiders, up 14-12 with time running down were watching Brian Sipe advance his club towards the end zone, when the words "red right 88" would be etched into history.

The play would have been a simple throw if the player was wide open. If he wasn't, throw it into Lake Erie, and kick a field goal.

However, with the kicker Don Cockroft already having a bad day playing against the elements, Sipe wanted a Touchdown.

He tried to get the ball to Ozzie Newsome, but the ball was picked off by Mike Davis.

The Raiders survived for another week and people were starting to wonder, when would midnight strike this team?

The next week, the Raiders would play the San Diego Chargers, led by Dan Fouts and the fourth ranked offense in the league. The game would prove to be a slugfest with Oakland starting out to a 28-7 lead, then having the Chargers get close with 28-24.

The Raiders would fight for every point, and finished the game 34-27.

For the Super Bowl, it was something for the Raiders to relish. Some players, like Cliff Branch, Ray Guy, Mark Van Eeghan, Ted Hendricks, and Art Shell had been to the big game before, while newcomers like Matt Millen, Lester Hayes, Rod Martin, and Kenny King had never been this far.

The Raiders, who would be playing against the Eagles, already had met once this year. The Eagles, in Week 12 had dealt the Raiders a 7-10 loss, by putting a lot of pressure on Jim Plunkett with eight sacks.

Lessons would be learned it seems, as the Raiders defense stepped up to attack Jaworski, right where it hurt...in the passing department.

Rod Martin, who only had two interceptions during the regular season, would pick off three passes from Ron Jaworski. Jim Plunkett would find Cliff Branch twice, while Kenny King enjoyed his time in the sun with a 80 yard bomb.

The Raiders scored 14 points before the Eagles would get on the board, and then the lead would balloon to 24-3 before the Eagles would put a touchdown on the board.

The final, 27-10, sealed the Raiders into the record books as the first team to be "Cinderella."

And it all started with a season at 2-3 after losing the starting QB.


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