Ranking the Greatest Oakland Raiders of All TimeJune 6, 2019
Ranking the Greatest Oakland Raiders of All Time
Although the franchise has largely struggled since the turn of the millennium, the Oakland Raiders remain one of the NFL's most recognizable organizations.
During the Super Bowl era, the Raiders, who have been located in Oakland, Los Angeles and Oakland again, have celebrated three NFL championships and 16 division titles.
Unsurprisingly, the best players in team history are largely found on the 1970s and '80s teams.
These rankings took individual accomplishments, impact on team success and production into account. While other stats and accolades are mentioned, only Raiders-specific contributions were considered.
Cliff Branch, WR (1972-85): Cliff Branch put together two excellent seasons early in his career, twice leading the NFL in yards per game and total touchdowns. He was an otherwise steady target who collected 501 receptions, 8,685 yards and 67 scores.
Dave Casper, TE (1974-80, 1984): Given his involvement on the offensive line, Dave Casper unsurprisingly receives recognition as an all-around contributor. In addition to his blocking, he caught 35 touchdowns as a tight end. Casper secured All-Pro recognition in four straight years, too.
Lester Hayes, DB (1977-86): Lester Hayes is best remembered for snatching 13 interceptions in the 1980 season. He picked off 39 passes during a 10-year career―all with Oakland―and made five consecutive Pro Bowls, beginning with that All-Pro campaign in 1980.
Ted Hendricks, LB (175-83): After opening his career on the Baltimore Colts and Green Bay Packers, Ted Hendricks played his final nine seasons with the Raiders. He landed on two All-Pro and four Pro Bowl teams while showing off his versatility as a pass-rusher with a propensity for blocking kicks.
Steve Wisniewski, OG (1989-2001): Steve Wisniewski missed only two games throughout his brilliant career. The offensive lineman made eight Pro Bowls and was a consistent All-Pro contender.
10. Jim Plunkett, QB (1979-86)
"Unspectacular" is a fair way to describe Jim Plunkett's career numbers. But when the Raiders needed him most, he thrived.
In 1980, Plunkett earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year and threw for 261 yards and three scores to claim MVP honors in Super Bowl XV. Three seasons later, he oversaw Los Angeles' run to claim Super Bowl XVIII. He replaced an injured starter in both campaigns.
Plunkett ended his Raiders tenure with 12,665 yards and 80 touchdowns, both of which are top-six marks in franchise history.
9. Fred Biletnikoff, WR (1965-78)
Once he joined the starting unit on a full-time basis, Fred Biletnikoff was a reliable producer for the Raiders.
Beginning in 1967, the wideout caught 40-plus passes for 500-plus yards during 10 straight seasons. He secured All-Pro honors twice and made six Pro Bowl appearances during that stretch. In Super Bowl XI, he hauled in four receptions for a game-high 79 yards and earned the MVP.
Upon his retirement, Biletnikoff's 8,974 career receiving yards ranked fifth in NFL history and first for the Raiders. He also held franchise records with 589 catches and 76 touchdowns, both of which Tim Brown later surpassed.
Biletnikoff was a two-time All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler, and he entered the Hall of Fame in 1988.
8. Willie Brown, CB (1967-78)
Willie Brown's most prolific year came with the Denver Broncos in 1964, but he earned a majority of his accolades for Oakland.
The cornerback garnered Pro Bowl trips in every season from 1967-73, sprinkling in four All-Pro selections along the way. While he shares the franchise record of 39 interceptions with Lester Hayes, Brown kept picking off passes in the playoffs.
He's one of nine players with at least seven postseason interceptions, and none of his are more memorable than his 75-yard pick-six against Fran Tarkenton and the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI.
"They were in the hurry-up offense," Brown said in 2015, per Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, "and I knew exactly what was going to happen because of all the work we'd done in practice and talking about what they had done in the past."
7. Ken Stabler, QB (1970-79)
Nicknamed The Snake, Ken Stabler spent the first 10 seasons of his NFL career in Oakland. He joined the starting lineup in 1973 and thrived for a half-decade.
Through the 1977 season, he guided the Raiders to the AFC Championship each year. Stabler racked up a 50-11-1 record during that span and guided Oakland to a triumph in Super Bowl XI. He was also named the league MVP for the 1974 campaign.
Stabler ended his career with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints, but he left the Raiders as the career leader in every major passing category. He still owns the yardage and touchdown marks, though Derek Carr could top both in 2019.
6. Howie Long, DE (1981-93)
The 1980s defensive line featured the two best pass-rushers in Raiders history. Greg Townsend holds the franchise's sack record, and Howie Long earned the lasting praise.
Enshrined in the Hall of Fame with the 2000 class, he collected 84 career sacks (plus 7.5 unofficial takedowns as a rookie). Long submitted a pair of first-team All-Pro campaigns and earned eight Pro Bowl nods while also contributing to the Super Bowl XVIII win.
A second-round pick in 1981, Long was the final Oakland player to depart from the team after it moved to Los Angeles. In addition to his gaudy sack total, he retired with 10 fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
5. Jim Otto, C (1960-74)
Jim Otto's excellence and longevity came at a significant price.
In 1981, a feature from the New York Times listed out his injuries, which included an estimated 200 stitches in his face, two bad shoulders, multiple broken ribs and fingers that were all broken at some point. His right leg was eventually amputated in 2007, and he underwent 74 surgeries for football injuries.
Nevertheless, he's remembered as one of the greatest linemen―and ironmen―ever. A member of the inaugural 1960 club, Otto started 210 straight regular-season games for the Raiders.
Otto was an All-AFL performer throughout the 1960s, a 1967 AFL champion and a three-time Pro Bowl choice after the AFL-NFL merger. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1980.
4. Marcus Allen, RB (1982-92)
Marcus Allen is the most productive running back in franchise history, and nobody else is even in the conversation.
The USC product burst onto the NFL scene in 1982 with a league-high 11 touchdowns and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. The following season, Allen totaled 209 yards from scrimmage and scored twice in Super Bowl XVIII to take home the MVP award.
And in 1985, he assembled a career-best season. Allen scampered for 1,759 yards, caught 67 passes for 555 yards, totaled 14 touchdowns and swept MVP and Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Allen achieved two All-Pro and five Pro Bowl nods as a member of the Raiders and entered the Hall of Fame in 2003.
3. Tim Brown, WR (1988-2003)
Tim Brown played 16 total seasons for the organization and, in 2003, was the final Los Angeles player to leave the Oakland roster.
Following a relatively quiet start to his NFL career, Brown emerged as a star receiver in 1993. He then posted nine consecutive 1,000-yard years—a feat only matched by legendary wideout and future Oakland teammate Jerry Rice.
Brown retired with the second-most receiving yards (14,734) in NFL history, and all but 200 came with the Raiders. He holds all major franchise records for receivers, including catches (1,070) and touchdowns (99).
The nine-time Pro Bowler and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee also paced the NFL with 487 punt-return yards in 1994 and ranks sixth in league history with 3,320 for his career.
2. Art Shell, OT (1968-82)
Art Shell was a critical piece of the offensive line from 1968-82, starting 169 games and appearing in 207 over that stretch.
The left tackle's dominance is reflected in two All-Pro appearances and eight trips to the Pro Bowl. He also helped the Raiders to victories in a pair of Super Bowls (XI and XV).
"Art was like a big Coke machine with a head on it," former teammate Pete Banaszak once said, per Chris Baker of the Los Angeles Times. "Running backs liked to run behind him because 99 percent of the time there was a hole."
Later the head coach for both Los Angeles (1989-94) and Oakland (2006), Shell was part of the 1989 Hall of Fame class.
1. Gene Upshaw, OG (1967-81)
Gene Upshaw has the rare distinction of playing in a Super Bowl during three different decades. After a loss in 1967 (II), he celebrated championships in 1976 (XI) and 1980 (XV).
And he was a nightmare for defenders the whole time.
Upshaw blocked his way to first-team All-Pro recognition five times and landed on seven Pro Bowl squads. Worst of all for opponents, they couldn't get rid of him. Including the playoffs, Upshaw made 231 consecutive starts for a record that stands entering the 2019 season.
The legendary lineman received his deserved spot in the Hall of Fame as part of the 1987 class.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.