Saturday, August 6, 2016

Oakland Raiders All Career-Year Team

OPINION
By John Turney
At Pro Football Journal we are trying to pick the best individual seasons in the history of each franchise, which we will continue today with the Raiders. By "Career-year" we mean the best performances at each position, with the following rule: Only one season per player per position. For example, here, we cannot pick Ken Stabler’s best two seasons and use both QB slots.

Here is the team, First-teams on left, Second-teams on right:
Ken Stabler is being inducted to the Hall of Fame today, so we will start with the quarterback. Stabler was just as good in 1976 as 1974, but with the MVP it bests the 1976 season, even with the Super Bowl win. Stabler was the NFL's best QB from 1973-77 and the only QB to throw over 100 TDs in that span. Though Ken Anderson was close, Stabler seemed to rise to the occasion in that era.

Daryl Lamonica's 1967 was great, and he had a couple of other excellent seasons as well. The honorable mentions for QB are Jim Plunkett, 1980 (Super Bowl win), Rich Gannon, 2002

Are states enough? Jeff George, 1997, and Derek Carr, 2015, had them. I make them honorable mentions by a slight margin.

For the "guard-in-backfield" fullback we are going with Pro Bowler Marcel Reece in 2013 and Jon Ritchie in 1999. The Raiders had some good traditional fullbacks, but we considered them split RBs so as RBs Marv Van Eaghen and Marv Hubbard are HMs there.


The top spots, though, for the ball carriers is Marcus Allen's 1985 and Clem Daniel's 1963. Bo Jackson, on sheer explosiveness edges others. Hewitt Dixon (really a traditional fullback-lined to the tight end side) get final spot with Napoleon Kaufman, 1997 as another honorable mention. Hubbard's Hm year is 1972 and van Eeghen's in 1977.
Tight end was tough competition, but we list them in this order:  Dave Casper, 1978, Todd Christensen, 1983, Raymond Chester, 1972.  Then Billy Cannon, 1967, and Zack Miller's 2010 Pro Bowl season.


Jim Otto, 1970 is First-team center and is followed by Barrett Robbins, 2002. The honorables are Dave Dalby, 1977 and Dave Mosebar, 1991.

Gene Upshaw, 1974 and Steve Wisniewski, 1991, are the top guards followed by Wayne Hawkins, 1966 and then Max Montoya, 1993. George Buehler's 1977 gets a special nod.

Art Shell's 1977 was likely his best season of many great ones and Bob Brown's 1972 was the last time this HOFer was an All-Pro. Lincoln Kennedy, 2002, and Henry Lawrence, 1984 are the Second -teamers and All-AFL choice Harry Schuh, 1967 is an honorable mention. The final honorable mention is Gerald Perry's 1993. The Raiders brass ranked him as the top tackle in NFL in 1992 and signed him to a big-money contract. They felt his 1993 season was equally as good as 1992 but then were disappointed in the next two seasons.
Tough choices at receiver. Cliff Branch, 1976 (a 24 yards per catch average) and then Warren Wells, 1969 are just too good to pass up. Tim Brown, 1997, and Fred Belitnikoff, 1972 make the second team and left to honorable mention is All-AFLer Art Powell, 1963.

For the 3d receiver Mervyn Fernandez, 1988  is First-team then Second-team is  James Jett for 1993 and then Jessie Hester, 1986 is an honorable mention.
Now, talk about greatness, the Raider cornerback selections. Willie Brown, 1969 and Lester Hayes, 1980 are the tops. Narrowly edging Mike Haynes, 1985, and Charles Woodson, 1999. In 1969 Willie Brown was unanimous All-Pro and was credited with 39 passes defensed (Lester Hayes's best season was 35 in 1981). Hayes was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1980 and had the 13 picks plus 5 more in the playoffs. Just an All-time great year.

How about these seasons for honorable mention? Nnamdi Asomugha, 2008, Kent McCloughan, 1967, Terry McDaniel, 1994 and Fred Williamson, 1962. The toughest decision was to go with Woodson's 1999 over Asomugha's 2008. It was a too close to call, and we should have made them a tie. Maybe in future we will do so after some more research.

Ronnie Lott, is top strong safety, he was All-Pro at his new position in 1991. George Atkinson, 1969, is his backup.

Dave Grayson, 1969 is the free safety, then Jack Tatum's 1977. Honorable mentions are Rod Woodson, 2002and Vann McElroy in 1983.

For extra defensive back we are going with Jimmy Warren, 1971 and Charlie Phillips, 1975. Warren picked off 2 balls, returned both for touchdowns, had 21 tackles and 10 passes deflected in his season. Phillips intercepted six passes in his sub role.  1975's Neal Colzie also was an excta back (usually dime) in 1975 and had 19 tackles and 12 passes defensed. Needless to say, the Raiders like nickel and dime in 1975.
Tory James in 2001 (intercepted five passes and deflected 16), James Trapp, 1994, and Sam Seale, 1985, were all productive in fewer than five starts each.

Howie Long, 1983 and Ike Lassiter, 1967 are the top DEs. Long had excellent seasons in 1984 and 1985 as well (rated by Pro Scout, Inc as #1 DE in 1983, 84, 85 and ranked #2 in 1986), but he was a joy to watch in '83 and had a career-high 13 sacks and drew over 20 penalties from opposing tackles and guards and on passing downs drew double-team blocks about 41% of the time to go with his 39 tackles and three forced fumbles. Lassiter led the Raiders charge with 17 sacks in that year and made 67 tackles and he was almost as good in 1969 as well (15 sacks, 53 tackles 8 for losses).

Backing them up are Tony Cline, 1970 (58 tackles and team record 17-½ sacks) and Sean Jones, 1986 (led AFC in sacks with 15.5 and made 74 tackles). Honorables are Ben Davidson, 1967 (94 tackles and 9 sacks), Pat Swilling, 1995 (36 tackles, 13 sacks and 5 forced fumbles), Derrick Burgess, 2005 (57 tackles, 16 sacks and 3 FF), and Greg Townsend, 1990 (67 tackles and 12.5 sacks). 

Another honorable mention is Lyle Alzado in 1982, when in 9 games he had 8 sacks and 30 tackles was All-AFC and named to Dr. Z's All-Pro team. Possibly one of the better pass rusher few have heard of was Horace Jones. In 1975 Jones had 13 sacks to go with his 58 tackles so get gets a mention for that year. John Matuszak felt the should have gone to the Pro Bowl in 1980, but with Art Still, Lyle Alzado and Fred Dean taking the slots, there was no room. "Toozwas a left defensive end in the 3-4 but when the Raiders went sub (nickel or dime) he played left defensive tackle. He had 76 tackles and 8 sacks that year, which was his best. Another year for the Tooz that was excellent was 1976, his first season as a 3-4 DE and he responded with 9½ sacks.

For the designated pass rusher the First-team was Pat Toomay (led AFC unofficially with 14½ sacks, 24 tackles and 3 FF) and we just could not separate Greg Townsend, 1985 and Anthony Smith, 1992, so they share Second-team honors. Townsend had several excellent years as a DPR. We chose 1985 on the basis his 10 sacks, 20 tackles, and 5 forced fumbles. Smith, likewise, 31 tackles, 13 sacks and six forced fumbles. Howie Long had a rood rookie season as a DPR with 7½ sacks and that merits mention as well. Also warranting mention is Bill Pickel, who usually played left defensive tackle in passing situations before becoming a starter had 12.5 sacks as a DPR in 1984, though he did fill in for three games as a starter that year.

Honorable mentions are not too bad, either. In 1980 Cedrick Hardman was the first DPR to win a Super Bowl ring (Fred Dean followed a year later) and he led the Raiders with 9½ sacks. Willie Jones, in 1979 was a designated rusher and led Raiders with 10 sacks.

At defensive tackle we chose Darrell Russell, 1998, and Tom Keating, 1967. Both were All-NFL or All-AFL. Russell made 64 tackles, 10 sacks and forced three fumbles. Keating, in '68, made 98 tackles (9 for losses) plus 9 sacks. We could have just as easily gone with 1969 for Keating when he had 68 tackles and a career-high 12 sacks. 

The backups are very good as well:  Dan Birdwell, 1968 and Otis Sistrunk, 1975. Birdwell was fairly often a "move" guy, and would play some linebacker (Tony Cline did this, as well) so the Raiders could go from a 4-3 to 3-4 without a change in personnel. Birdwell's 1968 season shows 14½ sacks and 93 tackles (8 for losses) and seven passes deflected.

Sistrunk was excellent for several seasons. In 1975 he made 81 tackles (10 for losses) and 13½ sacks. In 1974 he was a Second-team All-Pro and in 1973 he made 67 tackles (again 10 for losses) and had 13 sacks and three forced fumbles, so any of those three would fit here.

One honorable mentions is Art Thoms in 1974 (76 tackles,  led team with 7 sacks, also had 9 tackles for loss and 8 passes deflected and was a Second-team All-Pro along with Sistrunk). Another is Chester McGlockton, who was the best run-stuffer in team history from the DT position. In 1995 he was All-Pro made 55 tackles (11.5 were stuffs) and had 7.5 sacks. It was very hard to leave him off the top two platoons.

Bill Pickel, All-Pro in 1986, had 75 tackles and 11.5 sacks and he, too, is an HM. Run-stuffers Grady Jackson and Bob Golic likely deserve a mention, too. Though he had only two sacks in 1979 Dave Pear was an every down nose tackle/middle guard. He played a bit off the line and reacted to plays and totaled 101 tackles, a high number for a nose. Lyle Alzado though Reggie Kinlaw was overlooked as a nose tackle, and he didn't have high tackle numbers because he only played on run downs, his 1983 season could be considered an HM as well.

Finally, the linebackers:  Archie Matsos, 1963 is the middle/inside backer. The outside men are Ted Hendricks, 1980 and Khalil Mack, 2015. The Second-teamers are Dan Conners, 1967 as the middle man and Rod Martin, 1983 (UPI AFC Defensive Player of the Year) and Phil Villapiano, 1975. 

Hendricks was a man-man in 1980, he seemed to be all over the field, in a much-too-often used cliche. But, he was. He had 76 tackles, 8½ sacks, 3 interceptions, batted away 16 passes, forced three fumbles while recovering four and blocked a kick (only one!) and was voted the Seagram's NF Defensive Player of the Year. 

Mack's 2015 season is well-documented. Martin was one of those quiet-great players. Consistent and it was hard narrowing down his seasons, but 1983 gets it over 1985. he had 108 tackles (nine for losses) 6 sacks 4 interceptions with two being pick 6s. In 1984 he had 105 tackles, 11 sacks 3 forced fumbles, but in 1983 he did get the AFC DPOY award. Villapiano was like Martin, good year-in and year out. We went with his 1975 season, the Raider's best season defensivly in the 1970s and Phil was very effective.

The honorable mentions are Matt Millen's 1988 is an honorable mention as are, Greg Biekert, 1999, Kirk Morrison, 2007 round out the middle backers HMs and Gus Otto, 1967 (8-½ sacks).

Millen is one of those quandaries. Do we pick one of the three years he got honors? (1984, 1985 and 1988) or the year he had the numbers? 1981? Or the combination of both. In 1981 he had a career-high 112 tackles. In 1984 he had 79 but was Second-team All-AFC. In 1984 he was, again, Second-team All-AFC but had 94 tackles. In 1988 he was a Pro Bowler and had 96 tackles, but he had more in the backfield than in other years, so we went with that.
George Blanda, 1973, based on adjustments for era is top kicking season. Next is Jeff Jaeger, 1991, and then Sebastian Janikowski, 2011 as an HM.

Ray Guy, 1973 (best TB to in-the-20 ratio of his career) is his best year, then Shane Lechler, 2009 and a consensus All-Pro is relegated to honorable mention and that is Jeff Gossett, 1991. Mike Eischeid's 1969 season was not "honored" but it was excellent with a 39.9 net average and only two touchbacks and he gets and honorable mention from us. Leo Araguz led the AFC in net punting yard average in 1997 with 39.1.

Kick returners, as always, are judged by honors and touchdowns. Jacoby Ford, 2010 then Justin Miller, 2008 get the nods.

Johnnie Lee Higgins, 2008 is the punt returner and then Desmond Howard, 1998, backs him up. But they had several players who returned 2 punts to the house and they are honorable mentions Phillip Buchanon, 2003, George Atkinson, 1968 and Claude Gibson 1963.we also list Greg Pruitt's 1983 and Tim Brown's 1993 as HMs.

Jeff Barnes, 1977, was a special team demon and when he go back and review coverage players Barnes will be the 1977 NFC Special Teams Player of the Year. He made 26 special teams tackles and blocked three kicks. Warren Bankston, 1974, is the next one in line, though by the slightest of margins over Derrick Jensen's 1980 and 1984. Bankston had 9 tackles and countless blocks for returners and also blocked a punt. Pete Banaszak is also an honorable mention for his 1966 season when he had 25 tackles (14 solo) on special teams.

In '80 Jenson had 15 tackles and blocked a punt and in 1984 he made 17 tackles and forced a fumble. He was, for years (like Bankston and Barnes) a core special teams player. Receiver Warren Wells gets an honorable mention for 1967 when he led the team in special teams tackles with 22.

Agree or disagree? Let us know who we missed or why we erred in comment section below.

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