Being one of the most storied franchises in the NFL means a lot. Every team has their Hall of Famers, and the Oakland Raiders have several players that have claimed their gold jackets. However, there are so many more that deserve to be honored, so we’ll honor them here. These are the Raiders’ all-time top two players in each position.
First Up: Oakland Raiders ultimate offensive weapons.
Every great team starts with a great leader. Thinking of the Raiders usually brings two names to mind: Ken “The Snake” Stabler and Rich Gannon.
Ken Stabler led the team to their first Super Bowl win under the tutelage of the most well-known Raiders coach ever, John Madden. He made four Pro Bowls in his career, all with Oakland. He was selected First-Team All-Pro in 1974 after leading the league in touchdowns, touchdown percentage, and yards per attempt. Stabler was a rugged old-school player who didn’t go down without a fight and made some nearly impossible plays, which forever solidifies his place in Raiders history.
On the other end of the championship timespan, Rich Gannon led the team to their last Super Bowl berth. Under another notable Raiders coach, Jon Gruden, Gannon found new life in Oakland after having fairly mediocre stints in Minnesota, Kansas City, and very briefly Washington. While in Oakland, he was elected to three Pro Bowls and First-Team All-Pro twice. During that 2002 Super Bowl run, Gannon led the league in completions and attempts, as well as passing yardage. He deservedly earned the MVP award that year.
Football history is littered with wide receivers, but only a handful of names roll off the tongues of fans when discussing greatness. The Raiders were lucky enough to produce a few them and the two best were Tim Brown and Fred Biletnikoff. Both of these men are part of a very short list of Raiders’ wide receivers that have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and they earned their spots.
Tim Brown spent his entire career with the Raiders, save for his last that was spent in Tampa Bay with former coach Jon Gruden. He owns many of the franchise’s records, including receptions, receiving yards, games played, and punt return yards. As if that weren’t enough, he posted nine (count them, NINE!) consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He’s still fifth all-time in all-purpose yards and sits at seventh all-time for receiving yards.
Fred Biletnikoff was a career Raider and he played for Al Davis with everything he had. While his stats may not look stellar, the magic is in the tape. Watching Biletnikoff play was like a dance. He and Stabler knew each other and had an almost innate sense of where each other was on the field and what they needed to do to make the big plays. Even without the big, flashy numbers, he was elected to six Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro twice.
There were several great running backs that spent a few minutes or more with the Raiders organization. But there are a couple that are almost exclusively synonymous with the Silver and Black.
Before he left the team because of a rift with owner Al Davis, Marcus Allen was drafted 10th overall in 1982. He spent his tenure with the Raiders setting records and winning awards, including two-time Offensive Player of the Year, five Pro Bowl selections, and two All-Pro selections. His list of accomplishments is as long as his arm, including being the first player in NFL history to gain over 5,000 receiving in addition to 10,000 rushing. After 1992, Allen decided that his rift with Al Davis was not repairable and moved on to division rival Kansas City Chiefs. But most people agree, he’ll always be a Raider.
Bo Jackson might seem like a controversial choice here, but it’s purely based on talent. The thing that held Jackson back from attaining greatness was his presence in two sports. He played baseball as his main occupation and football was a hobby. Jackson is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time. He was a star baseball and football player, as well as a college track star. He “unofficially” holds the record for the NFL’s combine 40-yard dash time at 4.12. Even though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted Jackson first overall in the 1986 draft, gave him an ultimatum to choose between baseball and football, Raiders team owner Al Davis didn’t care that Bo split his time between the two, he just wanted him on the team. And he was right to think that. Jackson still boasts some of the franchise’s greatest highlights.
Fullbacks are a passing fancy in today’s NFL, but when they were still integral, Mark Van Eeghen was the best that the Raiders had to offer. He took over the position from Marv Hubbard, an original AFL player who made the rounds before landing with the Raiders. It wasn’t long before Van Eeghen made waves, accumulating over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons from 1976-1978. He was an integral part in getting the Raiders to their first two Super Bowl wins.
There was another time in the NFL before Tony Gonzalez, Gronk, and Travis Kelce when tight ends reigned supreme. Two of the biggest names were the Raiders’ Todd Christensen and Dave “The Ghost” Casper.
Christensen is probably one of the biggest snubs in Hall of Fame history. He was the first tight end to reach two consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons. And in fact, he missed the third season by only 13 yards. He followed that up with another 1,000+ yard season, cementing his place in tight end history. It would be 30 years before another tight end would break the three-straight seasons’ mark, finally accomplished by Carolina Panthers’ Greg Olson in 2016. He was voted to five Pro Bowls and a two-time First-Team All-Pro. It seems like the only vote he hasn’t gotten is the one for a gold jacket.
For a couple of wonderful seasons, the Raiders had an offensive double-tight end set that was downright fearsome. Casper was on the field with Christensen for the 1979-1980 seasons, and it was a blueprint for what a receiving tight end corps could be. Casper had a slow start in the league but was a top ten receiver during the Super Bowl run of 1976. He was responsible for some of the most well-known plays in NFL history, including the Ghost to the Post and the Holy Roller.
One of the unfortunate casualties of the simplified offensive schemes that are all-too-common in the league today is the gadget player. To be a true renaissance man in two different positions is rare on today’s field. There are some wunderkinds like Todd Gurley trying to bring the term back, but way back when, there was Clem Daniels. He was listed as a half back but between rushing and receiving, he posted four seasons of nearly 1,500 yards or more and an additional 1,000+ yards in a fifth. That’s out of six full seasons at his position, his first season was spent as a punt returner. Impressive in any decade’s standards.