The recent resurgence of the Oakland Raiders has people remembering the glory days of the 1970’s, and early 80’s, when they were constantly chasing Super Bowls with John Madden and Tom Flores. The Raiders organization has three Super Bowl victories in five appearances, 25 Hall of Fame inductees, and 3 NFL MVP Award winners. The Raiders are a storied organization with many great players donning the iconic silver and black. These are the greatest teams the franchise has assembled.
Honorable Mention. 2000 – First Great Jon Gruden Team
The 2000 Oakland Raiders are the first Jon Gruden team to win the division. Their 12-4 record earned them the 2nd seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. The team was led by All-Pro’s Rich Gannon, Steve Wisniewski, Charles Woodson, and rookie punter Shane Lechler. The Raiders shut out the Miami Dolphins 27-0 in the Divisional Round. Unfortunately, the season ended with a defeat to fourth seed Baltimore Ravens who won the Super Bowl.
10. 1977 – Last Great John Madden Team
The 1977 Raiders are the last great John Madden team, which included 8 All-Pro athletes. Ken Stabler led the best offense in the league and Mark van Eeghen controlled the run game with nearly 1,300 rushing yards. Surprisingly, their 11-3 record did not win the division and they would become the 4th seed in the playoffs, which forced them to play on the road throughout the postseason. Their Divisional Round matchup against the Baltimore Colts was a shootout that went into overtime tied at 31 apiece. Both teams played stout defense and neither scored in the first overtime. The Raiders Hall of Fame tight end, Dave Casper, caught the game-winning 10-yard touchdown in the second overtime to win the game. They faced their division rival Denver Broncos, and Dave Casper’s 2 fourth quarter touchdowns were not enough to win, as the Broncos outlasted their opponent to advance to the Super Bowl.
9. 1982 – Marcus Allen Wins Offensive Rookie of the Year
The Raiders received a pleasant surprise in 1982 when the explosive rookie sensation, Marcus Allen won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after gaining 1,098 yards from scrimmage and 14 touchdowns despite only playing 9 games in a season cut short by a player strike. The NFL devised a 16-team tournament where each team’s regular season record determined their playoff seed. The Raiders faced the Cleveland Browns in the first round and Marcus Allen continued his excellent season with 72 rushing yards, 75 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns and led the team to a 27-10 victory. Their Divisional Round opponent was the New York Jets, who contained Marcus Allen and forced quarterback Jim Plunkett to throw 3 interceptions. The Jets scored a late game touchdown to beat the Raiders 17-14 ending a marvelous rookie season from their future Hall of Fame running back.
8. 2016 – Khalil Mack Wins Defensive Player of the Year
The Raiders 2016 campaign ended a 13-year playoff drought that saw 9 different head coaches. It appears that Jack Del Rio is their answer at head coach as he led a perpetual bottom feeder to a 12-4 powerhouse in just two years. The offense was led by Pro-Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, who threw for 3,937 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions and a solid 96.7 quarterback rating. Carr’s favorite targets were 2nd-year receiver Amari Cooper and veteran Michael Crabtree who had 1,153 yards and 1,003 yards respectively. The defense was led into battle by Kahlil Mack, the only player to be selected as an All-Pro at two positions during the same season. Mack accumulated 11 sacks, but this doesn’t represent the impact he has on the field. He causes such havoc as an edge rusher that teams are forced to double team him with a full back chipping him as they run by. He is a force to be reckoned with, and few men can hold their own. The Raiders season came to a disastrous end after Derek Carr broke his ankle in the second to last week of the regular season. They lost the last game of the year, which cost them the division title, and a first-round bye. Matt McGloin took over as starting quarterback and the team quickly flamed out with a 27-14 defeat in the Wild Card Round.
7. 1985 – Marcus Allen Wins Most Valuable Player Award
The 1985 season was the Marcus Allen show as he led the team to a respectable 12-4 record. He accumulated 1,759 rushing yards, 555 receiving yards, and 14 total touchdowns on his way to earning the NFL MVP Award. The only problem was that the Raiders starting quarterback Marc Wilson was terrible. He threw 16 touchdowns and 21 interceptions, and the only person he could complete a pass to was his tight end Todd Christensen who had nearly 1,000 yards. The lack of skill at quarterback devastated the Raiders talented squad and they lost to the New England Patriots in the Divisional Round. If the Al Davis wasn’t so set on Wilson playing quarterback, they could have been one of the great teams to take the field.
6. 1974 – Ken Stabler Wins Most Valuable Player Award
This is the last team on the list that did not make it to the Super Bowl. However, Ken Stabler earned the league MVP Award and led his 12-2 team to the AFC championship game. Stabler threw for 2,469 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. His incredible 2.17 touchdown to interception ratio is the reason for the Raiders success. Stabler rarely made bad decisions and he always seemed to find his favorite target Cliff Branch, who recorded 60 receptions for 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns. John Madden had 11 Pro-Bowlers on the ‘74 squad – 5 on offense, 5 on defense, and the punter. They were matched with the previous season’s Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins. The game was a nail biter but the Raiders persevered as Ken Stabler threw a last-minute touchdown to Clarence Davis to win the game. They played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Conference Championship and were upset in the 24-13 beat down.
5. 1967 – Advance to Super Bowl II
The 1967 Raiders squad absolutely destroyed the competition, outscoring their opponents 468-233 to earn a 13-1 record. The Raiders made huge investments in their team during the offseason with the additions of Daryle Lamonica, Gene Upshaw, Willie Brown, and veteran kicker George Blanda. The ‘67 team had an astounding 16 All-Pro players, 7 from both the offense and defense and two kickers. It’s incredible to think that of their 22 starters, 14 made the All-Pro teams. Lamonica led the team with 3,228 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. His favorite target was Hewritt Dixon, the team’s fullback who led the team in rushing (559 yards) and receptions (59). The Raiders played in the AFL championship game and destroyed the Houston Oilers 40-7 to advance to Super Bowl II against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers moved the ball down the field and nickel and dimed the Raiders with 4 field goals. The Raiders lost the Super Bowl 33-14 with their last touchdown coming in the final moments to make it look like less of a beating.
4. 2002 – Rich Gannon Wins Most Valuable Player Award
Before the Raiders 2002 season kicked off owner Al Davis traded head coach Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for several draft picks and $8 million cash. Davis wanted to move to a vertical offense and that was not Gruden’s style. Bill Callahan took over head coaching duties and his veteran quarterback Rich Gannon had an All-Pro season with 4,689 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He was lucky enough to throw to Jerry Rice, who is the greatest player in NFL history. Rice hauled in 92 catches for 1,211 yards and 7 touchdowns. Hall of Fame receiver Tim Brown also had a great season with 81 catches, 930 yards, and 2 touchdowns. He became the 3rd receiver in NFL history with 1,000 catches in his career. A bulk of the team’s yardage came from running back Charlie Garner, who had 1,903 yards and 11 touchdowns. Rod Woodson held down the defense in his last All-Pro season. The Hall of Famer recorded 70 tackles and 8 interceptions in his 16th year in the league.
The Raiders breezed through the Divisional Round and Conference Championship scoring 30 and 41 points in each game. The Super Bowl was a matchup for the ages as the Raiders would play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and former head coach Jon Gruden. If it were a lesser coach this would be good news to face a coach you just fired, but Jon knew the Raiders inside and out, and carefully dismantled them with a 48-21 victory. The loss sunk through the organization at all levels, and the team epically collapsed and didn’t return to the playoffs for 13 seasons.
3. 1980 – Super Bowl Champions – Lester Hayes Wins Defensive Player of the Year
The 1980 Raiders overcame great odds to become the first AFC Wild Card team to make it to the Super Bowl. Before the season started Al Davis traded Super Bowl champion quarterback Ken Stabler to the Houston Oilers for Dan Pastorini, who played terribly in five games before getting injured and replaced by Jim Plunkett who would hold the position the rest of the season. The Raiders were 2-3 and cornerback Lester Hayes, was by far the best player on the team. His 13 interceptions still rank as the 2nd most interceptions in a single-season.
Once Plunkett took over the starting role the team won 6 straight games, and finished the season on a 9-2 run and a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. The Raiders got most of their production from their two running backs, Mark van Eeghen and Kenny King, who accounted for 2,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Plunkett’s favorite receivers were Cliff Branch and Bob Chandler, who racked up 1,645 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns between the two.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Raiders faced their ex-quarterback Ken Stabler and forced him to throw two interceptions, and won the game 27-7. In the Divisional Round, they played a defensive game against the Cleveland Browns, and narrowly got away win a 14-12 victory. Their next game was much different against the San Diego Chargers. Oakland jumped out to a quick 28-7 lead in the second quarter, but the Chargers fought their way back. The Raiders hit two second-half field goals to outlast the Chargers for a 34-27 victory.
Oakland faced off against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV in Louisiana. The game started on a high note for the Raiders as Rod Martin intercepted Ron Jaworski on the third play of the game. Jim Plunkett threw the 1st of his 3 touchdowns 8 plays later and that was only the beginning. The first quarter ended with an 80-yard touchdown to Kenny King, and the Raiders took a 14-0 lead. Jim Plunkett went on to throw for 291 yards and won the Super Bowl MVP, despite Rod Martin’s 3 interception game. I understand that quarterbacks get all the attention, but this MVP should have gone to Rod Martin. This was a fantastic season nonetheless, and the Tom Flores made his presence known as one of the best coaches of the 1980’s.
2. 1983 – Super Bowl Champions
The 1983 season is the last time the Raiders won the Super Bowl. Marcus Allen was eager to start his second season after his rookie year was ended by a player strike. The Hall of Fame running back rushed for 1,014 yards and caught 68 passes for 590 yards for a total of 11 touchdowns. The Los Angeles Raiders other standout was All-Pro tight end Todd Christensen, who caught 92 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Raiders finished the season with a 12-4 record and earned the first seed in the playoffs.
Los Angeles faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and Marcus Allen went to work. The incredibly talented running back touched the ball 18 times and had 159 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. The team ran for another two touchdowns and Lester Hayes intercepted a pass for a touchdown. A route ensued and the Raider beat the Steelers 38-10 to advance to the AFC championship game.
In the Conference Championship game, Los Angeles was matched against division rival Seattle Seahawks who had beaten them twice earlier in the season. Beating a team 3 times in one season is nearly impossible, and the Los Angeles Raiders dominated the game from start to finish on both sides of the ball. The defense had 5 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery to hold the Seahawks to 0 points halfway through the 3rd quarter. On the offensive side of the ball, Marcus Allen continued his impressive postseason with 25 carries for 154 yards, and 7 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. Frank Hawkins rushed for two more touchdowns and the Raiders added 3 field goals to win the ballgame 30-14.
The Raiders faced the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. Just like the Seahawks, the Raiders lost to the Redskins in the regular season and looked to avenge the loss. The Raiders first score of the game came off a blocked punt on Washington’s opening possession that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The defense wasn’t done just yet, on the last play of the first half Washington’s Joe Theismann threw a 5-yard pick-six that put Los Angeles ahead 21-3. Marcus Allen had a 5-yard touchdown run on their first possession of the second half and the game was over from that point on. To add insult to injury Allen broke off a 75-yard touchdown run to end the third quarter. The Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins 38-9, and Marcus Allen was the game MVP with a Super Bowl record 191 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns.
1. 1976 – Super Bowl Champions
The 13-1 John Madden Oakland Raiders are the best team in the organization’s history. The ‘76 squad was led by Ken “The Snake” Stabler, and the constant pounding of Mark van Eeghen, and Clarence Davis, who continuously averaged 4-5 yards per rush. The Raiders big playmaker was Cliff Branch, who somehow managed 1,111 yards off 46 catches for an unbelievable 24.2 yards per reception. Hall of Famers Dave Casper and Fred Biletnikoff rounded out the receiving corps with 1,242 yards and 17 touchdowns between the pair. In total, the Raiders had 10 players selected to the All-Pro team, and that’s one of the many reasons they are the best team on this list.
No team can top this list without a Super Bowl ring, and the ’76 Raiders do not disappoint. The Raiders Super Bowl run is quite impressive when you consider who they faced. The 11-3 New England Patriots were their Divisional Round opponent and their only loss of the season. In the Conference Championship, they faced the 10-4 Terry Bradshaw/Franco Harris Pittsburgh Steelers coming off back-to-back Super Bowl victories. In the Super Bowl, they faced the 11-3 Purple People Eater Minnesota Vikings who played in 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. This must be the most difficult road to a championship a team has ever faced.
The Divisional Round was a tough fought game and the Raiders managed a 10-7 lead going into halftime. The Patriots played well in the third quarter and scored two touchdowns to take a 21-10 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Raiders were not about to lose to the Patriots twice, and they fought back to score two late touchdowns and win the game 24-21. The impressive comeback propelled Los Angeles to the Conference Championship with momentum on their side.
The AFC championship was a brutal defensive showcase as neither team broke 240 yards. The Raiders jumped out to an early lead with a field goal and 2nd quarter touchdown by Clarence Davis. The Steelers scored a touchdown and it looked like it was going to be a real game, but Oakland went for their heart and scored a 2nd touchdown in the quarter to take a 17-7 halftime lead. The Raiders scored in the third quarter and their stout defense made some much-needed halftime corrections to beat Terry Bradshaw 24-7 and advance to Super Bowl XI.
The Oakland Raiders were not intimidated by the Purple People Eaters for one second. This Raiders group was a bad group of guys that would brawl with anyone that stepped onto the field. The entire first quarter of the game was back and forth as both teams were trying to find a hole in the other’s game plan. The Raiders found a weakness and scored 16 points on their first three possessions of the 2nd quarter and the game was over from there. The Raiders scored an additional 16 points in the second half, while the Vikings only managed 2 touchdowns. Fred Biletnikoff’s 4 catches for 79 yards earned him Super Bowl MVP. In typical Super Bowl fashion, they did not give MVP to the player who deserved it. My MVP would either be Clarence Davis who rush for 137 yards on 16 carries or Willie Brown who stole an interception and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
The 1976 Oakland Raiders are the greatest team in the organization’s history. At this point, the only team that could take their throne, is the 2017 Raiders who are going to fight for one last Super Bowl victory for this great city before relocating to Las Vegas.