Branch, Others Deserve Hall Call

Noted sports and NFL columnist Clark Judge has written an excellent article stating the case for three-time Super Bowl champion WR Cliff Branch's selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Judge writes: "He played 14 seasons with the Raiders, and he was marvelous for most of it. In fact, he was so good he was named to the league's All-Pro team four consecutive years. But he wasn't named to an all-decade team that included Swann, and, since we're on the subject, let's compare the two.

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Branch had more catches, 501-336, and more yards receiving, 8,685-5,402. He had more touchdowns, too, 67-51, and averaged 17.3 yards per reception to Swann's 16.3. Yeah, OK, so Swann retired early. And, yes, he was a part of four Super Bowl champions, and that was factored in his election."*

As we celebrate Raiders all-time leading receiver WR Tim Brown's selection for and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, let's take a look at other notable former Raiders players who definitely should be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

Kenny Stabler – QB – 1968-79

Stabler was drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 1968 Draft out of Alabama. He didn't see any action until 1970 and became the full-time starter in 1973. In just seven seasons, he became, and still is, the Raiders all-time leading passer. He led the Raiders to five straight AFC championship games and the team's first Super Bowl victory. He played in a total of 184 games over 15 seasons for three teams and threw for 27,938 yards and 194 touchdowns.

Tom Flores – Head Coach – 1979-87

Flores had the unenviable task of following John Madden. He went 83-53 and led the Raiders to two Super Bowl titles in four years. He went on to coach the Seattle Seahawks for three years. Flores was a great head coach Flores and he was also a good quarterback. He played for the Raiders from 1960-66 before being traded to Buffalo in the Daryle Lamonica deal. Flores played the better part of three years for Buffalo and was Len Dawson's back-up on the 1969 Kansas Chiefs Super Bowl team. He is one of two people to win Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach (Super Bowl XI with Oakland) and as a head coach. To compare and contrast, Marv Levy – 143-112 (no Super Bowls), Bill Parcells – 172-130-1 (two Super Bowls), Bill Walsh – 92-59-1 (three Super Bowls).

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There are 26 Raiders enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jim Plunkett – QB – 1979-86**

Plunkett entered the NFL as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1971 Draft with the New England Patriots. After five seasons in New England, Plunkett was the primary starting quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers. He then found himself as a back-up with the Raiders in 1979. When the Raiders traded Stabler for Houston Oilers QB Dan Pastorini, Plunkett's days as a full-time starter seemed to be over. But, Plunkett got his chance when Pastorini broke his leg. The Heisman Trophy winner out of Stanford, along with Coach Flores, led the Raiders to wins in Super Bowls XV and XVIII and was named MVP of Super Bowl XV. He is the fourth leading passer in Raiders history and he threw for 25,882 yards and 164 TDs for three different teams over the course of 15 seasons. He is the only QB to start and win two Super Bowls that isn't in the Hall of Fame.

ESPN's Paul Gutierrez wrote in 2013: "If you subscribe to the theory that you cannot write the definitive book on the purportedly inclusive NFL without mentioning the accomplishments and contributions of Flores and Plunkett, then where are their gold jackets, their busts in Canton?

Indeed, many see the Pro Football Hall of Fame as an incomplete shrine without the two.

Plunkett's story was equal parts Lazarus and Cinderella, all wrapped in one silver and black bow. Flores, who was known as the "Ice Man" for his cool demeanor as a player, called it a "resurrection" for Plunkett's career. It's the kind of stuff that embodies the very fabric of the NFL's myth and ethos. And yet …

"They're being lost in the mist of time," said Mario Longoria, who wrote "Athletes Remembered: Mexicano/Latino Professional Football Players, 1929-1970."

"They are fading into history, becoming obscure."

Lester Hayes – CB – 1977-86

The Raiders selected Hayes out of Texas A&M in the 1977 NFL Draft. He played in 149 games with 134 starts and picked off 39 passes. He had arguably one of the greatest seasons of any defensive back in NFL history in 1980 when he intercepted 13 passes. He finished tied for the all-time lead in Raiders history with Hall of Famer Willie Brown.

Again to compare and contrast:

Hayes: 39 INT (13 in one season), five Pro Bowls, one First-team All-Pro
Mel Blount – 57 INT (11 in one season), five Pro Bowls, two-time First-team All-Pro
Mike Haynes – 36 INT (Eight in one season), nine Pro Bowls, two-time First-team All-Pro

This is just a sampling of the former Raiders who should be included in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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