Kicker Sebastian Janikowski
It's nearly Super Bowl weekend and the festivities have already kicked off in Houston. Prior to the big event Sunday, the Hall of Fame class of 2017 will be announced this Saturday on Feb. 4, and there are certainly some big names on the ballot like LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, and Brian Dawkins.
Heading into the ceremony, Raiders.com writers Kyle Martin and Eddie Paskal broke down which current and formers Raiders should have a shot at being enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
There are 26 Raiders enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This question has circulated for many years now, but to reiterate, why hasn't Jim Plunkett been inducted into the Hall of Fame yet? The Bay Area-native has a pair of Super Bowl rings to his name and was named the MVP of Super Bowl XV in 1981.
In the two postseasons Plunkett's Raiders went all the way to the Super Bowl, he threw for a total of 1,457 yards, nine touchdowns, completed 59.2 percent of his passes, and had a combined passer rating of 90.75. The former Heisman trophy-winner tallied eight postseason victories during his career, all of which came with the Silver and Black.
Over the entirety of his career, Plunkett threw for 25,882 yards, and to his credit, he played during a time when running backs got top billing compared to the quarterbacks. Running the ball was the name of the game, but the Raider great managed to lead the team to a 38-19 record during his tenure, and oddly enough is the only quarterback in league history with multiple Super Bowl rings, but not in the Hall of Fame.
There certainly aren't a lack of options to select here, from Jim Plunkett to Tom Flores, and even Lester Hayes, but I'm going to have to go with Cliff Branch on this one. Not only did the former University of Colorado Buffalo put up big time numbers during his 14-year career – 501 receptions for 8,685 yards, and 67 touchdowns – but Branch also has three Super Bowl championships under his belt. Yes, football is the ultimate team game, but it certainly says something about the man that each time he made it to the Super Bowl, he flew back home as a world champion. Branch certainly has the numbers to be Hall of Fame worthy, but he also has the hardware too. During his career, Branch – in addition to his three Super Bowls – was a four-time Pro Bowler, and also earned All-Pro honors three times. Call me old fashioned too, but I really like the fact that Branch wore just one uniform his entire professional career too. Over the past few years, there has been a lot more Silver and Black adorning the corridors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Branch is more than deserving of being the next Raider enshrined in Canton.
When the Silver and Black selected Khalil Mack with the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the team was hoping to find a cornerstone player on defense, and he's fulfilled that hope, and then some. In his first three years with the team No. 52 has had an outpouring of production with 170 tackles, 30 sacks, a pick-six, and eight forced fumbles.
Mack's numbers speak for itself, but all who watch the defensive end play can see that the cornerstone player has Hall of Fame potential. At only 25 years of age, he's terrorizing offensive lines with his brute strength and freakish athleticism, which has earned him back-to-back Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections. In 2015, Mack became the only player in NFL history to be the first player selected to the Pro Bowl at two separate positions.
Coming off an impressive third season, the edge rusher looks primed to continue his development and path towards the Hall of Fame. Fellow pass rusher Bruce Irvin may have said it best, "he's a walking Hall of Famer."
I have to go with the Raiders elder statesmen, the Polish Cannon himself, kicker Sebastian Janikowski. Not only does is the man affectionately known as "Seabass" the Raiders all-time scoring leader with 1,799 career points, but that number also ranks No. 10 all-time in the NFL history. Now with 17 NFL seasons in his rearview mirror, Janikowski now sits alone atop the Raiders all-time games played list with 268 games on his résumé. As consistent as 'Bass has been since being drafted by the Raiders out of Florida State, what he's been heralded for, and rightfully so, is his booming, thunderous leg. Janikowski has always had a penchant for the long ball – to a historic tune in fact – as he now owns the NFL record with 53 field goals from 50-plus yards out. Additionally, No. 11 has always seemed to show up in the big moments when the Raiders needed him most, as he now has 16 career game-winning kicks to his name. Like Branch, the Polish national also has been a Raider his entire career, which is admittedly something that I think plays to his advantage. Now, a little postseason success surely wouldn't hurt his cause, but if the ball bounces the right way in the next year or two, I could for sure see Sebastian Janikowski wearing a gold jacket down the line.