One of the reasons the Oakland Raiders organization is so respected is the team's history of great players. The Silver and Black have 21 people enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If voters make the appropriate decisions with their ballots in 2014, the team will add three more to the hallowed halls of Canton, including one position which has never been honored, but one that is long overdue.
The list of eligible players was trimmed down to 126 this week. In November, the list will be shaved to 25. In January, the list will be cut to 15 finalists. Inductees will be announced the day before Super Bowl XLVIII in New York.
Nominated folks with ties to the Raiders this year are: CB Eric Allen, WR Tim Brown, RB Roger Craig, former Head Coach and QB Tom Flores, former Head Coach John Gruden, P Ray Guy, CB Albert Lewis, C Don Mosebar, NT Ted Washington, G Steve Wisniewski and former Raiders executive Ron Wolf.
In a nutshell, here is how the voting process works, per the official page of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
- The Selection Committee consists of one media representative from each geographical area with a current NFL franchise. If a geographical area has more than one franchise (such as the Bay Area), there will be a selector for each franchise and 13 at-large delegates.
- There is no set number of new enshrinees, but the Committee's current ground rules do stipulate that between four and seven new members will be selected each year.
- Each new member must get 80% of the vote to be elected.
- A player or coach must have been retired 5 years.
- The day before the Super Bowl, each of the nominees is thoroughly discussed by the committee before a series of reduction votes are taken.
- To assure that older players will be considered along with the Modern Era players, a Seniors Committee, made up of nine veteran members of the overall Selection Committee, has been established to consider nominees whose active career has been completed by at least 25 years.
For the Raiders organization and its fans, that last paragraph is paramount. Unquestionably the greatest punter of all-time, Ray Guy is one of two players the seniors committee has nominated for the class of 2014. Given that seven of the last eight seniors nominees have gained entrance into the hall, Guy's chances of finally donning the yellow jacket are excellent. The former Raiders #1 draft pick who was known for his finishing high leg and directional kick mastery, has been a finalist for pro football's highest honor on seven previous occasions.
"I want to get in," Guy reportedly told the committee when informed he was on the list. "But more importantly you have to represent a position that has not gotten a lot of recognition. It's an important position."
To me, there are three things to consider when deciding whether a player is worthy of pro football's highest individual honor:
1. Can you write the history of professional football without them? You certainly cannot write the history of professional football without the contributions of Raiders Al Davis, Jerry Rice or John Madden. The player, coach or contributor has to have played a major role in the evolution of the sport or the position.
2. Were they the top player at their position in the era they played? It's impossible to compare players from different eras. The passing game today is far different from 20 years ago. You cannot compare statistics, they don't tell the story. Art Shell and Gene Upshaw were the dominant guard and tackle combination of their era, Howie Long set the standard along the defensive line where he was named to the 1980s all-decade team, Jim Otto was named all-league center 12 consecutive seasons. Comparing apples to apples or in this case, helmets to helmets, how does a player stack up against the players he played against? Not statistics or players from different eras. The game changes too much.
3. Finally play a game with yourself. Look at the list of players who are finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Say a name out loud. If you think they belong in the Hall on first thought, they probably do. If you have to make a case, look up the stats or Super Bowl wins, they probably don't. I know a player who should be in the hall when I hear the name. Remember, it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Really Good. It should be exclusive.
One element I don't factor in my decision-making is championships won. I know Mr. Davis would throw me out on my ear on this one, but let me explain why championships are overrated for election into Canton. Don't get me wrong, in a team concept they are the definitive goal. However, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is an individual accomplishment. How can you penalize or elevate a player based on the ultimate team prize? I do take into account how a player performed in the playoffs or Super Bowl, but most times it is out of an individual player's control if he didn't win those games.
With all of that in mind, here are the players with Silver and Black connections who I believe deserve a spot in Canton in 2014: 1. Ray Guy: Whether you believe it's an important position on a football field or not is irrelevant. He was the best at an NFL position. Guy was a key member of three championships, a six-time first team all-pro and a member of the NFL's 75th anniversary team. His position should be represented, every other position is. You can't tell the NFL story without him. It's long overdue, but better late than never.
2. Tim Brown: There is a conceptual flaw in the voting process. Multiple players from the same position group are rarely put into the hall on the same year unless those players are no-brainer picks. Jerry Rice got in five years after retirement, no questions asked. Brown has been log-jammed by Cris Carter and Andre Reed at the wide receiver spot. Carter was elected last year which could open the door for Brown, although former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison will be added to the position group this year. I'm a believer a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. You don't catch any more passes after you retire. You either are or are not immortal. If three receivers in a given year are worthy, all should go in.
Brown is worthy. He was a member of the NFL's all-decade team of the 1990's and at the time of his retirement was in the top three all-time in NFL history in receptions, yards and touchdowns. The only item keeping him out of the club I believe is a championship, which I stated earlier is a team accomplishment. A team triumph should not have any effect on an individual honor. It's a farce Brown isn't honored as one of the greatest players to ever strap on a helmet.
3. Steve Wisniewski. Offensive linemen are hard to gauge because they don't have any tangible statistics to speak of. Also, when the media does vote for offensive lineman, they look at the more heralded left tackle position first. The other issue about offensive lineman getting into the hall is the media who vote don't know enough about line play to cast educated ballots. So as a media member, I'll make the case anyway. He played 13 seasons, so he had longevity. He played in 206 of 208 possible career games, he was durable. The former Raider made the 1990's all-decade team, so he was the best of his era, was selected to eight Pro Bowls, which means respected amongst his peers, and the Raiders made the playoffs five times in his career, so he won. There are twelve modern day guards enshrined in Canton. When you look at the names, Wisniewski's name fits after some and before some. Point is, he fits in with the group that is already enshrined. I was told by a former NFL line coach this week that his reputation as a "creative player during play and after the whistle" may negatively affect his candidacy into Canton.
FOUR DOWNS: KEY POINTS FOR A RAIDERS VICTORY OVER THE JAGUARS THIS WEEK 1. UNDER PRESSURE: Both Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Jaguars signal caller Chad Henne need a clean pocket to get things done. In 2012, Henne had a quarterback rating of 91.8 while completing over 61% of his passes for 11 touchdowns when he had no pressure. When he was under duress, he had zero touchdowns six interceptions and a QB rating of 27.0. In week one of this season, Pryor was 14-18 with a touchdown pass and a QB rating of 114.8 when he was untouched. The Jags may think twice before blitzing the elusive Pryor though. He completed 8 of 10 passes with a touchdown, zero interceptions and a rating of 148.3 when the Colts brought extra rushers last Sunday. The Raiders have a good chance of getting pressure on Henne. The Jaguars gave up an NFL high six sacks last week to the Chiefs and the Raiders recorded four sacks last week vs. the Colts which was tied for fifth best in the NFL. The Silver and Black brought 25 blitzes last week against the Colts. Last season the Raiders averaged 15.9 blitzes per game. Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston led the way with eight quarterback pressures and a sack in Week 1.
- DUAL THREAT: Terrelle Pryor broke Rich Gannon's team record for rushing yards by a quarterback (85 yards in 2000), with his 112 yards on 13 carries in Week 1 vs. the Colts. Pryor scrambled seven times for 53 yards and ran for 59 yards on six designed run plays. Part of the designed runs were zone-read plays for 33 yards on five carries. Pryor kept the ball on all five read-option runs. Like the Colts last week, the Jaguars did not face a read-option quarterback last season. New Head Coach Gus Bradley was the defensive coordinator in Seattle last season and faced Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin, so Jacksonville should have some experience facing a read-option look out of the pistol formation. To keep the Jaguars honest against the run, Pryor will need to improve his deep passing. In game one vs. the Colts, Pryor was 1 for 7 for 41 yards with two interceptions on balls traveling more than 20 yards in the air.
3. HOMECOMING: Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew was born in Oakland, grew up in nearby Antioch, Calif., and played football at one of the best high school football programs in the nation, De La Salle in Concord. However, Jones-Drew has not faired well in the Pacific Time Zone in his career. Last season in Oakland against the Raiders he carried the ball 2 times for 6 yards before leaving the game with a season ending foot injury. In three prior career trips to west coast time, Jones has only 146 yards on 41 carries. "It hasn't been a good home coming, period" Jones-Drew told Bay Area reporters via conference call on Wednesday. The Raiders should be ready for inside run versus the Jags. Last week Jacksonville ran 19 designed run plays, 16 were between the tackles, only three were outside runs. Meanwhile Raiders running back Darren McFadden had one of his best games as a pro back in 2010 vs. Jacksonville. He ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns, including a 51-yard gallop into the end zone and caught three passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, including a 67-yarder to pay-dirt.
- USING THE WEAPONS: The trend in the NFL right now is space and speed on offense. Speed means how fast teams like the Eagles, Patriots and Broncos are running their no-huddle offense. Space is spreading out the defense so you can get your play makers room to make plays one on one forcing defenders to tackle in space and if they miss, eating up big chunks of yards. The Raiders have playmakers in Darren McFadden, Terrelle Pryor, Rod Streater, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Marcel Reece. Reece in particular was a bit of a forgotten man versus the Colts only playing in 24 of 67 offensive snaps. Since the Jaguars are sure to key in on Pryor after his week one performance, it will be up to these play makers to take pressure off Pryor and make plays on Sunday.