Skip to main content
Raider Nation, Stand Up - View Schedule - Presented by Allegiant
SB XVIII Anniversary_2560x1440_2

Act 1: The climb back up

By Levi Edwards | Digital Team Reporter

January 22, 2024, marks the 40th anniversary of the Los Angeles Raiders' 38-9 win over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII. It was the Silver and Black's third World Championship of Professional Football and the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history up to that point.

The 1983 Raiders boasted a roster of top-notch athletes with personalities to match. Two men who played pivotal roles over the course of the season were quarterback Jim Plunkett and Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes.

Upon their separate arrivals to the Silver and Black, it didn't take long for the two to be embraced by the locker room and the state of California. Plunkett is a San Jose native and Stanford University's lone Heisman Trophy winner. Haynes grew up in Los Angeles, California, feeling right at home on Sundays at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Through the lenses of the two legends, this is the story behind the Super Bowl XVIII triumph.

In the summer of 1979, rock band AC/DC released a popular tune titled "Highway to Hell" – a song title that could also bluntly sum up Jim Plunkett's journey through the NFL up to that point.

The quarterback had a steep fall from grace after winning the Heisman Trophy in 1970 as part of the Stanford Cardinal's Rose Bowl winning team. After being the No. 1 pick in the 1971 NFL Draft, Plunkett had seven unfulfilling seasons between the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers. In that span he compiled a 34-53 career record, never sniffing a playoff berth.

Ahead of the 1978 season, he was released by the 49ers; his football career was in the balance.

"It was the first time I'd been cut in my life in any sport. It was quite depressing," said Plunkett. "I didn't know if I wanted to continue playing football or change my lifestyle and do something else. It was tough."

Al Davis gave Plunkett one last shot at the NFL, signing the QB to serve as Hall of Famer Ken Stabler's backup.

All of that changed in the 1980 season when Houston Oilers quarterback Dan Pastorini was traded to the Raiders in exchange for Stabler. After a 2-2 start, Pastorini fractured his leg in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, and Plunkett got the shot to start again.

The rejuvenated Heisman winner went on to a 9-2 starting record and led the wild-card Raiders to a Super Bowl XV victory over the favored Philadelphia Eagles. With 261 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 145 quarterback rating, Plunkett was named the game's MVP, becoming the first and only Latino to win the honor.

"It was ecstasy to tell you the truth," he said of his first Super Bowl victory. "Finally getting into the playoffs and winning three games to get in that Super Bowl as a wild card, I was just in heaven during that time. Here I am struggling, I was out of football for a few days before the Raiders picked me up, and now all of a sudden, I'm in the playoffs trying to win a Super Bowl."

After 10 years of scratching and clawing to reach the mountaintop, more adversity soon followed. Super Bowl XV would be their last championship in the city of Oakland, relocating to the city of Los Angeles in 1982. While Plunkett remained the starting quarterback for the Silver and Black, the squad missed the playoffs the season after winning it all. The year after that, they suffered a devastating 17-14 loss to the New York Jets in the Divisional Round.

While the climb back up the mountain seemed steep, it became an insatiable desire in the locker room to taste ultimate victory again.

"You hope and think every year that you can do it again once you get that feeling," Plunkett said. "That Super Bowl win changed my outlook on team sports, the Raiders organization and professional football in general. Once you've been there, all of a sudden, you're losing these close games that you were winning just a year or two before.

"It kind of knocks you down a bit, but you always expect to get back."

Before the 1976 NFL Draft, the Patriots traded Plunkett to the 49ers in exchange for quarterback Tom Owen and a slew of draft picks. Already in possession of the No. 5 pick, the Patriots selected two-time All-American cornerback Mike Haynes from Arizona State.

Haynes' introduction to the Patriots was night and day to Plunkett's.

The first rounder almost instantly became their best defensive player, winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with eight interceptions. New England went 11-3 that season, including a 48-17 throttling over the Oakland Raiders in Week 4.

That was the Raiders only defeat the entirety of their 1976 season.

"Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch – I had to cover those guys," Haynes said of that game. "I got to see how fast Cliff Branch really was. We beat the Raiders in New England and so we thought we'd beat them again in the playoffs."

Fast forward two months later and the Raiders got a much-awaited rematch against Haynes and the Patriots in the Divisional Round. As a fully confident New England squad prepared to head to Oakland, something happens to Haynes that can only be considered a freak accident.

"The day before the game I was playing catch with the coach's [Chuck Fairbanks] son. He was about in sixth or seventh grade. He threw the ball kind of high, and I went up to catch the ball and something snapped in my calf," said Haynes. "I said, 'What could that be?'"

It turned out to be a torn calf muscle. After not participating in pre-game warmups, he initially didn't expect to play. Nevertheless, he gutted it out due to the circumstances.

"It didn't work out. I had to come out. And we didn't win the game. I did the best I could, but I was not the same quality player."

The Raiders went on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. As for Haynes, his team couldn't sustain success. The Patriots made two more playoff appearances, not getting past the Divisional Round in either.

The Patriots star cornerback racked up six Pro Bowl selections within his first seven seasons, but felt he wasn't getting compensated his true value.

"When I was trying to hold out for more money, people didn't understand what was really going on," Haynes reflected. "But at the time, defensive back was the second-lowest paid position in football. The only players that made less than defensive backs were kickers. But I was a first-round pick, I loved to play. I wasn't going to do anything to hurt the team, but I also didn't want to get taken advantage of.

"I couldn't be one of the best players on the defense but be the lowest paid player on the defense. That didn't make any sense to me."

It didn't make any sense to the Los Angeles Raiders either, who acquired Haynes while he was holding out during the 1983 season. His contract was awarded to them in a settlement that gave the Patriots two first-round picks.

The move to the Silver and Black was a bit of an ironic homecoming for Haynes. He grew up in Los Angeles and was excited to play close to family, but the Raiders were one of his most begrudged opponents in his NFL career, dating back to that playoff defeat his rookie year.

But all those past emotions went out the window with one phone call.

"It wasn't a general manager or coach calling me, it was Al Davis himself. His first question was, 'What do you think about playing for the Raiders?' When he asked that, it changed everything. I said, 'Mr. Davis, I would love to play for the Raiders.' He said, 'OK, I'll see if I can get you.'

"And he did."

Part 2 of the 40th Anniversary of Super Bowl XVIII series will publish on January 19, 2024.

An exclusive look back at the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII. The Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins 38-9 in Tampa, Florida.

back to top

Related Content

Latest Content