Before Al Davis phoned in the Darrius Heyward-Bey pick at the ’09 draft, you had to go back a full twenty years to find the last wide receiver selected in round one by the Raiders.
In 1988, Mr. Davis picked a Heisman winner from Notre Dame named Tim Brown with the 6th overall selection.
The rest is Raider lore.
Brown sits atop the list of every major receiving category for the storied franchise. There’s not another Silver and Black brethren within shouting distance of Brown. His reception and yardage totals are nearly double those of Fred Biletnikoff, the next closest Raider.
Among all his accomplishments, there is one number that just doesn’t feel right. Brown ended his Raider career with 99 TD receptions, just one shy of the mythic century total. Not that Brown fell short of 100 scores as a Raider, quite the opposite. With 5 other touchdowns via rushing, kick and punt returns, #81 was well beyond the magical number of 100. Still, the fitting way to end his reign would have been hanging a c-note atop the record book.
After 2003, Brown left Oakland to join his former coach Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. His arrival as a Buccaneer was just two years removed from Chucky’s revenge on Al Davis in the Super Bowl. As if scripted, Brown caught just one TD pass as a Buccaneer and as fate would have it, the 100 plateau was reached against the Raiders and was done so in Oakland just for good measure. Brown’s team lost that day, but a devilish root was placed on any man who would dare to lineup out wide for the Raiders.
Not that Brown’s career records will ever be threatened, but since his departure, not even his worst years are as paltry as the best years for Raider receivers.
Since 2004, no Raider wide receiver has caught more than 65 passes in a season. Only one, Randy Moss, has eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier and he inched over the finish line with a total of 1,005 yards. Only Jerry Porter has come close to double digit TD receptions. His 9 in ’04 was one better than the 8 Moss caught in ’05.
Each year since Brown’s departure, the numbers have dwindled.
The team leading reception totals for wide outs has dropped each year since ’06, finally bottoming out in ’08 as Johnnie Lee Higgins led the receiving core with just 22 catches.
While Zach Miller has emerged as the most reliable set of hands on the roster, he’s still not the deep threat Mr. Davis so covets. Sure, Miller is very capable of big plays and averages an astounding 12.8 yards per catch for his career with that number only growing with each game. Currently, Miller averages 15.0 yards per grab, up from his 13.9-yard average one year ago.
Despite Miller’s athletic prowess, he’s not ever going to be the speed merchant necessary to fulfill all the promise of the vertical game.
Brown’s curse is that no other Raider will ever be adequate enough to fill his shoes. In addition to the long shadow he casts, his 99 career TD catches is destined to remain forever one score shy of symmetry. Thus he leaves an incomplete body of work as an improbable target for any man in Silver and Black to ever hit.
Just ask Chaz Schilens who looked poised to explode in ’09 only to lose half his season to a foot injury sustained in camp during a non-contact drill. The new #81 has found it difficult to walk – let alone run – on the trail blazed by the old #81.
Halfway through the season, rookie Louis Murphy – he of the fourth round by way of Florida – leads the Raider receivers with just 16 receptions.
As for top pick Heyward-Bey, well he’s got a lot of work to do if he’s going to work his way up to screaming distance of Tim Brown. Only 8 games into his Raider career and DHB’s 5 catches are good for 155th on the all-time list putting him in a tie with the likes of teammate Todd Watkins, Chad Hetherington and David Dunn to name a few.
There really is no way for any Raider to ever compare to Tim Brown. He’ll always stand alone. In this era, no player will be as productive with the same team for as many years as Brown was with the Raider organization.
If there were any justice, Brown would return for one game and he would make that 100th grab to return the good karma to the Coliseum. The problem is that with only two TD passes in eight games this year, the odds of Brown picking the right game to suit up for seems as long as the odds of DHB being lucky enough to see 9 TDs in a season let alone 99 in his Raider career.
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Tags: Al Davis, Oakland Raiders, Raider Nation, Fans, Popular, Featured Chad Hetherington Chaz Schilens Darrius Heyward-Bey David Dunn Fred Biletnikoff Jerry Porter Johnnie Lee Higgins Jon Gruden Louis Murphy Randy Moss Tim Brown Todd Watkins Zach Miller