With ProFootballTalk releasing their Oakland Raiders Mt. Rushmore, the Just Blog Baby team decided to compile its own list of the four members of the Raiders that make the team’s iconic image taking a stab at one of the most difficult tasks and debates we have faced to date. With the long and infamous history of the Raiders, how the hell should anyone be expected to select just four people to take the spotlight?
Unlike the PFT poll this is all based on the one individual opinion of myself, co-editor Shane and our excellent new staff writers Nick Rangel, Michael Dill and experienced JBB staffer Mariano Hernandez. The five of us exchanged emails yesterday and as expected we all came up with a different list in what was an interesting debate.
With just four choices, I contemplated making it a Top Ten simply due to the fact that in such an iconic franchise, narrowing down to just four choices leaves out so many deserving candidates. ProFootballTalk’s list had Davis, Madden, Marcus Allen and Howie Long, yet not one member of the JBB team picked Long on their list, showing just how hard it is to make the cut down to just four Oakland Raiders. Yet we soldiered on, cut some of our favorite Raiders off our list out of respect for others, and maybe stuck with our favorite players too much, but hey it is our Mt. Rushmore.
Here are the choices of Just Blog Baby’s Staff:
Chase Ruttig (Co-Editor)
As you will read below, this was the unanimous number one choice ahead of Madden. It wouldn’t be Just Win Baby or Just Blog Baby without Al Davis and the game of football just feels a little less fun without him as the face of the organization. Besides for the Raider logo itself, Al Davis will forever be the face of the Raiders as well as its heart. R.I.P.
I wanted to keep Madden off of the list out of respect to Tom Flores who won more Super Bowls, but how can you leave the second most popular member of the Raiders organization off the list. Sure he retired from the game too soon, but the formative years of the Raiders were spearheaded by Al and John and the two are two of the NFL’s pioneers that put the game where it is to day. If there is a perfect Raiders Mt. Rushmore, those two would be side by side.
This spot was a three way debate between Upshaw, Art Shell, and Otto as I wanted to pay homage to at least one of the three great linemen that put on the Silver and Black and I had to go with Upshaw simply because he finished ahead of the other two in any argument I could come up with.
Sure Otto was the original Raider, but his career was overshadowed by Al and Madden. Art Shell was a trailblazer as a head coach, but his second stint in Oakland sours the thoughts of his legacy.
Upshaw wasn’t perfect and maybe his career with the NFLPA makes many think of him as a suit and not a Raider, but he is one of the most respected players to ever put on shoulder pads. The heart and soul of the Oakland Raiders playing on the line, Upshaw went on to famously lead the NFLPA and when he died we all realized the impact he had on the game. Playing the most games in the Silver and Black than anyone who isn’t Tim Brown Gene Upshaw embodies the true meaning of “Commitment to Excellence.”
I had to have one Raider that I have seen play live on the list and being 20 years old and forming my love for the Raiders on the Gruden/Callahan years of the early 00′s. Still if there is any modern Raider that is deserving of being next to the trio of Davis, Madden and Upshaw it is Tim Brown.
The guy played in LA and in Oakland, playing the most games in Raiders history. He leads the team in any measure of receiving statistics you can think of. He returned a punt return for an 88 yard touchdown in his thirteenth season in the NFL. He played in a Super Bowl for the Raiders after sticking with the team through some trying years and it was a shame that the team released him to go to Tampa Bay for his last true NFL season.
I know he never won a Super Bowl, but does it really matter? If we are going to define a true Raider in the modern era it is Tim Brown. They don’t make football players like him anymore and every year he doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame I sit down and feel a little bit of pain for the most underrated player of his era. Jerry Rice and Cris Carter can have the stats, but Tim Brown will always be my favorite receiver of his era. For now he rounds out my Mt. Rushmore as he awaits the Hall of Fame voters to wake up and realize the impact he had on the game. Perhaps they need to take a trip down to Oakland.
Shane Schilperoot (Co-Editor)
Davis and Madden are no brainers for the first two spots on the Raiders Mt. Rushmore and here they are.
Jim Otto has been a fixture of the Raiders organization his entire career, and he has continued to be a part of the organization since his retirement. Playing with the Raiders on the line since the beginning days in the AFL, Jim Otto is a true Raider.
Ted Hendricks/Gene Upshaw
The last spot, that is the tough one. The front runners for me are Ted Hendricks, Fred Biletnikoff, Willie Brown, and Gene Upshaw. All deserve a spot due to the fact that they continued to praise the Raiders throughout their careers and retirement. Most of them have been a part of the organization in some capacity after their retirement from playing. Tim Brown is a close 5th position, but he is beat out due to the impact the others had during the Super Bowl years. If you went off of winning success, I would go with either Ted Hendricks or Gene Upshaw. They were there for all three Super Bowls. They both continued their winning ways into their retirement and became pivotal figures in their respective communities. Tough one and I can’t make a clear call on it so it will be a draw.
Nick Rangel (Staff Writer)
When considering an “Mount Rushmore” for the Raiders, I first looked to see what standard was applied when choosing the faces for our national monument. I found out that a special commission ultimately chose the presidents who best represented the “foundation, expansion and preservation” of the United States.
Who has done the same for the Oakland Raiders?
Let’s not kid ourselves. This is really tough. Sure they may have missed a few, but Pro Football Talk has a great list of names on their online ballot. Perhaps Bo Jackson, despite a short career, belongs on there. What about Jack Tatum? It just isn’t easy to narrow things down to a short list, let alone narrow things down to four men.
Let’s start with the one automatic nominee. There should no debate – Al Davis is the first face on the Raiders “Mt. Rushmore.” His impact in Oakland – and the NFL – is simply unparalleled. He is the patriarch of the Raider family, the one who called for a “Commitment to Excellence.” Without him there would be no Super Bowl wins, no “GREATNESS” of the Raiders.
I felt like one of the faces should be a defender, one that represented the “take no prisoners” mentality of the team during the glory years. For example, when I think of the Raiders, it’s hard not to remember the iconic, slow-motion footage of the great Willie Brown’s 75-yard touchdown return in Super Bowl XI. But “Old Man Willie” started his career in Denver, and I think any face on a Raiders monument should have been a Raider throughout his career.
Lord knows there were plenty of stand-out, roughneck HOF defenders who deserve consideration. It’s just not easy to separate them. There are simply too many.
So I have to go with Jim Otto. Part of the 1960 team, Otto was Oakland’s center for the first 15 years of its existence. Images of the man who wore number 00 dominate classic footage of the Raiders. Even Phil Villapiano called him the “leader of the Raiders.” Just a couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Otto at a media event, and the cane-bound man remains a true ambassador of the Silver & Black. He’s never stopped representing the team and above all else will forever be remembered as a Raider.
It’s hard to not pick John Madden, and I’m not going to fight it. Madden has to go on Oakland’s Rushmore. Once in an interview he said, “They wanted to say ‘the Raiders are dirty.’ Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’re dirty. Yup. What are you gonna do about it?” This sums up Madden as a man and as a Raider. Football is a sport of gladiators, hitting and tackling each other to stop the opponent at all costs. It’s no place for niceness or consideration. Madden knew this and led a team of outcasts and misfits, year in and year out, daring the other team to “do something about it.” It’s this mentality that created mystique that at some point attracted all Raider fans.
The Raider Logo
It’s impossible to talk about the “foundation, expansion and preservation” of the Raider nation without acknowledging the power of the Raider image. Not the fan store, but the enduring symbols and colors (and poem) that make the franchise unforgettable and impossible to ignore. It is the logo, image of the face on the shield of our jackets, hats, jerseys and flags that has gone unchanged since 1964. The logo represents players, coaches AND fans. The organization and the fans have become virtually inseparable, and for that reason, the face on the shield belongs on any Oakland moment to stand for all members of the Raider Nation.
Michael Dill (Staff Writer)
Keeping Al Davis off of this list would be worse than putting JaMarcus Russell on it. Al’s influence on the Raiders franchise was so powerful that his presence will be felt as long as the team exists. I’d argue that Al deserves a spot on the Mt. Rushmore for the entire NFL.
Another fairly easy choice. I know Flores won two Super Bowls to Madden’s one, but John is much more iconic. He reached 100 regular season wins in only 10 seasons, has won more games than any other Raiders coach, and has the second highest winning percentage (including playoffs) in NFL history. He accomplished so much despite retiring from coaching at 42. His face deserves to be carved in granite.
Filling the last two spots was tougher for me. Even though I am too young to remember most of the Raider greats, my father made sure I knew who Fred Biletnikoff was. I live in Erie, Pennsylvania – the same place Freddy grew up. He is famous for his use of stickum, but I still think he is the best receiver in Raiders history. To me, he also represents the reach of the Raider Nation. He is responsible for my family’s introduction to the team; I’m sure every fan has a unique connection to the Raiders.
The last spot could go to a few players. Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, and Art Shell are all names that popped into my mind. However, I would finish off my Mt Rushmore with Jack “The Assassin” Tatum. For a young guy like me, Tatum represents the hard-nosed, brutal style of play that Chuck Noll called the “criminal element” of the NFL. He made opposing players focus more on him and less on the ball – and then he’d hit them anyway. I think he deserves a spot, but I could see him being substituted out for a few other Raider greats.
Mariano Hernandez (Staff Writer)
My choices for the top four people who should be on the “Mount Rushmore” of the Raiders is not very different than what many fans would choose. This is one hard task for any Raiders fan. When you have an organization that has legends over a 50 year time span, it can seem almost impossible. The hardest part isn’t in choosing who to put in, but more so who doesn’t get in. PFT submitted 12 choices to choose from and all of those choices are legitimate contenders but we Raiders fans know that 12 just aren’t enough. Instead of one mountain, the Raiders would need a whole mountain ridge.
My criteria for my choices were based on two factors. First and foremost is their contribution to the team. Whether on the field, the sidelines or upstairs, they had to leave an indelible mark on our great team. Secondly, how do they stack up in comparison to other legends? Not only on the Raiders, but in football in general. Could their body of work hold up against other legends and by doing so, still bring pride to the Raiders.
So with that I give you my four.
Without question, he would be the first face to go up. You could very easily make the case that he would not only be on the Raiders Mt. Rushmore but also the NFL’s version as well. His resume is legendary and when it comes to what he did for the team, it goes without question he would be number one. Just to name a few of his accomplishments with the team and with the NFL:
- As coach, he took a losing team with nine wins in first three seasons and built it into a 10-4 season his first year as coach. Won Coach of the Year in his first year as Raiders coach. Would keep that winning tradition going as GM and owner and expanded that to a span of over 40 years.
- Led the Raiders into SB appearances in four different decades
- Only person to induct nine people into the Hall of Fame
- Only person in NFL history to serve as scout, asst. coach, head coach, GM, owner ,and commissioner of league(AFL)
- First owner to hire minorities as head coaches and as executives (Tom Flores, Art Shell, Amy Trask)
- Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1992
Next on the mountain would be John Madden. As coach of the Raiders, he guided his teams to playoff appearances in eight of the ten years during the 70’s, reaching the conference title game seven times. Remarkably, in his ten years as coach, he never once had a losing record. Once he left the Raiders he went on to become a 14 time Emmy winning sportscaster for both CBS and FOX. He would also change the way football was presented as he was one of the first to use a tele-strator which has become a staple of modern day sports casts. He would also lend his name to what has arguably become one of the most popular video games of all time. The video game, John Madden Football has introduced new fans to the game of football while also teaching the principals of football schemes. Did you know that when John Madden Football was introduced in 1988, the playbook used was modeled after the Raiders playbook?
- Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2006
- Coached the team to their first Super Bowl in 1976
- .759 regular season winning percentage is best all time for coaches with at least 100 games
- Never had a losing record against other HOF coaches that he coached against
- Coached HOF’s :
- Fred Bilinikoff, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Dave Capser, Ted Hendricks, Jim Otto, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw
Next on my list would have to be Tom Flores. Given the reins to the Raiders after John Madden retired, he successfully guided the team to another two Super Bowl victories. Not only are they significant for the organization but keep in mind that the victories came against two heavily favored teams in the Eagles and the Redskins. Before his turn as head coach he was an assistant for the John Madden Super Bowl team. So he actually has three rings as a coach and one as a player when he was a backup QB to Len Dawson when Kansas City won their Super Bowl. Four Super Bowl rings is an impressive feat by any standard. How Tom Flores is not in the Hall of Fame is a travesty on behalf of Canton. Especially when you consider that, statistically speaking, there are people with less than Tom Flores that are in the HOF.
- First Hispanic in NFL to start at QB
- First Hispanic Head Coach to coach in a Super bowl
- Won two Super Bowls in 1980 and 1983
- First minority head coach to win a Super Bowl
- Leading Passer for Raiders for the team’s first five years
- .610 winning percentage with Raiders (second only to John Madden)
- Coached HOF’s:
- Marcus Allen, Dave Casper, Mike Haynes, Ted Hendricks, Howie Long, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw
My last pick for me was the toughest. Gene Upshaw stands out above the other contenders for several reasons. First, he played his entire career with the Raiders, 15 years. If that doesn’t personify commitment to excellence what does? Secondly, he is the only Raider to ever play in Super Bowls in three different decades. He amassed a total of 307 total games played between preseason, regular season and post season. After his time with the Raiders he would go on to help with the Players Association and would eventually become the executive director of the NFLPA. Upshaw spearheaded the bargaining that led to free agency and the salary cap, as well as an increased benefits package for the players.
- Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1987
- Named to Pro Bowl 6 times in 15 year career
- Named to NFL’s 75th Anniversary All Time Team, NFL’s All Decade team (1970’s), and to Sporting News’ list of 100 Greatest Players
- As team captain, led Raiders to two Super Bowls, helping team gain 266 rushing yards against the Vikings in SB XI
There are many other greats that I left out and for me that was the hardest part. Next on my list would be Tim Brown, Marcus Allen, Kenny Stabler, Jim Plunkett and on and on. It’s a shame that we only had four to pick. When the time comes, all of these great Raiders will have their legacies immortalized in a Raiders Hall of Fame that is being planned when the new stadium comes.