Five Oakland Raiders Greats Missing from the Hall of Fame
Dec 27, 2013; Alameda, CA, USA; General view of an Oakland Raiders helmet at press conference at Oakland Raiders Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jim Plunkett
In many ways, Jim Plunkett may be the weakest argument on this list. Plunkett, a Heisman winner out of Stanford and first overall pick of the New England Patriots in the 1971 Draft, spent seven years in the NFL (five with the Pats, two with the 49ers) before coming to Oakland in 1978, compiling a 34-53 record as a starter. While not completely out of line with the stats of an average starting QB of the 70’s, his stats weren’t particularly impressive: he threw 117 INT’s to 84 TD’s and completed 49% of his passes.
He arrived in Oakland in 1978 to serve as the backup to former Super Bowl winner Ken “the Snake” Stabler. He made a few brief appearances in the 1979 season, and in 1980 was expected to serve as Dan Pastorini’s backup when the former Oilers quarterback was brought in. In an early-season matchup against the Chiefs, however, Pastorini broke his leg, and Plunkett was named starter. After a disasterous five-INT game coming off the Bench for Pastorini, Plunkett threw 18 TD’s and 11 INT’s on his way to a 9-2 record as starting QB that year. He led the Raiders through the playoffs as a Wild Card team, winning three tough road games, including the famous “Red Right 88” game in Cleveland, and into Super Bowl XV against the Eagles. In the Super Bowl, he was magnificent: 13 of 21 for 261 yards and 3 scores, enough to be named Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl. Plunkett, who is of Mexican-American decent, was also the first minority quarterback to win a Super Bowl and the first Latino to be named MVP of the Super Bowl.
Cincy on the Prowl
After struggling with injuries in 1981, he led the Los Angeles Raiders to an 8-1 record in the strike-shortened 1982 season, but the team was bounced out of the playoffs early. In 1983, Marc Wilson was named starter going into the season, but went back to Plunkett after an early season injury to Wilson. In 13 starts, Plunkett led the team to 10 wins, completed over 60% of his passes, and threw 20 TD’s, including a Raider-record 99 yard score to Cliff Branch against the Redskins. Plunkett again led the team to the Super Bowl, where the underdog Raiders blew out the defending champion Redskins 38-9 behind a record-setting MVP performance by Marcus Allen.
Plunkett spent three more years in Los Angeles, starting only 17 more games due to an assortment of injuries. He retired after the 1986 season having thrown for nearly 26,000 yards and 164 TD’s in his career and a 72-72 record as a starter. In his eight years with the Raiders he threw for 12,665 yards and 80 TD’s, went 38-19 in the regular season and had an 8-2 record in the playoffs. He is the only Raider quarterback to appear in and win two Super Bowls, and he is one of eleven quarterbacks to have won two (or more) Super Bowls and the only eligible quarterback on that list not named to the Hall of Fame. He is one of four eligible quarterbacks to be named Super Bowl MVP that has not been voted into the Hall of Fame.
The standard commonly used in reference to a player’s worthiness of the Hall of Fame is “can you write the history of pro football and not name this player.” While Plunkett’s stats are somewhat underwhelming, and while he may have spent a good portion of his career struggling with injuries or as a backup, or starting on losing teams, the fact remains that he won two Super Bowls and was named MVP of one of them. He is the only quarterback to lead a Los Angeles team to a Super Bowl victory. He was the first minority QB to win a Super Bowl, the only Latino ever named MVP of the Super Bowl, and remains the ONLY eligible two-time Super Bowl winning QB to not be named to the Hall of Fame. While stats are good, and win-loss records are great, the ultimate standard by which quarterback careers are judged is championships, and Plunkett delivered two to the Silver and Black. Unfortunately, he is not the only member of those two championship teams snubbed by the Hall of Fame: