Las Vegas Raiders: 15 best defensive backs of all-time
By John Buhler
Late Las Vegas Raiders owner Al Davis sought to win out on the perimeter defensively. The Raiders have had some great defensive backs. Here are the 15 best.
Al Davis did just about everything in his football life. He was a scout, a coach, a general manager, and even a league commissioner. However, we best remember him as the founder and longtime owner of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Davis came up with the iconic Silver and Black color scheme, paying tribute to the Detroit Lions and the Army Black Knights. He was also synonymous with the Raiders organization’s mantras of “Commitment to Excellence” and “Just Win, Baby”.
Though Davis passed away in 2011, he left several lasting marks on both the Raiders and the NFL. One of the more underrated marks he did leave on the Raiders organization was his method to building a defense. Instead of looking to win first along the defensive line, he sought to have shutdown corners on the outside to mitigate the opposing passing game.
The Las Vegas Raiders have a rich history at defensive back
Davis loved his track stars, and certainly had more than his fair share of elite defensive backs on his team. Frankly, the Raiders’ prowess in the back-end of the defense was key to them being one of the most dominant and physically imposing teams for several decades.
A few of these great former Raiders cornerbacks and safeties have earned enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many of them have earned trips to the Pro Bowls and spots on All-Pro teams. Without further ado, let’s get down to it. Here are the 15 greatest defensive backs to have ever played for the Silver and Black.
- Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2000)
- NFL 75th Anniversary Team
- NFL 1990s All-Decade Team w/Raiders
- First-Team All-Pro, Pro Bowl w/Raiders (1991)
- NFL interceptions leader w/Raiders (1991)
Ronnie Lott is best known for being arguably the best safety in football history. From his time at USC, Lott remains the gold standard when it comes to scouting defensive backs heading into the NFL Draft. Professionally, he built a Pro Football Hall of Fame career primarily with the Bay Area rival San Francisco 49ers. However, we can’t forget the two strong years Lott played for the Silver and Black in the early 1990s.
Prior to 1991, Lott had spent his entire NFL career with the team that drafted him No. 8 overall in the 1981 NFL Draft out of USC in the 49ers. In his first 10 years with the 49ers, Lott was a nine-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time All-Pro, and most importantly, a four-time Super Bowl Champion. Yet, Lott did leave San Francisco for the Silver and Black in 1991 NFL free agency.
Lott would spend the next two years with the Raiders when they were based in Los Angeles. While the 49ers might have seen Lott past his prime, he put together one last All-Pro season with the Silver and Black in 1991. Lott led the NFL in interceptions with eight for 52 yards.
Though his second and final season in Los Angeles wasn’t nearly as good as his first, Lott did manage to play in all 16 games again for the Raiders. While the Raiders made the AFC playoffs in 1991 as a wild card team, Los Angeles went 16-16 plus that one playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Lott’s brief time with the team.
He would leave the Raiders in 1993 NFL free agency, as Lott signed a two-year deal with the New York Jets. In 31 games with the Jets over two seasons, Lott managed just three interceptions. He did end up joining yet another AFC team in 1995 NFL free agency in the form of the Kansas City Chiefs but was far too beat up physically to see the field beyond the preseason.
Lott signed with this original NFL team in San Francisco before the end of the 1995 campaign, but he never saw the field for the 49ers. He retired after the end of the 1995 NFL season at the age of 36. Since Lott did not play in an NFL regular season in 1995, he would be eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2000.
Lott gained entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot. His Canton classmates include former Raiders teammate Howie Long, former 49ers teammate Joe Montana and former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. That’s definitely a star-studded hall of fame class for sure.
Overall, people tend to forget that Lott even played for the Raiders. However, his one last great year did come in the Silver and Black. Given that he was First-Team All-Pro in 1991, never missed a start in his two years with the Raiders, and that Lott is arguably the greatest safety of all-time, his absence on this list would have been asinine. Though certainly a Trojan and 49er before a Raider, Lott did look good in his brief time with Silver and Black.