The Raiders have 11 players from the 1970s enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It’s time Canton started looking at the 1980s Raiders, according to last week’s Talk of Fame Network poll. We asked our listeners and readers who is the best Raider not in the Hall and quarterback Jim Plunkett won with 32.6 percent of the vote, topping wide receiver Cliff Branch at 27.9 percent.
Plunkett won the Heisman Trophy at Stanford and the first overall pick of the 1971 draft. But he needed three stops in his NFL career to reach his potential. He played with the Patriots and 49ers before he resurrected his career with the Raiders, with whom he won two Super Bowls (1980 and 1983 seasons). Plunkett played 16 years but never went to a Pro Bowl and has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
The three Talk of Fame Network hosts, as usual, were split in their voting – and none voted Plunkett. Ron Borges cast his ballot for Branch, Rick Gosselin for tight end Todd Christensen and Clark Judge for coach Tom Flores. Cornerback Lester Hayes received 13.9 percent of the vote and coach Tom Flores 13.3, followed by safety Jack Tatum at 7.6 percent and Christensen at 4.7 percent.
“While the Raiders have several strong candidates for the Hall who have been too-long denied, including Hayes and landmark head coach Tom Flores, the most glaring omission is Branch,” Borges said. “His presence did much to put Stabler, Casper and Biletnikoff in the Hall of Fame and he was the key element in how the Raiders wanted to play offense in the 1970s and '80s.”
Branch set the then-NCAA 100-meter dash record in 1972 with a 10.0 clocking and was invited to the Olympic trials. That speed became his calling card on the football field. Branch averaged 17.3 yards per catch in his 14-year career, helping the Raiders win three Super Bowls. He deposited 67 of his 501 career catches in the end zone for touchdowns. He went to four Pro Bowls but has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Christensen went to five Pro Bowls, led the NFL in receiving twice and played on those two Super Bowl championship teams of the 1980s with Plunkett. Flores coached those two Super Bowl champs. Neither has been a Hall of Fame finalist.
“Four rings, including two as a head coach, and the first Hispanic to coach a Super Bowl winner and first Hispanic quarterback to be a Super Bowl champ,” said Judge of Flores. “There’s too much there, including social breakthroughs, not to notice.”