Raiders HOF semifinalists

Former Raiders among the 25 players who named as semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010

WR Cliff Branch, 1972-85: Al Davis campaigns hardest for Ray Guy, Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores, but Branch is the guy with the biggest gripe. A regular-season and postseason star. Contemporaries included Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, both in the HOF. I’d take Branch over either one.

WR/KR Tim Brown, 1988-2003: There are going to be some surprised people in Raider Nation when Brown doesn’t make it in his first year. Like it or not, there are a lot of voters who look at Brown’s stats and don’t see enough wins or a defining moment. They consider him like a 28 ppg scorer on a bad NBA team. Someone has to put up the numbers, even if they don’t mean all that much.

If Cris Carter wasn’t a first-ballot pick, neither is Brown.

RB Roger Craig, 1991: Gained 591 yards, averaged 3.6 yards per carry, scored one touchdown and had no run longer than 16 years in an end-of-the-line season after piling up terrific rushing-receiving numbers with the 49ers. That wouldn’t stop the Raiders from putting him their media guide should he be inducted _ which he won’t in 2010.

P Ray Guy, 1973-86: Two problems _ there are simply too many voters who will never vote for a punter. Ridiculous, of course. It’s a huge part of the sport, and you can leave it to Canton visitors to bypass his bust if they’re offended. Then there’s the “There goes the neighborhood” issue. Guy’s career stats are being obliterated by Shane Lechler, the heir to his legacy in silver and black. That makes the voters think, “You mean we’ll have to put in another punter some day?

CB Lester Hayes, 1977-86: Never clear as to why Hayes isn’t taken more seriously as a candidate. Think Charles Woodson is having a great season for the Packers this year? It’s not even close to what Hayes did in 1980 _ the single best season any defensive back has ever had. “The Judge” had 39 career interceptions and made five Pro Bowls.

WR Jerry Rice, 2001-04: In 2001 and 2002, Rice caught 175 passes for 2,350 yards and 16 touchdowns following two sub-1,000 yard season playing second-fiddle to Terrell Owens in San Francisco. In 2003, Rice finally started to show some age, catching 63 passes for 869 yards. He turned 41 that season. Those numbers are looking pretty good to the Raiders about now.

Look for Rice’s bio in your Raiders media guide next year, and deservedly so. Two great years and a turn-back-the-clock playoff game against the Jets following the 2001 season (9 catches, 183 yards, one touchdown) added to his legacy.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer