Jim Plunkett, Las Vegas Raiders’ top free agent signing

The Las Vegas Raiders have been ultra-active in the National Football League free agent signing period adding defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, cornerbacks Darius Phillips and Anthony Averett, running back Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson and Ameer Abdullah, point carrier Chandler Jones, wide receiver Mack Hollins and guard Alex Bars, and of course Davante Adas.

Of course, the Raiders have a memorable history of signing exceptional free agents, including quarterback Jim Plunkett, tight end Todd Christensen, quarterback George Blanda, center Rodney Hudson, defensive end John Matuszak, wide receiver Jerry Rice, quarterback Rich Gannon and defensive lineman Otis Sistrunk, among others.

You can argue that Plunkett was the best of the lot because he helped lead the Raiders to victories in Super Bowls XV and XVIII.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Plunkett was selected winner of the Heisman Trophy, Walter Camp Award and Maxwell Award in 1970 when he was a consensus All-American and led Stanford to a 27-17 victory on the highly favored Ohio. State in the Rose Bowl.

Plunkett was the first pick in the 1971 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots, but in five seasons with the Pats he was beaten physically and mentally before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers, who released after playing there in 1976. -77.

Raiders managing general partner Al Davis signed Plunkett and told him to just take care of himself for a while and he didn’t even practice with the team at first because the Silver and Black were placed at quarterback -back with Kenny “The Snake” Stabler and David Humm.

“I owe a lot to Mr. Davis,” said Plunkett, who played the last nine seasons of his career with the Raiders in Oakland and Los Angeles. “He signed me and even though I had other offers, I no longer wanted to leave California and go anywhere else. He provided me with this opportunity, and then my job was to take advantage of this opportunity, and luckily, I did it.

“Going with the Raiders I was allowed to do what I could do best and that is start football. It put me in a position where I could help them win by being surrounded by the talent that I could do. they had at the time. It was a good time for me personally because I proved the critics wrong and it was a good time to be a Raider, there was no doubt about it.

Incredibly, Plunkett wasn’t the starting quarterback all season in the two years he led the Raiders to Super Bowl victory.

In 1980, the Raiders got quarterback Dan Pastorini in a trade from the Houston Oilers, but in Game 5 of the season he broke his leg in a game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Plunkett, 32, led the Silver and Black to nine wins in 11 games to qualify for the NFL playoffs with an 11-5 record.

Then the Raiders, with Plunkett at quarterback, beat the Houston Oilers, 27-7, and the Cleveland Browns, 14-12, in the first two rounds of the playoffs before upsetting the San Diego Chargers, 34- 27, in the AFC Championship. Game.

In Super Bowl XV, Plunkett passed for 261 yards and three touchdowns in another upset, 27-10, against the Philadelphia Eagles and he was selected the game’s most valuable player after helping the Raiders become the first team wild card to win the Super Bowl.

“It was a huge thrill and satisfaction after taking over the team in 1980 and leading the Raiders to a Super Bowl victory,” Plunkett said. “I was very proud of that fact.”

Three years later, Plunkett was again the backup quarterback for the Raiders, having been benched in favor of youngster Marc Wilson, but was back in the starting lineup when Wilson broke his left shoulder. .

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“It was amazing what three weeks off did for him,” coach Tom Flores said of Plunkett. “He was like a new guy. It was fresh, crispy, it moved better in the pocket. It was like he had an adrenaline rush or something.

Plunkett started the final 13 games of the regular season, with the Raiders winning 10 to finish with a 12-4 record to win the AFC West title.

In the playoffs, Plunkett led the Raiders to a 38-10 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and a 30-14 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, before beating the favorite Washington Redskins 38-9 in the Super Bowl XVIII as Plunkett completed 16-of-25 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown.

Plunkett is the only quarterback with two Super Bowl victories not to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Likewise, 6-8, 270 pounds Matuszak was a bust on and off the court after being the first overall pick in the 1973 NFL Draft at the University of Tampa, and he played with the Kansas Chiefs. City and the Washington Redskins before signing with the Raiders in 1976. All he did was play a vital role on the defensive line as the Silver and Black won Super Bowls XI and XV .

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Christensen was selected in the second round of the 1978 draft (No. 56 overall) out of BYU by the Dallas Cowboys and played for the New York Giants the following year before signing with the Raiders. Over the next 10 years for the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders, he caught 461 passes for 5,872 yards and 41 touchdowns while making four-time All-Pro, playing in five Pro Bowls, and assisting the Silver and Black to win Super Bowls XV and XVIII.

Hall of Famer Blanda, after an already stellar career with the Chicago Bears and Houston Oilers, signed with the Raiders in 1967 and helped them reach the Super Bowl that year, scored 156 field goals, 395 extra points and threw 23 touchdowns as the backup quarterback in nine seasons before retiring at age 48. In 1970, Blanda led the Raiders to five straight wins in which he provided the winning runs in the final minutes with his leg and arm.

Gannon, after playing for the Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs, signed with the Raiders in 1999, passed for 17,585 yards and 114 touchdowns and led them to a 45-29 record in six seasons, but they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at superbowl XXXVII. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2000 and an NFL MVP in 2022.

Rice, after his incredible career with the San Francisco 49ers, signed with the Raiders in 2001 and caught 243 passes for 3,286 yards and 18 touchdowns in four seasons, was a second-team All-Pro and played at Pro Bowl in 2002, in addition to helping the Silver and Black reach Super Bowl XXXVII.

The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Sistrunk did not play college football and after playing three seasons with the Norfolk Neptunes of the Continental Football League, he signed with the Raiders in 1972 and played seven seasons for the Silvers. and Black. ABC commentator Alex Karras was from “University of Mars,” Trunk was second-team All-Pro and played in the 1974 Pro Bowl, was a key factor on the offensive line when the Raiders won Super Bowl XI. Sacks and tackles weren’t official stats at the time, but we do know he had seven fumble recoveries and two pass interceptions.

If the Raiders get even a few players like this from their latest free agent haul, they’ll be in business in 2022.

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