Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reminiscing about the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders

As I reminisce about my favorite Raiders team of all time several thoughts come to mind, how satisfying 1976 was, providing equal vindication was the 1980 team but I have to talk about 1983.

Taking you back to a time prior to free agency in the NFL; this didn’t start until 1992 known as “Plan A Free Agency” which remains in the league today. Actually the first form of free agency was known as “Plan B Free Agency” which was the norm from 1989-1992.

Speaking of free agency, the Raiders acquired CB Mike Haynes from the Patriots mid-season to shore up the secondary and form one of the strongest CB duos in the league. Being awarded his contract in a settlement the Patriots received a 1st round pick in 1984 and a 2nd round pick in 1985.

The Raiders franchise that started in 1960 in Oakland had moved 343 miles south to Los Angeles in 1982. The team had won two super bowls prior to coming to Los Angeles so the expectations were high. The Raiders second year in Los Angeles started with a successful draft.

The 1983 NFL draft was one of the leagues best ever, when you factor in the performance of the players drafted. This is the draft that is widely thought of as the draft that produced the QB bonanza of Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway.

However the fact that 15 of the 28 prospects selected in the first round participated in at least one Pro Bowl makes a definitive statement in my opinion. The draft was 12 rounds in those days and the Raiders got a lot of production out of several their selections that year.

First Round pick Center Don Mosebar played 173 games, Second Round pick Nose Tackle Bill Pickel played 174 games, Defensive End Greg Townsend played 190 games, Wide Receiver Mervyn Fernandez played in 86 games and Wide Receiver Dokie Williams played in 74 games.

When you consider that the players selected in 1983 were in addition to the second year players selected in 1982 Running Back Marcus Allen, Linebacker Jack Squirek, Free Safety Vann McElroy. This provided the Raiders an excellent mix of veterans and youth.

That mix produced a team that put up 20 points or better every game of the year. In fact, the Los Angeles Raiders scored 442 points (27.6 points per game) third in the league and allowed 338 points (21.1 points per game) 13th in the league.

One of the more intriguing games of that year was a wide open high scoring week five game against the Washington Redskins, the Raiders came into the game undefeated. A game won by the Redskins 37-35, in which the Raiders rushed for 105 yards and Jim Plunkett passed for 372 yards and four touchdowns.

Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann passed for 417 yards and three touchdowns and Running Back John Riggins rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown. An impressive game seeing the Redskins score 17 points in the final six minutes of the game, but an interesting note about the game was the fact that two future Hall of Fame players Marcus Allen & Mike Haynes didn’t play in that game.

Even in defeat the Raiders knew that they could play with and beat the Redskins and to a man still wanted a piece of the Washington Redskins as well as another shot to prove their point. That chance would come in the Super Bowl in Tampa, Florida.

After posting a 12-4 regular season record, winning the AFC Western Division in the process, the Raiders earned a playoff appearance. In the post-season the Los Angeles Raiders outscored the opposition 68-21 by beating the Steelers and the Seahawks.

The outstanding playoff run led to a Super Bowl match-up against the Washington Redskins on January 22, 1984 at Tampa Stadium. The Redskins were winners of Super Bowl XVII.

The Redskins were favored to win the game by three. Due to their stellar play all season, a 14-2 record, setting a NFL record scoring 541 points (later broken by the 1998 Vikings & 2007 Patriots) and the fact that the Redskins had the top rated defense. Washington defense allowed the fewest yards against the run.

Not to mention Joe Theismann was the league MVP, the second rated passer in the league that year. He had WR’s Art Monk & Charlie Brown at his disposal in concert with RB John Riggins and the always dangerous, Multi-talented Joe Washington.

Former NFL player Bronco Nagurski performed the coin toss, Barry Manilow sang the National Anthem and fittingly Pat Summerall & John Madden were in the Broadcast booth for CBS Sports. A total of 72,920 fans were at the game with millions more watching on television.

What we all witnessed was a Raiders blowout, seeing as the Redskins came in as the favorites and left after a humiliating defeat it become known as ‘Black Sunday’ in reference to one of the Raiders colors.

History buffs will associate the name ‘Black Sunday’ with the 1977 novel written by Thomas Harris and the film with the same name in 1977. The win gave the city of Los Angeles its first NFL championship since the Rams victory in 1951.

The starting lineup for the Raiders:


QB Jim Plunkett
RB Marcus Allen
FB Kenny King
WR Malcolm Barnwell
WR Cliff Branch
TE Todd Christiansen
LT Bruce E. Davis
LG Charley Hannah
C Dave Dalby
RG Mickey Marvin
RT Henry Lawrence


LDE Howie Long
NT Reggie Kinlaw
RDE Lyle Alzado
LOLB Ted Hendricks
LILB Matt Millen
RILB Bob Nelson
ROLB Rod Martin
LCB Lester Hayes
RCB Mike Haynes
SS Mike Davis
FS Vann McElroy

For those who don’t know the Raiders played a 3-4 defensive front and not the four-man line that the team has played for years.

The Raiders took an early one touchdown lead off of a Jeff Hayes punt that was blocked by Derrick Jensen deep in Redskins territory and never looked back.

Early in the second quarter Jim Plunkett connected with Cliff Branch on a 50-yard pass to advance the ball to the Redskins 15-yard line. Two plays later; Jim Plunkett found Branch again for a 14-point lead. The Redskins put together a 73 yard drive but it stalled in Raiders territory and Washington had to settle for a 27-yard field goal.

The score was 14-3 and the Raiders drive stalled leading to a punt, Ray Guy did the honors and pinned the Redskins at their own 12-yard line with .12 seconds left in the half. Linebacker coach Charlie Sumner made a last second substitution and sent in LB Jack Squirek for Matt Millen.

The Redskins called the play that the Raiders were ready for and waiting on “Rocket Screen”, but Jack Squirek read the play intercepted Theismann’s pass and returned it for a touchdown to make the score 21-3 at halftime.

Going back to week five, the Redskins ran the same play to Joe Washington and it resulted in a 67-yard gain. The Redskins put together a nine-play 70 yard drive capped off by a John Riggins TD but Mark Moseley’s extra point attempt was blocked by reserve Tight End Don Hasselbeck making the score 21-9.

On the next drive Redskins CB Darrell Green was called for a 38-yard pass interference penalty while defending WR Malcolm Barnwell, setting up Marcus Allen’s 5-yard TD run. The next Raider drive Marcus Allen broke free on a 74-yard run the made the statement that this game was officially over.

You know about all the stars of the game but what isn’t mentioned enough are the unsung hero’s like Punter Ray Guy (who should’ve been inducted into the Hall of Fame years ago), Linebacker Jack Squirek, Special Teams player Derrick Jensen to name a few.

When I think of my favorite Raiders teams, several thoughts come to mind but I can’t forget the 1983 Los Angeles Raiders.

Photo Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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