It was the best of teams; it was the worst of teams. It was a
club whose 5-1 start was as good as any in the NFL; it was a
club whose 0-6 finish was the league's worst. It was an offense
that scored 111 points during one three-game stretch; it was an
offense that twice went seven quarters without scoring a
touchdown. It was the City of Angels Monday through Friday; it
was the city of Hell's Angels on Sunday.
Last season the Raiders (team motto: Commitment to transience)
returned to Oakland, for home games only, after a 13-year hiatus
in Los Angeles. In this age of transition players and franchise
players, roving rogue-owner Al Davis created a transition
franchise: The team trained in L.A. during the week, then jetted
north to Oakland for game days.
The '95 Raiders will be remembered as a team with two homes and
just as many identities. After starting off the season with an
8-2 record and, in retrospect, needing only one more victory to
make the playoffs, Oakland lost six straight, including one game
to each of its four divisional foes. For the third time in four
years, the outfit that promotes itself as "professional sports'
winningest team" failed to make it to the postseason.
"When we were 8-2," says tailback Harvey Williams, "if somebody
had told me that we weren't going to make it to the playoffs,
I'd have probably slapped them and said, 'Get out of my face!'"
The Raiders' demise was directly related to the welfare of their
leader, 35-year-old quarterback Jeff Hostetler. When Hoss was
healthy, Oakland went 7-1. When injuries to his throat, left
hand and left shoulder forced Hostetler to miss all or part of
eight games, the Raiders were 1-7. The 13-year vet became a free
agent at season's end, prompting Davis to ante up $13.3 million
over four years to keep his quarterback in L.A., er, Oakland.
Just who will help keep Hostetler safe in the pocket is another
matter. Left tackle Gerald Perry was released, and right tackle
Greg Skrepenak signed with Carolina. The Raiders acquired
350-pound Lincoln Kennedy from Atlanta to man Perry's spot and
Pat Harlow, late of New England, as the offensive line's other
Two new starters will add veteran leadership to a defensive unit
whose strength is on the line. Super Bowl MVP cornerback Larry
Brown and defensive tackle Russell Maryland, both former
Cowboys, own six championship rings between them. Outside of
Terry McDaniel, who had six interceptions last year, it took the
Raiders' secondary an entire season to pick off as many passes
(two) as Brown did in the second half of last January's Super
Bowl. Free-agent strong safety Lorenzo Lynch, a former Cardinal,
will be another new face at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
"I was raised here," says Lynch, 33, who hawked hot dogs as a
teen during Raiders games. Lynch was working the Coliseum that
August night in 1978 when Oakland safety Jack Tatum leveled his
paralyzing blow on Patriots wideout Darryl Stingley.
Davis, who covets athletic two-sport types, dealt three draft
picks to the Oilers in order to move up eight spots in the first
round and claim Ohio State tight end Rickey Dudley. Overshadowed
in Columbus first by Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Jim Jackson
(Dudley played forward on the Buckeyes' basketball team for four
seasons) and later by Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George, the
6'6", 248-pound Dudley drew raves after outrunning another
Buckeyes teammate, New England wide receiver Terry Glenn, in
predraft workouts. Dudley's showing at minicamp in May moved
backup quarterback Billy Joe Hobert to say, "He is an impressive
The threat of Dudley over the middle augurs a return to the
track meets of yore that once were Oakland receivers patterns.
Expect to see Tim Brown, Raghib Ismail and James Jett go deep a
lot more this season. "It really doesn't seem right to have all
those fast receivers if you don't throw the ball downfield,"
says quarterbacks coach Larry Kennan.
The metamorphosis is complete: The Raiders are 100% Oakland once
more. Count on a nasty defense and an offense that travels long
distances by air, though no farther than it will on Labor Day
weekend. On Sept. 1 Davis and the Raiders make their '96 debut
at Baltimore against Art Modell's Ravens. Who says the NFL has
no sense of humor?
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER INSET [REGIONAL] Jeff Hostetler leads a Raiders revival
COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Although the team has settled in Oakland, Williams will still be on the move. [Harvey Williams]
BY THE NUMBERS
1995 Yards per Game (NFL rank in parentheses)
Rushing Passing Total
OFFENSE 120.8 (8) 223.3 (16) 344.1 (11)
DEFENSE 112.1 (17) 206.9 (10) 319.0 (11)
From Blue and Gold to Silver and Black
It didn't generate as much attention as the records established
by Dan Marino and Jerry Rice, but during the Raiders' 12-6 loss
at San Diego last Nov. 27, wideout Tim Brown moved to the head
of a distinguished class. In that game Brown made his 379th
career reception, vaulting past tight end Dave Casper as the
NFL's alltime leading pass catcher from Notre Dame.
Most Career NFL Receptions by Former Notre Dame Players
NFL career Team(s) Rec.
Tim Brown 1988-present Raiders 405
Dave Casper 1974-84 Raiders, Oilers,
Pete Holohan 1981-92 Chargers, Rams,
Chiefs, Browns 363
Mark Bavaro 1985-94 Giants, Browns,
Jack Snow 1965-75 Rams 340
PLAYER TO WATCH
After starting every game of his 1993 rookie season, Lincoln
Kennedy has been saddled by injury and weight problems. The
6'6", 350-pound offensive lineman, whom the Raiders acquired in
an April trade with the Falcons, reported to minicamp two years
ago at 415 pounds. Kennedy was accused of playing out of shape
last season, a condition the Oakland coaching staff hopes to
rectify. "When he's healthy and in shape," says senior
administrator Bruce Allen, "Lincoln can be a dominant player."
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Head coach: Mike White
QB Jeff Hostetler 286 att. 172 comp. 60.1% 1,998 yds.
12TDs 9 int. 82.2 rtg.
RB Harvey Williams 255 att. 1,114 yds. 9 TDs
FB Derrick Fenner 39 att. 110 yds. 0 TDs
TE Rickey Dudley (R)[*] 37 rec. 575 yds. 7 TDs
WR Tim Brown 89 rec. 1,342 yds. 10 TDs
WR Raghib Ismail 28 rec. 491 yds. 3 TDs
WR James Jett 13 rec. 179 yds. 1 TD
LT Lincoln Kennedy[*] 6'6" 350 lbs.
LG Steve Wisniewski 6'4" 285 lbs.
C Dan Turk 6'4" 290 lbs.
RG Kevin Gogan 6'7" 320 lbs.
RT Pat Harlow[*] 6'6" 290 lbs.
PK Jeff Jaeger 22/22 XPs 13/18 FGs
LE Nolan Harrison 0 sacks 0 fum. rec.
LT Chester McGlockton 7 1/2 sacks 2 fum. rec.
RT Russell Maryland[*] 2 sacks 0 fum. rec.
RE Pat Swilling 13 sacks 0 fum. rec.
OLB Rob Fredrickson 0 sacks 1 int.
MLB Greg Biekert 1 sack 0 int.
OLB Mike Jones 0 sacks 1 int.
CB Larry Brown[*] 6 int. 0 sacks
SS Lorenzo Lynch[*] 1 int. 1 sack
FS Eddie Anderson 1 int. 0 sacks
CB Terry McDaniel 6 int. 0 sacks
P Jeff Gossett 75 punts 41.2 avg.
PR Tim Brown 36 ret. 10.1 avg.
KR Napoleon Kaufman 22 ret. 26.0 avg.
[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie (college statistics)