The 1976 Raiders took their rightful place atop the All Time list. They have been named the Greatest Team of All Time in the NFL.com bracket contest as voted by the fans. Equally so, the Raider Nation maintained its dominance as the most far reaching fan base in all of sports.
The last hurdle the 76 Raiders had to overcome was to beat the '00 Ravens in the championship game. That was the year Ravens nose tackle Tony Siragusa belly-flopped on Rich Gannon, knocking him out of the game and the Raiders out of the playoffs. And by beating out the '00 Ravens, the '76 Raiders and the Raider Nation by extension have avenged the '00 Raiders.
The '76 Raiders came in as a 5 seed and beat out the '08 Steelers. ‘ 93 Cowboys, '78 Steelers, '99 Rams, ‘85 Bears, and '00 Ravens to win the title. The bracket began with all three Super Bowl winning Raiders teams but the '80 and '83 Raiders were both knocked out in the first round. The '80 Raiders lost out to the '04 Spygate Patriots and the '83 Raiders lost out to the '66 Packers. So the '76 Raiders are the only team left in the tournament.
The most deserving teams the '76 Raiders beat out was the '85 Bears who they knocked out in the semi-finals. But the same couldn't be said for the ‘00 Ravens. So the ‘76 Raiders will do much like they did to win the championship- they faced their toughest competition in the semi-final round. That season the real championship was when the Raiders beat their rival Steelers to move on to their first Super Bowl win by rolling over the Vikings.
The '76 Raiders were a complete team on both sides of the ball with several Hall of Fame players as well as players who should have been Hall of Famers. While Hall of Famer Gene Upshaw and three time Super Bowl winning center Dave Dalby opened run lanes for Mark Van Eeghen, Clarence Davis and Pete Banaszak, Hall of Famer Art Shell protected Ken Stabler's blindside allowing him to surgically carve up opposing defenses in the passing game with Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch and Hall of Famer Dave Casper.
On defense there were legendary players who struck fear into opposing offenses. Guys like John Matuszak, Phil Villapiano, Hall of Famer Ted Hendricks, Hall of Famer Willie Brown, George Atkinson, and Jack Tatum. And then you can add in All Pro punter Ray Guy. Not to mention Hall of Fame owner Al Davis and Hall of Fame coach John Madden.
The 76 Raiders team is the only team from the 70's or prior to make it into the final four. It is simply a case of most fans of the NFL not being old enough to remember the teams of the 70's.
The 1976 Oakland Raiders are true champions. And the way the Raider Nation responded to see to it they clinched the title as the Greatest Team of All Time had them living up to their monicker as well. An entire nation came together to make this happen-- nation that stretches across the world.
Now if only the Pro Football Hall of Fame would recognize players like Cliff Branch, Ken Stabler, Dave Dalby, Jack Tatum, and Ray Guy as legitimate greatness and enshrine them in their hallowed halls.
That was the Greatest TEAM of All Time and these players were a big part of what made it great.
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