Every now and then a great player leaves a team on which he spent a large portion of his career to join another team. Sometimes that’s to find success he hadn’t found before and other times it’s to prove something to himself or to others.
We are seeing it right now with nine-year NBA veteran Kevin Durant option to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors in the hopes the move will pay off with championships. He took a page out of Lebron James’s book who did it twice – once when he left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat, and again when he left Miami to return to Cleveland.
It’s because of the Warriors loss to the Lebron led Cavaliers that they felt they needed to add the extra piece in Durant. And it’s because of the Thunder’s loss to the Warriors in the Western Conference finals that Durant felt he needed to join forces with them to get a ring.
This NBA carousel got me thinking. What established star players improved upon their legacy by joining the Silver & Black? Here are my top 10.
1. Ted Hendricks
In just his second season in the NFL in 1970 Hendricks was a Super Bowl champion with the Baltimore Colts. He had been named a Pro Bowler four straight years with the Colts and Packers and was coming off an All Pro season in 1974 when the Raiders traded two number one picks to acquire him. He was on all three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl teams and late in his career was again an All Pro twice and headed to four more Pro Bowls. He was a no-doubt Hall of Famer with four Super Bowl rings, 8 Pro Bowl trips, and four All Pro nods with three different teams.
2. Willie Brown
Brown played the first four seasons of his career for the Denver Broncos and in 1964 -- just his second season -- he was elected All AFL. He was named to the AFL All Star team the following season as well. In his fourth season in Denver, he was traded to the Raiders where he played the final 12 seasons of his long Hall of Fame career.
From 1967 to 1973, Brown went to seven straight Pro Bowls and was elected first team All Pro four times.
He will most be remembered by Raider fans for his interception of Fran Tarkenton in Super Bowl XI which he returned a record 75 yards for a touchdown to seal the game for the Raiders. He played 16 years in the NFL which was nearly unheard of in those days (or in these days for that matter). His longevity and sustained dominance made him a no-doubt Hall of Famer. And he has been on the Raiders coaching staff practically since the day he retired in 1978.
3. Mike Haynes
Raiders fans remember him as the part of the lock down duo of Haynes and (Lester) Hayes. But before he joined the Raiders in 1983, he had already been to six Pro Bowls in his first seven years with the Patriots. He added three more Pro Bowls with the Raiders along with being named All Pro twice. And he got his only Super Bowl ring in his first season with the Raiders in 1983. He too is in the Hall of Fame. Though his counterpart, Lester Hayes, is not.
4. Rich Gannon
It may be a stretch to say Gannon was ‘great’ before signing with the Raiders, but he was established. He spent his first 11 years of his career on four different teams. He was originally a fourth round pick by the New England Patriots in 1987. And over the next 11 seasons, he never started a full season, only starting the majority of the season four times – Vikings 1990-92 and Chiefs in 1998. This despite holding a career winning record as a starter (31-27). Following that ‘98 season as a 10-game starter in Kansas City, he was snatched up by Jon Gruden to be the Raiders next starting quarterback.
Gannon's first four seasons in Oakland were seasons for the ages. He went to Pro bowls every season and his passing numbers were 3840, 3430, 3828, and 4689. He never threw less than 24 TD's and the Raiders didn't have a single losing season during that time. In his NFL MVP and Super Bowl season of 2002, he averaged nearly 300 yards per game.
5. Jerry Rice
Rice could have retired as a 49er in 2000 after 16 years in San Francisco with 10 All Pro seasons and 3 Super Bowls and still been a first ballot Hall of Famer. But he wasn’t done. To prove it he joined the Raiders and helped take them back to the Super Bowl. He had two more 1000-yard seasons and added another Pro Bowl to his already ridiculous 12 Pro Bowls. He finally retired at the 2004 season and five years later became arguably the most no-brainer first ballot Hall of Famer ever.
6. George Blanda
Blanda had also already played an entire career prior to joining the Raiders. He was 40 years old before he ever put on a Raider uniform. The former All Pro quarterback and kicker switched primarily to kicker with the Raiders and play another nine seasons including heading to the Pro Bowl in his first season in Oakland. He was also the team's backup quarterback and came on in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica quite a few times. He threw for 23 touchdowns for the Raiders all while being the Raiders leading scorer as the kicker. He was the Raiders all-time leading scorer up until a few seasons ago when surpassed by Sebastian Janikowski.
7. Charles Woodson
The only guy on this list who would fit into the ‘ones that got away’ as well. He ‘got away’ to Green Bay for seven seasons after having spent the first eight years of his career with the Raiders. After his career in Green Bay was up, he had four Pro Bowls as a Raider and as a Packer. He add one more Pro Bowl last season, his final season in the NFL. He went to the playoffs three times with the Raiders, including the Super Bowl in 2002. But he wouldn’t get his Super Bowl ring until 2010 with the Packers. A switch to safety helped him prolong his career and finish it out with three more years in Oakland to retire a Raider.
8. Jerry Robinson
The 21st overall pick by the Eagles in 1979 draft, Robinson played six season in Philadelphia. He actually lined up against the Raiders as part of the Eagles team the Raiders trounced in Super Bowl XV. Jerry was born and raised in the Bay Area and signed with his hometown Raiders in 1985. Unfortunately, by this time, they were no longer in Oakland, they had moved to Los Angeles. But that was not a big deal because Robinson played college ball at UCLA. He would spend the final seven season of his career with the Raiders. From 1986-90, he missed just five games and started every game in which he appeared. He still makes his home in the Los Angeles area to this day.
9. Eric Allen
Allen made six Pro Bowls with the Eagles and Saints in his eight years in the league. The 10-year veteran played the final four years of his career with the Raiders as their everyday starting right cornerback in their resurgent years from 1998 to 2001. Over that time, he collected 15 interceptions, returning three of them for touchdowns in the 2000 season. How he wasn’t a Pro Bowler that year is a mystery, honestly. Unfortunately for him, his last game as a Raider was the Tuck Rule snow job in Foxboro. He retired from football after that and wasn’t on the team the following year when they broke through to the Super Bowl. Since his retirement, he has been an NFL analyst and as much of an ambassador as he’s been for the Raiders, you’d think he’d been a career Raider.
10. Lyle Alzado
Another player who had played basically what amounts to a career before joining the Raiders. He played his first eight seasons in Denver, where he started every game in which he played and made two Pro Bowls, being named All Pro once. He then played three seasons in Cleveland, again starting every game in which he played and making another Pro Bowl. He joined the Raiders in 1982 and was a major part of their run to win Super Bowl XVIII.
Albert Lewis – 11-year veteran, 4-time Pro Bowler with Kansas City Chiefs spent final five seasons as a starting defensive back for the Raiders.
Richard Seymour -- After 8 years in New England, making 5 Pro Bowls at defensive end, he was traded to Oakland where he would spend the final four seasons of his career, made two more Pro Bowls after a move to defensive tackle.
Russell Maryland – 5-year veteran 1-time Pro Bowler with Cowboys. Spent four years as a fulltime starting defensive tackle for the Raiders.
Art Powell -- An All AFL selection in 1960, he had already put up 3178 yards and 27 TD's in three seasons for the New York Titans. He was an AFL All Star in each of his four seasons with the Raiders including one season as All AFL. After his fourth year he was packaged with Tom Flores to bring QB Daryle Lamonica to the Raiders.
Pat Swilling – 9-year veteran and 5-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Saints and Lions. Spent final three seasons with Raiders, collecting 21.0 sacks.
Eric Turner – What might have been. 6-year veteran and 2-time Pro Bowl safety with Browns/Ravens. He signed a 4-year deal with the Raiders, and would only play three of them before passing away of cancer.