As part of SB Nation’s theme week, all of our community sites are choosing the best team in the franchise’s history to never win a championship.
I made my pick and decided to reach out to a former Raiders’ player from that era to get his thoughts. I called Raiders’ great linebacker Phil Villapiano on Friday to get his thoughts.
“Hey Phil, I’m picking the 1974 team as the best team in franchise history to never win the Super Bowl, what do you think?” I asked the man they call “Foo.”
“Oh yeah, that’s the team, that’s the choice,” said Villapiano, who made the Pro Bowl that season. “We were pretty good that year. We might have been as good as we were in ’76 when we won it all.”
If it’s good enough for Foo, it’s good enough for me. So, yes, the 1974 Oakland Raiders were the best team in the franchise history to never win it all.
Those ‘74 Raiders were a great bunch, indeed. The 1970s Raiders were always good. Their worst record was 8-4-2 in 1970 and 1971. They won double-digit games (in a 14-game season) five times in that decade, highlighted by winning Super Bowl XI over Minnesota to conclude the 1976 season.
The 1974 Raiders went 12-2 and won nine games in a row after opening the season with a one-point loss at Buffalo on Monday Night Football. Their two defeats in the regular season were by a combined four points, and the season ended in the AFC championship game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Pittsburgh went on to win the Super Bowl and is considered one of the greatest single-season NFL teams ever.)
The Steelers’ 24-13 victory in Oakland over the Raiders ended an incredible season. The Raiders led, 10-3, headed to the fourth quarter and saw Pittsburgh score 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Raiders had just 29 yards rushing as they were dominated by he Steelers’ famed ‘Steel Curtain’ defense.
It was a tough ending to a great season. The Raiders led the NFL in scoring at 25.4 points a game, and Hall of Fame quarterback Ken Stabler was the NFL MVP that season.
The highlight of the special season was the incredible “Sea of Hands” playoff win over Miami, ending the Dolphins’ dynasty. The iconic play, of course, was Stabler’s last-gasp touchdown throw to running back Clarence Davis. If you’ve seen the play, you will surely want to see it again. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a treat.
I remember that play. I remember that team. The 1970s Raiders were one of the greatest collections of athletes and characters ever assembled in sports history. The 1976 team is rightfully remembered because it brought Al Davis his first Super Bowl title, but this 1974 roster is right up there as far as great all-time NFL teams.