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Silver Minings: Josh McDaniels’ play call pays homage to Cliff Branch and Al Davis

Coach wanted to chuck it deep first play of the game

Jacksonville Jaguars v Las Vegas Raiders
Mark Davis, Josh McDaniels
Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

This year’s Hall of Fame weekend is special for the Las Vegas Raiders for a handful of reasons. For one, the Raiders played in the annual Hall of Fame preseason game but more importantly, they’ll have two former players enter the exclusive club, Richard Seymour and Cliff Branch.

Branch’s enshrinement will be extra special for the Silver and Black. Many feel his bronze bust should have been in the hall several years ago, so today’s ceremony finally puts an end to what’s been a long and frustrating journey.

The wideout won three Super Bowls with the Raiders and became known for his postseason performances. In 22 career playoff games, he managed to haul in 73 passes for 1,289 yards which were NFL records at the time of his retirement in 1986. Part of the reason Branch was able to put up such eye-popping numbers was because of Al Davis’ revolutionary offense.

Davis is credited with being one of the first people in NFL history to emphasize a vertical passing attack, which was a perfect fit for a receiver with Branch’s speed. Being a football historian, current Raiders’ head coach Josh McDaniels knew this and paid a tribute to the godfather of the organization and its newest Hall of Famer with his first play call on Thursday night.

“Cliff Branch and Mr. Davis,” McDaniels replied to a question about if his call was a tip of the cap to Branch. “That was a staple, Cliff was a fast guy, obviously made a bunch of big plays in his career, big, important plays in big, important games, and that’s why he’s going into the Hall of Fame.

“I know Mr. Davis - both Mr. Davis’s - are big fans of the long ball. So yes, that was an ode to the Raiders, Cliff Branch and the way that Mr. Davis - both of them - enjoy that type of play. We tried to, (it) didn’t go off exactly the way that we hoped it would, but it ended up in our favor regardless.”

The deep shot to speed demon Tyron Johnson didn’t go quite as planned, as a combination of left tackle Brandon Parker getting beat by edge rusher Travon Walker and a wet ball due to the pregame storms caused Stidham’s pass to loop in the air and fall short of his target.

However, the play still went for a 31-yard gain — the longest gain of the night for either team — thanks to some great awareness by wide receiver Keelan Cole. So, while it might not have gone as designed, McDaniels still successfully paid homage to a couple of Raiders legends.

The Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony will be televised on ESPN and NFL Network today at 9:00 am PST. Branch passed away in 2019 so his sister, Elaine Anderson, will be delivering his induction speech.

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