The Raiders — regardless of if you know them for their days in Oakland or strictly are referring to them by their new Las Vegas name — are one of the most well-known members of the NFL around. Their storied history, their penchant for having some of the most unforgiving fans when it comes to opposing teams, their tenacity on the field and the coaches and staff that gave them that look – all of those things factor into what makes this team so memorable.
1960 was the first season of organized, professional football for the Raiders franchise. Once the franchise began play, they first took on the name of “Senors,” but nine days later they announced that their franchise would pivot to what has stuck to this day, “Raiders.”
Many players of many different skill levels have come and gone on to wear the black and silver and put on a Raiders’ helmet, but there are only a select few that proved to themselves and the world that they were one of the best to ever do it. This list goes through the five greatest members of the Raiders, all time.
Charles Woodson – CB/Safety/Returner
Years as a Raider – 1998 to 2005, 2013 to 2015
Having spent two stints of his 18-year career as a member of the Raiders (11 years in total), Woodson bid his time and earned the favor of the fans early on. The former Michigan Wolverine and Heisman winner showcased his defensive and return abilities from day one, showing that he could be their defensive savior for many years to come.
Woodson was seen as one of the premier cornerbacks of his time, matching up with the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and other top-notch wide receivers and locking them down on a consistent basis, to the tune of 27 interceptions and two pick-sixes.
While Woodson’s time in Green Bay is looked at as one of the most dominant stretches in the NFL in the past few decades (38 interceptions, nine pick-sixes, and 11.5 sacks), he is more known for his tenure in the black and silver, most notably because he started his career here and ended it too.
The most recent member of this list, Woodson will go down as one of the best dual-threat options (defense and special teams) that this league has ever seen, and the Raiders were lucky enough to experience it.
Willie Brown – CB
1967 – 1978
Even though Willie Brown played the first three years of his career with the Denver Broncos, it is his time as a Raider that he is most known for, and rightfully so.
All Willie Brown managed to do across 12 seasons in Oakland was intercept 39 balls — two for touchdowns — and essentially have the term ‘bump and run’ coverage be coined after his play style.
The image or video of Brown running back an interception in Super Bowl XI lives in infamy for Raiders fans. And he helped bring an SB trophy to Oakland in ‘76, putting a nice cherry on the twilight of his career.
Brown finished his career leading the Raiders in career interceptions (39) and is ranked 19th all-time in the NFL with 54 career picks, and he was voted into nine Pro Bowls and earned five All-Pro nods.
Tim Brown – WR
1988 – 2003
16 seasons of glory at wide receiver for Tim Brown and the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee has nine Pro Bowl nominations under his belt to boot as well.
Playing through some tough years with underwhelming quarterbacks at the helm, Tim Brown managed to put up nine consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons, including a career-high 1,408 yards in ‘97. It was the same season he also recorded 104 receptions on the year, unfortunately only converting five of those into touchdowns.
Tim Brown looks to be the best wide receiver in the history of the Raiders. And that mark will most certainly not be touched for a very long time, if ever. The consistency that Tim Brown was able to display on a game-by-game, season-by-season basis displayed the type of player that he truly was. And even though the best QB that he had throwing to him, Rich Gannon, did not come until the latter portion of his career, the fact that he was able to put up as many statistically-great seasons as he did was borderline impossible.
Oh, and his return skills were quite developed as well, as he earned over 1,000 yards on kick returns alone in his rookie season, which happened to also be his first Pro Bowl appearance as well.
Art Shell – LT
1968 – 1982
The first of two offensive linemen on this list, left tackle Art Shell formed a road-grading combination with the next person on this list, protecting the blindside of Raiders’ quarterbacks for over a decade.
Shell, whose professional career was a whole lot better than his post-playing coaching career, was a third-round draft pick in the ‘68 draft, who ended up suiting up his entire career with the Raiders, which culminated in eight Pro Bowls and two All-Pro nominations.
Having attended Maryland State for college, Shell won two rings with the Raiders in his 15-year career and was voted into the Hall of Fame seven years after his retirement (1989). Potentially best known for how he kept fellow HoF member and former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Alan Page out of the stat sheet in the ‘76 Super Bowl, Shell has gone down as potentially the best left tackle in the history of the NFL.
Gene Upshaw – LG
1967 – 1981
Also suiting up his entire 15-year career with the Raiders (just like Shell did), Gene Upshaw was the dominant interior piece that, paired with Shell on the left side, providing a superior force in both pass protection and the run game for 15 seasons for the Raiders.
Upshaw attended Texas A&M-Kingsville and produced a very similar career to what Shell did – seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pro nominations, two Super Bowl titles, and one AFL championship under his belt.
Having started an incredible 207 straight games, starting from when he won the left guard job out of training camp of his rookie year, Upshaw was rightfully the first guard-only player enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 1987. He is the best offensive lineman to have played the game and formed what is certainly the best tackle-guard combo in the history of the NFL with Shell.
Marcus Allen – RB
1982 – 1992
11 seasons with the Raiders resulted in almost 13,000 total yards, 97 touchdowns, and over 2,500 touches from scrimmage – Marcus Allen was, for certain, the real deal.
While he did end his career by playing the final five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen was extremely awesome for the Raiders in his career, culminating in a 2003 Hall of Fame induction.
The former USC Trojan was voted into the Pro Bowl six times (all but once with the Raiders), he was twice an All-Pro (both with the Raiders), he was the ‘82 AP Rookie of the Year, the ‘85 AP Offensive Player of the Year, and was the ‘93 PFWA Comeback Player of the Year in his first season in KC.
Allen had seven seasons of double-digit total TDs, putting up 18 in ‘84 (13 on the ground, 5 in the air), which he followed up with 1,759 rushing yards, 11 scores, and 2,314 yards from scrimmage in ‘85, an astounding total.
The career that Allen had in the NFL as a whole was quite phenomenal, and his tenure with the Raiders puts him at the top of the pedestal, making him the best player in the history of the NFL to have put on the Raiders jersey.