Today we are taking a look at the 1976 Oakland Raiders offense and where they are now. We’ve already taken a look at the defense. Check it out here if you haven’t seen it yet.
LT: Art Shell (1946-present)–>Shell helped dominate the Vikings defensive line in Super Bowl XI and he returned to the Super Bowl in 1980 to help the Raiders win Super Bowl XV. After his career ended in 1982 he entered into the coaching business and he was among one of the Raiders assistant coaches that helped guide the Raiders to a victory in Super Bowl XVIII. He slowly moved up the coaching ladder and eventually he served as the Raiders offensive line coach. In 1989 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also in 1989 he was fired by then Raiders head coach Mike Shanahan and the ultimate result of this was a classic Al Davis intervention. Shanahan was fired for “going over” the head of Al Davis and the coaches that Shanahan fired were returned to their positions. Shell was elevated to the head coaching job, becoming the first African-American head coach in the modern NFL. This paved the way for future minority coaches like Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin. Shell guided the Raiders to the 1990 AFC Championship Game after the Raiders finished the regular season with a 12-4 record. Unfortunately, the Raiders were soundly defeated by the Buffalo Bills and one year later Shell led the Raiders back to the playoffs again but this time the team wasn’t as successful. Los Angeles finished the 1991 regular season with a 9-7 record and they lost a close WildCard Playoff game against Kansas City. In 1992 the Raiders endured their first losing season since 1987, going 7-9 but in 1993 everything changed. The Raiders quarterback position, a source of massive frustration was filled by Jeff Hostetler and the team responded by going 10-6 in the regular season. The Raiders blew out the Denver Broncos in the opening round of the 1993 playoffs and they were barely ousted out of the playoffs one week later by the Buffalo BIlls. In 1994 the team went 9-7, just missing the playoffs but Al Davis was frustrated with Art Shell. Since taking over for Shanahan in 1989 the Raiders 2-10 against the Chiefs. Shell’s firing was attributed by many to be a result of this failure. Ironically, Shell coached the Chiefs offensive line for the next two seasons before joining the Atlanta Falcons as their offensive line coach in 1997. He returned for a brief stint as the Raiders head coach in 2006 but he was fired again after Oakland went 2-14. In 2013, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He also hosts an annual celebrity golf tournament and he always makes the trek to Canton, Ohio to participate in NFL Hall of Fame festivities.
LG: Gene Upshaw (1945-2008)–>Gene Upshaw was the second player from the 1975 Raiders offensive line to pass on. Upshaw is the only player in Professional Football history to play in three Super Bowls with the same team in three different decades. In 1999, he was ranked number 62 on The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. Upshaw is considered by some to be the greatest left guard to ever play pro football. A six time pro bowler, a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniv. team and a member of the Pro Football hall of fame it is impossible for me to list all the great things that made Gene Upshaw such a great player. Always a tough guy he served as the executive director of the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA.) During the summer of 2008 he began to complain to his wife that he felt ill. After visits with doctors he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died on August 17, 2008. During the 2008 season the Raiders wore a patch on their jerseys with his initials and his jersey number. Upshaw never suffered through a double-digit losing season with the Raiders during his entire career with the team which spanned the 1967-1982 seasons.
C: Dave Dalby (1950-2002)–>Dave Dalby served as the Raiders starting center from 1975-1985 and never missed a game in 14 years. He was the Raiders starting center for five AFC Championship Games and all three Raider Super Bowl wins. Moreover during that ’75-85 span the Raiders made the playoffs eight times with Dalby snapping the football to signal callers Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett. Dalby died in 2002 in a car accident that may have been alcohol related. He was just 51 years old.
RB: George Buehler (1947-present)–> Buehler’s playing career with the Raiders began in 1969 and he would remain on the team until 1978. The Raiders beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, rushing for a whopping 266 yards and passing for 180 yards, as Buehler overpowered an opposing defensive tackle named Doug Sutherland. He retired after spending his final two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Since that time he has lived a quiet life but he did return to the Oakland Coliseum in 2016 to light the torch commemorating Al Davis, prior to the Silver and Black’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans. That same year George joined former teammates George Atkinson and Art Thoms by pledging to donate his brain to CTE research following his death.
RT: John Vella (1950-present)–> After joining the Raiders in 1972 he eventually emerged as the team’s starting right tackle in 1974. In Super Bowl XI he helped the Raiders dominate the defensive line of the Minnesota Vikings. Hampered by injuries he eventually lost his starting job to Henry Lawrence and he departed the Raiders in 1979 to spend one season with the Minnesota Vikings. In 1987, Vella started his business, originally called “John Vella’s Raider Locker Room”, which remained in business for almost twenty years. Today, he occasionally makes public appearances, signs autographs and is interviewed by the sports media about the ‘70s Raiders, a world that he was so much a part of.
TE: Dave Casper (1951-present)–>In Super Bowl XI Dave Casper recorded four catches for 70 yards and 1 touchdown reception. As a Raider, Casper was selected to four straight Pro Bowls (1976–1979) and this three touchdown catches in a 1977 playoff game versus the Colts ranks as one of the finest performances ever produced by a Raiders receiver. In 1980 he was traded to the Houston Oilers and in 1983 he was traded by Houston to the Vikings. In 1984 he returned to the Raiders and retired following the Raiders playoff loss to Seattle. In retirement he began working for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, assisting business owners with their finances and in 2002 he became the 13th Raider to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
WR: Fred Biletnikoff (1943-present)–>Fred was named the MVP of Super Bowl XI after his 4 receptions for 70 yards set up three Oakland touchdowns. He later admitted to NFL Films that quarterback Ken Stabler “should’ve been named MVP of that game.” By the time of Super Bowl XI Biletnikoff was aging fast. In 1977 and 1978 he combined for only 53 receptions and 731 yards. Following the ‘78 season he was cut by the Raiders. After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League he dabbled in coaching at various levels and eventually he was brought back by Al Davis to coach wide receivers in 1989. He held that position for the next 18 years and he was credited by Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown for helping make him a star. The Raiders made the playoffs several times during Fred’s tenure which included three trips to the AFC Championship Game (1990, 2000 & 2002) and a return trip to the Super Bowl. Fred retired from the Raiders and coaching in 2006. In 1999 his daughter was brutally murdered in a domestic violence incident and since that time Fred has devoted his energies to increasing people’s awareness of domestic violence and the dangers it can bring. Fred was elected to the Pro Football of Fame in 1988 and in 1994 his name was attached to the Fred BIletnikoff Award which is given the the nation’s best college football wide receiver.
WR: Cliff Branch (1948-present)–>As of this writing Cliff Branch is still waiting to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and that is very sad because he was such a gifted player. In Super Bowl XI he caught 3 passes for 20 yards but those numbers are not surprising when you consider the fact that the Raiders were devoted to running the football that day. Four years later he caught 5 passes for 62 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Raiders 27-10 Super Bowl XV win. Three years later he caught 6 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders Super Bowl XVIII win. After retiring in 1985 he has been a frequent nominee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was a semifinalist in 2004 and 2010. The process has become more difficult for Branch to be inducted over the past few years. He’s now considered a senior eligible nominee due to his career elapsing more than 25 years since retirement. Recently the official website of the Oakland Raiders created a Twitter hashtag #clifftocanton to encourage fans of the NFL to push the hall of fame committee to give Branch his rightful place in Canton, Ohio. Branch still makes public appearances, signs autographs and is happy to take pictures with anyone who wants one.
QB: Ken Stabler (1945-2015)–>Ken was drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft. During his first five seasons with Oakland he backed up starting quarterback Daryle Lamonica and served as the placeholder for kicker George Blanda. In 1973 he took over as the Raiders starting quarterback and he remained in that role until his departure in 1980. As the primary signal caller in Super Bowl XI he was flawless. Snake guided the Raiders to an early 16-0 halftime lead and he finished the game with 12 completions for 180 yards and a touchdown. The Raiders offense gained a then Super Bowl record 429 total yards. After leaving the Raiders in 1979 he finished out his career with the Houston Oilers and the Saints. Following his 1984 retirement he worked for several charities, wrote his autobiography Snake and Stabler served as a radio color commentator for Alabama football. Snake sadly passed away in 2015 as a result of colon cancer and his brain was found to possess the characteristics of someone suffering from CTE. Following his death Snake was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and to date he remains the only Raiders full-time quarterback ever given such an honor.
HB: Clarence Davis (1949-present)–> Clarence Davis rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries in Super Bowl XI. Following his retirement in 1979 he lived a quiet life until suffering a stroke in 1995 which caused him serious health issues. Several years back he was a guest for a NFL Films documentary which chronicled the most famous catch of his career during the “Sea of Hands” game. On December 27, 2016 he returned to the Oakland Coliseum by lighting the Al Davis Memorial Torch.
FB: Mark van Eeghen (1952-present)–> Mark’s intense blocking in Super Bowl XI helped guide Clarence Davis to 137 yards on the ground and his bruising ball carrying helped earn him 73 yards all by himself. After leading the 1976 Raiders in rushing he would go on to lead the team in that same capacity in 1977 and 1978 becoming the last caucasian running back to post three consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons. In 1980, he helped the Raiders to their second Super Bowl Trophy in Super Bowl XV before leaving the Raiders after the 1981 season. Mark grew up in Massachusetts so it was no surprise when he signed with the Patriots in 1982 and he remained there until his 1984 retirement. Both he and his wife produced three daughters together and Mark later earned a living in the insurance business.
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