Pro Football Hall of Fame: Raiders legends campaign for Tom Flores


Pro Football Hall of Fame: Raiders legends campaign for Tom Flores

Jim Plunkett was honored at a charity golf tournament supporting Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Desert in Palm Desert last weekend, and the former Raiders quarterback reserved part of his keynote speech for an old friend standing close by.

While Plunkett didn’t plan on discussing former Raiders coach Tom Flores being a finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he couldn’t help but make a case why the Iceman belongs in Canton, Ohio.

Flores was in the crowd, and Plunkett considered it too important a topic, one Plunkett’s passionate about to ignore.

“Being on stage, I had to,” Plunkett said Thursday in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area. “Here’s a guy who has been in involved in four Super Bowls, one as a player and three as a coach. He was an NFL quarterback for many years and a GM in Seattle. If he doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame, there’s something seriously wrong with the voting.”

Saturday will mark the first time Flores is discussed among Hall of Fame finalists. This marks the first year Flores advanced beyond the initial wave of nominees, advancing to the semifinals and now to the final round of voting.

His candidacy will be discussed Saturday during a marathon meeting of Hall of Fame selectors in Atlanta. A group of 18 finalists will whittle down by more than half to form the 2019 HOF class.

Plunkett won’t be in the room then. Only the 48 selectors are allowed in, to discuss and vote on the merits of each finalist.

Plunkett and Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes campaigned for Flores to be in that honored group this week, echoing sentiments of so many who played for the legendary Raider who won two Super Bowls as a head coach and another as an offensive coordinator under John Madden.

“Tom is a great person first and foremost, but was an excellent head coach, assistant coach and player,” Plunkett said. “He has accomplished a tremendous amount in his career and certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

"To be overlooked time and again, I would be hard pressed to find someone with his credentials and achievements in the NFL. There’s no doubt in my mind that he belongs in Canton.”

He had an 83-53 regular-season over nine years as Raiders head coach, with an extraordinary .727 winning percentage in the postseason. He also had an indelible impact on the NFL, as the first Latino quarterback in pro football, and the first minority head coach to win a Super Bowl. He was also the first minority general manager during his time running the Seattle Seahawks.

He doesn’t get the credit others do for a true Raiders golden era, because he was rarely the loudest personality in the room. Late owner Al Davis was always that man. So was Madden, a legend Flores succeeded as head coach.

“Tom had to follow that in his own quiet way,” Plunkett said. “That was one thing, but the shadow of Al Davis was hanging over Tom the whole time. He was under a lot of pressure to follow John and work under Al Davis. It’s not easy. Al was bigger than life in the Raiders organization and pro football in general.

"Tom took all that in stride. He knew what was expected and got the job done. He got his team ready to play well each and every Sunday.”

While Al Davis had a huge impact on years of Raiders success, Flores' contributions can’t be ignored.

[RELATED: Raiders legend Tom Flores anxious for answer]

Haynes says Flores had a unique way of getting his guys to peak on Sundays, and play their best in the biggest games. The Raiders were expertly prepared under Flores, with a level of confidence and cool that stemmed from the head coach.

That’s what he was able to do on a micro level, but Haynes believes we should also step back and look at his large contributions to professional football.

“His impact on the sport must be considered,” Haynes said. “Not too many had great careers as a player and then as a coach. Not only did he win one Super Bowl, he won two. I’m hopeful that he’ll get in this year. He deserves to get in there’s no question about it.”

Raiders, 49ers less affected by Jaylon Ferguson's NFL Scouting Combine ban


Raiders, 49ers less affected by Jaylon Ferguson's NFL Scouting Combine ban

The Raiders and 49ers have already spent significant time with Jaylon Ferguson during the pre-NFL-draft process.

The Senior Bowl provided both teams an opportunity to evaluate him up close during an intense practice week and the college all-star game itself. The Louisiana Tech edge rusher worked with the 49ers-led South squad, which spent part of one day with North coaches from the Raiders.

“(The Senior Bowl) is a great opportunity because both teams coaching here are looking for pass rushers,” Ferguson said early in the Senior Bowl week. “I feel like I’m one of the top pass rushers in this class, and I get my chance to show that I’m coachable and that I can rush the passer.”

Ferguson’s right. The Raiders and 49ers need help off the edge, and the NCAA’s all-time sack leader can certainly rush the passer. Ferguson also had a chance to showcase that quality, his work ethic and character working with the Bay Area teams at the Senior Bowl, something that will prove harder to do with others after getting his NFL Scouting Combine invite revoked.

Ferguson was disinvited after a background check turned up a simple battery conviction that disqualified him from combine participation, per NFL rules. According to NFL Network, the league told clubs that players wouldn’t be invited if they had prior convictions involving violence.

Ferguson's incident was not news to those working with him at the Senior Bowl.

Missing the combine is a major blow to Ferguson, a smaller-school talent hoping to show he has the tools to compete with top competition. He also planned to use the combine to show he has grown from past mistakes.

The NFL’s decision was unpopular around the league and with Ferguson’s agency, STL Sports Group, which issued this statement Thursday morning:

“We disagree with the NFL’s position with regards to Jaylon Ferguson. Jaylon is a great person who made a mistake 4 years ago before he started playing college football. He was involved in a scuffle that resulted in him being charged with misdemeanor simple battery. He received a deferred judgment and $189.00 fine, A Proper punishment for a fight between two teenagers. Since that day Jaylon has been a fine and upstanding student-athlete that personifies the things we are trying to teach our young people today. The past four years at Louisiana Tech Jaylon has been a team leader who has led on and off the field clearly learning from the lessons of his past. As opposed to penalizing and vilifying the future players of the league, we would hope the league would allow Jaylon and other similarly situated players the opportunity to prove to potential employers that they are remorseful, and have learned from their mistakes, accepted responsibility, want to be good role models and are better people now for it. No person is perfect, and people are entitled to second chances and opportunities and one would hope the NFL as an open-minded Industry Leader, Diverse League and Business would want to see the best in their players, educate them and help them mature, learn and be better people.”

[RELATED: Flacco trade could impact Raiders, 49ers in NFL draft]

Ferguson will still have opportunities to speak with teams during private facility visits and show physical skill at Louisiana Tech’s pro day.

That will be important after missing combine drills, so he can prove similar to a role model the Raiders drafted and the 49ers tried to acquire via trade.

“I model my game after Khalil Mack,” Ferguson said at the Senior Bowl. “He’s an aggressive guy who can transfer speed to power and is a big, strong man. That’s my game right there.”

Raiders, Oakland Coliseum re-engaged in lease discussions for 2019


Raiders, Oakland Coliseum re-engaged in lease discussions for 2019

OAKLAND – The Raiders have re-engaged in talks to play the 2019 season at the Oakland Coliseum. The Silver and Black abandoned them back in December, when the city of Oakland sued the Raiders and the NFL for antitrust violations and breach of contract.

The Raiders took a $7.5 million lease extension offer off the table after the lawsuit was filed, and began exploring other venues to play one final season before relocating to Las Vegas in 2020.

The Silver and Black returned to the table late last week, Coliseum Authority executive chairman Scott McKibben told NBC Sports Bay Area on Tuesday afternoon. McKibben characterized talks as meaningful and productive, and he is set to address the Coliseum Authority's board of commissioners in a closed session on Friday at 8:30 a.m.

A Raiders official did not immediately return a text seeking comment.

The Raiders were previously engaged in discussions with the San Francisco Giants to play next season at Oracle Park. Those talks produced an agreement in principle that was never executed.

The 49ers would not waive their territorial rights to the city of San Francisco, given to them specifically in the NFL’s bylaws. The NFL had some say in the matter, though a source told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco that unanimous vote of NFL owners would have been required to allow the Raiders to play there.

The Raiders have long said they were exploring options in the Bay Area and other markets, but the team seemed to prefer a local choice while continuing to practice at their Alameda training facility.

Oakland Coliseum wasn’t preferable due to the legal action, and owner Mark Davis voiced dislike for Levi’s Stadium – an NFL venue built to house two teams – even before the Raiders’ relationship with the 49ers grew cold.

[RELATED: Should Raiders pursue Antonio Brown trade with Steelers?]

While the Raiders still don’t have a home venue, a decision could come soon. The team’s 2018 lease with Oakland Coliseum ends on Wednesday, so the Coliseum Authority hoped to have some clarity on the Raiders' intentions.

A return to the table is a significant move, especially considering the sides had previously discussed a lease extension. That said, it doesn’t necessarily lock down a pact. There’s work yet to be done in that regard.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said during Super Bowl week that he hopes a resolution on the Raiders home venue will come in February, so the league can schedule the 2019 season.