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 playing on 80-yard field won't change Jon Gruden's evaluation


Raiders playing on 80-yard field won't change Jon Gruden's evaluation

Jon Gruden didn’t have a problem with IG Field’s playing surface. The Raiders head coach made that clear after Thursday’s 22-21 preseason victory over the Green Bay Packers in Winnipeg, an exhibition played on an 80-yard field due to concerns over unstable turf in one end zone.

“The field, I don’t know that was all about,” Gruden said. “We thought the field was perfectly fine.”

Playing on unusual dimensions simply could be a novelty if the Raiders still found value in game tape.

Gruden said that was the case, and it won’t alter how they look at the game action taking place among backups, with starters and significant role players sitting this one out.

“It’s not going to change the evaluation, other than we didn’t get some kickoffs, or some opportunities in special teams,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to make a big deal about the field. We like the field. We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll. You’d have to ask Green Bay about that.

“It didn’t impact our play calling or our evaluations. We just adapted, as they did, to the new dimensions of the field.”

[RELATED: Peterman impresses Gruden again, has shot to make Raiders]

The Raiders gave a home preseason game to Winnipeg, making this the second of three straight exhibition games played away from Oakland. Gruden said the experience worked out just fine, and that the team doesn’t consider the extra travel or field issues or things like that a distraction from their preparation for the regular season.

“It’s weird playing a home game in Winnipeg, but it’s exciting,” Gruden said. “It’s a great opportunity to spend some time together. We left some players at home. We had some players show up and not play. It was a good road trip. There are not as many distractions here as people think. Antonio Brown’s doing fine. We have a good, young football team.”

Nathan Peterman could make Raiders’ roster after impressing Jon Gruden again

Nathan Peterman could make Raiders’ roster after impressing Jon Gruden again

Who doesn't love a good redemption story?

Nathan Peterman's career got off to about the worst start an NFL quarterback has ever had. He threw five interceptions in his first start for the Buffalo Bills, and he has been used as a punchline ever since.

Then he came to Oakland, and has caught the eye of Raiders coach Jon Gruden. 

Peterman has been in a battle with Mike Glennon for the Raiders' backup quarterback position throughout training camp and the preseason. Glennon has taken the second-string reps through the first three preseason games and appears to have the upper hand in the competition. 

But that doesn't mean Peterman will be looking for a new home soon. 

The Pittsburgh product has impressed Gruden throughout camp and the preseason, and he played well again Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers at IG Field in Winnipeg. 

Despite the shortened 80-yard field, Peterman continued his march into Gruden's heart and the Raiders' 53-man roster. After Glennon played the first quarter against the Packers, Peterman was handed the reins and did everything Gruden could have wanted, completing 23 of 37 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading the Silver and Black into field-goal range to set up Daniel Carlson's game-winning 33-yard boot. 

The Raiders left Canada with a 22-21 win, and while a lot can't be gleaned from a game played on a shortened field, Peterman's performance was something to note. 

"Well, we had seen enough of Glennon, to be honest," Gruden said after the game of the snap discrepancy. "He played very well in Arizona [last week]. I thought he did some good things tonight.

”I like Peterman. I've said that for a while now, and I thought he had two touchdown passes that were dropped today, right on the money. Had a couple other balls that were dropped, right on the money. He took care of the ball. Didn't turn it over throughout the preseason. He's athletic. 

"I like what he did tonight. Especially late in the football game."

Those statements would lead you to believe Glennon has won the backup job, but Gruden wasn't ready to make that announcement. 

"I'm not going to get into anything right now other than we got two pretty good quarterbacks that are competing for the No. 2 spot," Gruden said. "We call the game differently when Mike is in there than when Nate is in there. That will be the case if we keep all three, or whoever the backup is. I thought both of those guys performed well the last three games."

The Raiders didn't keep three quarterbacks on their roster last season, and most expected the Silver and Black to have just two when the Denver Broncos come to the Coliseum to open the regular season on Sept. 9. 

[RELATED: Raiders receivers coach breaks down stacked position group]

Peterman's play, however, might have changed the equation. 

"I've always kept three — last year was the first time we didn't," Gruden said. "I'm not saying we're going to keep two or three, but we are going to try and keep the best 53 guys. We've got three guys who can play the position, and we'll have to make that decision here in the next week."

Peter-Can make the roster? You bet.