What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. The Immaculate Reception
NFL Films calls the Immaculate Reception the No. 1 most controversial call of all time and there’s good reason why Raider Nation is still upset about it decades later. The play, remembered by Raider loyalists as the Immaculate Deception, clinched the Steelers’ first postseason victory and perhaps sparked the team’s dominance, as Pittsburgh went on to win four Super Bowls over the following eight years.
In the final minute of the 1972 AFC divisional playoff, Oakland led Pittsburgh 7-6 after QB Ken Stabler’s 30-yard rushing touchdown. Pittsburgh had one last chance to win the game, but faced a fourth-and-10 with just 22 seconds left on the clock. That’s when Terry Bradshaw desperately chucked the ball toward running back John Fuqua, but hard-hitting safety Jack Tatum was there to break up the pass. Only, instead of breaking up the play, neither Tatum nor Fuqua ended up with the ball as it miraculously bounced off one of them and landed in Franco Harris’ outstretched hands. Harris ran the ball the remaining 40 yards for the game-winning touchdown. As per NFL rules at the time, had the ball bounced off Fuqua instead of Tatum, the play would have been over and Oakland wins the game. Instead, after lengthy delay, refs declared the pass legal and the rest is history.
4. Tony Siragusa’s dirty hit on Rich Gannon
In an instant, the Raiders’ incredible 2000-01 season en route to the AFC championship game flashed in front of everyone’s eyes at Oakland Coliseum when Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa purposely fell on top of MVP candidate Rich Gannon and broke his shoulder. Siragusa was immediately flagged for a roughing the passer penalty and was later fined $10,000 by the NFL for the illegal hit. The unnecessarily vicious hit came early in the second quarter and forced Raiders backup QB Bobby Hoying to take over under center. Hoying proved ineffective against the Ravens’ violent defense and the Raiders never recovered, losing 16-3 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.
3. Barret Robbins’ ‘manic episode’ the day before Super Bowl XXXVII
For Raiders fans, one of the biggest questions to come out of the Super Bowl XXXVII loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will always be, “What if Raiders center Barret Robbins had played?” Unfortunately, the bigger and more important question is, “What could the Raiders have done to help the depressed center from having a meltdown the day before the biggest game of his career?” Perhaps nothing. Perhaps something. But when Robbins, who had been diagnosed with depression, went AWOL the day before the Super Bowl, only to show up later that night incoherent, Raiders coach Bill Callahan had to leave him off the roster, leaving the offense without its center against Jon Gruden’s world-class wrecking crew. And the next day, the Pirate Bowl resulted in a sunken ship for the once mighty Raiders franchise, as Rich Gannon – the league’s MVP that season – tossed a Super Bowl-record five interceptions behind an unfamiliar center.
2. The Tuck Rule
Raiders fans still remember where they were when they saw a relatively unknown and very much unproven quarterback fumble away his team’s chance to advance out of the 2001 AFC divisional round. Raiders All-Pro defensive back Charles Woodson had basically sealed the Raiders’ 13-10 victory with an incredible sack and forced fumble of Tom Brady in the final two minutes of the game. That’s when the officials converged and eventually overturned the call on the field, citing the little-used and tremendously controversial “tuck rule.” Because Brady was in the process of tucking the ball back into his body, the result of the play was an incomplete pass instead of a fumble. Seconds later, kicker Adam Vinatieri forced overtime with a game-tying field goal. In overtime, Vinatieri once again nailed a clutch field goal to win the game.
The tuck rule was repealed in March 2013.
1. Leaving Oakland (Parts 1 & 2)
The day Al Davis packed up the Raiders in 1982 for an extended stay in Tinseltown, the Southern Californian Raider fans were born and Oakland natives were left the harsh choice of rooting for the longtime nemesis from across the Bay Bridge, staying loyal to the team that had brought the city two Super Bowl championships or giving up on the NFL entirely. How did Oaklanders react? Well, when the team you have invested your entire life rooting for, the team you grew up watching because the Oakland Coliseum was down the street and your entire family bleeds Silver and Black, coping with loss is harder than getting that Raiders tattoo removed. Fans were understandably miffed, but burning jerseys wasn’t a major thing back then. If it were, the Oakland skyline would’ve been dark that day with decades of boisterous memories going up in smoke. Davis was now the villain, big and bold, having robbed Oakland of all its gold.
The loyal Raiders fans in Oakland were teased with a move back to the city as early as 1989, but the deal fell through. Davis seemed intent on staying in Southern California despite various setbacks, including a reneging of a deal to move the team to Irwindale in East Los Angeles County (Davis kept the $10 million deposit). The franchise finally moved back to its original home in the Bay Area before the 1995 season after years of back-and-forth negotiations, and all was forgiven.
That is, of course, until the team finalized a deal in March 2017 to relocate to Las Vegas.
The second move out of Oakland won’t be official until at least 2020 and the lame-duck seasons in the city until then already feel awkward. While many Oakland fans have abandoned ship on the team setting sails for the desert, many more fans can’t give up on the current roster, which had a league-leading nine Pro Bowlers in 2016. Since the Super Bowl loss in January 2003, there is a notable absence of greatest moments in franchise history mainly because there hasn’t been much of a team to root for. Between the coaching carousel, the Jamarcus Russell debacle and the death of Davis, fans who stuck with the Raiders weren’t rewarded with a winning record until 2016 after more than a decade stuck at or near the bottom of the AFC West. Thus, this last hurrah in the Bay Area, with visions of the Vince Lombardi Trophy being lifted by Derek Carr and Co. amid a parade through Jack London Square, is simultaneously the best of times and worst of times for Oakland.
With or without Oakland die-hards, Raider Nation will live on when the Las Vegas Raiders finally do take the field because the Silver and Black’s following extends way beyond the Bay Area. So, one day perhaps the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas will be treated as one of the best moments in franchise history. Because for every Janikowski or Flores or Plunkett or Stabler or Allen or even Carr, Cooper or Crabtree jersey that will no longer be worn at the Oakland Coliseum, there’s a kid in Nevada who will grow up to be the next face-painted Sunday superhero in pirate cosplay walking around the billion dollar Las Vegas Stadium. Oaklanders’ bitter loss is Las Vegans’ sweet, sweet victory.