Raiders All-Time Top Five: Halfbacks

The Oakland, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas Raiders have an outstanding legacy of great players and today we look at the all-time great halfbacks
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1. Marcus Allen, 1982-1992

When the Raiders drafted Marcus Allen, a real steal with the 10th overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft out of USC, he didn’t have to move and spent another 11 seasons playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum because the Silver and Black moved to L.A. in his rookie season. The 6-2, 210-pound Allen, thought to be a little slow to be really great by some so-called NFL experts, turned out to be the leading rusher in Raiders history with 8,545 yards in 2,090 carries and scored 79 touchdowns, in addition to catching 587 passes for 5,411 yards and 21 more TDs. Who knows what those numbers might have been had Allen not had a falling out with owner Al Davis and spent his last five seasons with the arch-rival Kansas City Chiefs? “Of all the players that we had in my 25 years with the Raiders, I have to say that Marcus Allen was the best one that we had,” Raiders scouting executive and Hall of Famer Ron Wolf said. “If we’d had the first pick in the draft, it would have been Marcus Allen.” Even though his rookie season was shortened to nine games because of a players’ strike, Allen rushed for 697 yards and 11 touchdowns, in addition to catching 38 passes for 401 yards and three scores. That was only the beginning, as Allen rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the next three seasons, capped by 1,759 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1985, when he also caught 67 passes for 555 yards and three TDs. The highlight of those years was the Raiders’ 38-9 victory over the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, in which Allen rushed for 191 yards, including a brilliant 74-yard touchdown run that ranks with the greatest plays in the history of the Super Bowl. He was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. On the last play of the third-quarter play, Allen took a handoff from quarterback Jim Plunkett and started left but found his path blocked by Redskins, so he cut back to the other side, turned upfield, and broke into the clear. The man supposedly without blazing speed then outran all the Redskins to the end zone. Allen’s playing time and production were limited after that because the Raiders drafted Bo Jackson, but Allen showed his professionalism by volunteering to play fullback, where he showed another talent as a strong lead blocker for Jackson. Allen left the Raiders in 1992 and played five seasons with the Chiefs, finishing his career with 12,243 yards rushing and 123 touchdowns, plus 587 receptions for 5,411 yards and 21 scores. In addition, he completed 12-of-27 passes for 282 yards and six touchdowns. Allen was a three-time All-Pro, played in six Pro Bowls, was NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 1985, Rookie of the Year in 1982, and Comeback Player of the Year in 1993, when he scored a career-high 15 touchdowns. Even though Allen never played for the Raiders in Oakland, he came to the Oakland Coliseum for a game in 2012 and lit the Al Davis Memorial Flame. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

2. Clem Daniels 1961-1967

Unfortunately, Clem Daniels’ story is another one of what could have been, even though he was outstanding for five seasons with the Raiders. The 6-1, 220-pound Daniels was undrafted out of Prairie View A&M in 1960 and signed with the Dallas Texans (now the Kansas City Chiefs). He originally played defensive back, but the Texans moved him to offense, where he didn’t get much of a chance to play because he was backing up star-running back Abner Haynes. The Texans traded Daniels to the Raiders in 1961, and when Al Davis came to Oakland in 1963 as a coach and general manager, he saw immediately what he had in Daniels and put him in the starting lineup. All Daniels did was rush for 1,099 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, to lead the American Football League, with three touchdowns, including a 71-yard run. In addition, Daniels became a deep threat out of the backfield in Davis’ “Vertical Passing Game,” catching 30 passes for 685 yards, an eye-popping 22.5-yard average, and five more scores. He was selected to the AFL All-Star team and was named the AFL’s Most Valuable Player. “He was, without doubt, the best halfback in the American Football League during his time,” said Hall of Famer Ron Wolf, who was the Raiders’ scouting executive at that time and later general manager of the Green Bay Packers. “The thing that made Clem so good was his overall athletic ability. He ran a 4.6-40 in full gear, which was amazing for a guy his size.” Daniels rushed for 5,103 yards, a 4.5-yard average, and 30 touchdowns while catching 201 passes for 3,291 yards, a 16.4-yard average, and 24 touchdowns in his seven seasons with the Raiders. In 1967, Daniels had nearly 600 yards rushing through eight games as the Raiders were on their way to a 13-1 record, the AFC Championship, and a meeting with the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. Unfortunately, he sustained a knee injury in the ninth game of the season that virtually ended his career. Daniels was released by the Raiders before the 1968 season and signed with the San Francisco 49ers, but was not the same, and retired after the season. Daniels was the AFL’s all-time leading rusher with 5,101 yards, was a four-time AFL All-Star, and was selected to the All-Time AFL Team. He caught 203 passes for 3,314 yards and 24 touchdowns, including scores of 74, 73, 69, 68, and 60 yards. The injury that cut short his career probably kept him out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Daniels made his home in Oakland after being traded there, and in his early days with the Raiders, he was a physical education teacher in addition to coaching the wrestling and golf teams at Skyline High in Oakland. Later, he became a business leader who was deeply involved within the community until his death in 2019 at the age of 81.

3. Napoleon Kaufman, 1995-2000

The 5-9, 185-pound Kaufman is another back who did a lot in a relatively short period of time in Silver and Black. The Raiders selected him in the first round (No. 18 overall) of the 1995 National Football League Draft out of Washington, where he was Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Year as a senior. Kaufman, who ran for a touchdown in his first game with the Raiders, rushed for 490 yards as a rookie backing up Harvey Williams and added 874 yards while averaging 5.8 yards per game to lead the NFL as he started nine games in his second season when he scored his only touchdown on a 77-yard run. He finally became the starter in his third season and rushed for 1,294 yards on 272 carries, a 4.8-yard average, and scored six touchdowns, one on an 80-yard run. In addition, he caught 40 passes for 403 yards and two more scores. Kaufman added 921 yards the next season but was limited to a total of 1,213 yards in 1999 and 2000 when he was hampered by injuries and shared the backfield with Tyrone Wheatley, who had 936 yards and eight touchdowns in 1999, and 1,046 yards and nine touchdowns in 2000. Kaufman and Wheatley were known as “Thunder and Lightning,” and in 2000 the Raiders rushed for 2,470 yards or nearly 1,000 more yards than their opponents. “Kaufman provides big acceleration,” said Coach Jon Gruden, who was in his first stint as coach of the Raiders then and had both backs together. “Wheatley gives us a physical presence as a ballcarrier.” However, after that injury-plagued season, Kaufman announced his retirement to devote full-time to his other occupation as an ordained minister. “For no other reason but to spend more time with his wife, their children, the community and his ministry, Napoleon Kaufman ... has decided to hang up his cleats and move on to the next chapter in his life,” said the statement released by his agent, Cameron Foster. “The thought process has been in his mind for a good year. He loves football, but I guess he loves ministering more.” Kaufman, who had $2.5 million left on his contract when he retired, is the fourth-leading rusher in Raiders history with 4,792 yards and 12 touchdowns, in addition to catching 127 passes for 1,107 yards and five scores. He also returned a kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown as a rookie in 1995. Kaufman was the head football coach at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland until retiring in 2020 and led the Dragons to the California State Division 5-AA Championship in 2016. He also returned to the Raiders as team chaplain in 2012 and served in that role until the Silver and Black moved to Las Vegas last season.

4. Bo Jackson, 1987-1990

Another case of what might have been for Raider Nation. After a brilliant career at Auburn, where he rushed for 4,303 yards and 43 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry, Jackson was selected with the first overall pick of the 1986 National Football League draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, he didn’t want to play for the Bucs, so he signed a baseball contract with the Kansas City Royals since he had been an All-American in both sports. This from a football player who won the Heisman Trophy, the Walter Camp Award, and was selected Player of the Year by the Sporting News and United Press International as a senior. However, the Raiders drafted him the following year and owner Al Davis allowed him to finish the baseball seasons before joining the Silver and Black in October every year. While with the Raiders, Jackson played alongside the great Marcus Allen, forming perhaps the most talented backfield of all time. “What am I going to do with him and Marcus both?” Coach Tom Flores recalled thinking when Jackson joined the team. “But the very moment he stepped on the practice field and showed what he had, the entire team just went, ‘Whoa!’ He was awesome. There was nobody on that whole field who didn’t feel his presence. He was without a doubt an instant star. No question. He would not say much, but he would just smile as he ran over you ... 230 pounds that ran like lightning.” The 6-1, 227-pound Jackson played only 38 games in four seasons with the Raiders, but they were memorable. In those 38 games, including 23 starts, Jackson rushed for 2,782 yards (14th on the Raiders all-time list) on 515 carries, a 5.4-yard average, with 16 touchdowns—including runs of 92, 91, and 88 yards. He also caught 40 passes for 352 yards, a 9.1-yard average, and two more scores. Most notably, after linebacker Brian Bosworth of the Seattle Seahawks said he would shut down Bo in a Monday Night Football game in 1987, Jackson ran over Bosworth on a two-yard touchdown run, bolted 91 yards for another score, and caught a 14-yard TD pass while rushing for 221 yards in 37-14 Raiders victory. In the long run, he never slowed down, famously running through the end zone and up the tunnel beneath the stands, where several teammates followed to celebrate with him. “He just flat out ran my butt over,” Bosworth told reporters after the game. “My hat’s off to him.” However, Jackson’s football career came to a sudden halt from a hip injury sustained at the end of a 34-yard run in a playoff game on Jan. 13, 1991, against the Cincinnati Bengals when he was tackled by linebacker Kevin Walker. Bo missed the next baseball season, too, because of the injury and retired from sports for good after two more seasons of baseball. During eight seasons in the major leagues, Jackson batted .250 with the Royals, Chicago White Sox, and California Angels, and hit 141 home runs, many of the tape-measure variety. In his only All-Star Game appearance in 1989, he hit a 448-foot home run off Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants while leading off the bottom of the first inning. He also made the famous “Bo Knows” television commercials, but when it was all over, much too soon, Jackson said: “I have no regrets.”

5. Josh Jacobs, 2019-Present

The 5-10, 220-pound Jacobs, who overcame homelessness as a teenager, was considered a bit of a reach when the Raiders selected him in the first round (No. 24 overall) out of Alabama in the 2019 National Football League Draft. Now people are wondering how high on this list he might go in his career with the Silver and Black. While sharing time in the loaded Crimson Tide backfield, Jacobs showed his potential by rushing for 1,491 yards on 251 carries, a 6.0-yard average, and 16 touchdowns, while catching 48 passes for 571 yards and five scores in four seasons. He helped Alabama win the 2017 National Championship, and as a junior, he was selected Most Valuable Player of the 2018 Southeastern Conference Championship Game after rushing for 83 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-28 victory over Georgia. When he came to the Raiders, Jacobs showed as a rookie that he is a dual-threat running back in the mold of Silver and Black greats Marcus Allen and Clem Daniels. Jacobs started all 13 games in which he played, rushing for 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 carries, in addition to catching 20 passes for 120 yards. “He’s going to be one of the best complete backs in all of football, I believe,” Coach Jon Gruden said. Jacobs, who missed three games and parts of others because of a shoulder injury, became the first Raiders rookie to rush for more than 1,000 yards and joined Hall of Fame running back Allen (1982) as the only players in franchise history to be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. It took Jacobs only eight games to break Allen’s rookie record of 697 yards and his five games of 100-plus yards also set a Raiders rookie record. Allen’s rookie season was shortened to nine games because of a league-wide players’ strike. Jacobs’ 1,150 rushing yards and seven touchdowns were the most of any rookie in 2019, and his 101.2 scrimmage yards per game also led his rookie class. His rushing yards total was sixth overall in the NFL and also sixth in franchise history. In addition, Jacobs’ 1,150 yards rank fourth NFL history by a rookie, behind only Ezekiel Elliott, Edgerrin James, and Barry Sanders. Last season, Jacobs showed it was no fluke by rushing for 1,065 yards and 12 touchdowns, including a 61-yarder, while catching 33 passes for 338 yards in 13 games, and was selected to the Pro Bowl. In two seasons, he is already 19th on the Raiders' all-time rushing list with 2,215 yards with 19 touchdowns and has caught 53 passes for 404 yards. Raider Nation can’t wait to see what comes next.

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