Quarterback Jeff Hostetler spent only four seasons with the Los Angeles-Oakland Raiders, but he made them count.
The 6-3, 215-pound Hostetler had been with the New York Giants for nine seasons after being selected by the Giants in the third round (No. 59 overall) out of West Virginia in the 1994 NFL Draft but spent most of his time in Gotham as the backup to Giants legend Phil Simms.
When “Hoss” finally came West, the Raiders knew what they had.
“I watched him on TV before he got here, but I didn’t know what would happen once he got here,” Raiders center Don Mosebar said. “He’s got the great arm, he’s a leader, he’s smart. And he’s calm and competitive, if those two things can go together. He gets hit, I mean really blasted, but he never gets flustered. He just gets up and keeps throwing.”
In those four seasons with the Raiders, Hostetler started 55 games and completed 913-of-1,562 passes for 11,122 yards and 69 touchdowns with 49 interceptions and ran for eight touchdowns, and is the seventh-leading passer in franchise history.
Hostetler led the Raiders to a 10-6 record and second place in the AFC West bypassing 3,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in addition to rushing for five more scores in 1993, his first season with the team.
Hoss completed 25-of-41 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns to outduel Hall of Famer John Elway in a 33-30 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to put the Silver and Black in the playoffs.
Then Hostetler passed for 294 yards and three more touchdowns as the Raiders beat the Broncos again, 42-24, again the following week at the L.A. Coliseum in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs.
Even though Hostetler threw for 230 yards, including an 86-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tim Brown the next week, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills beat the Raiders, 29-23, in the divisional round of the playoffs at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo.
Still, the Raiders were thrilled to have Hostetler at quarterback.
“You want my comment on Hostetler?” Hall of Fame wide receiver Brown asked. “Great, great, great, great, great. He’s everything we could have asked. I don’t want to say anything bad about the guys who were here previously because this is a tough offense to be in ... but Jeff has been really consistent.”
The following season, Hostetler passed a career-high of 3,334 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for two more, and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the only time in his career, but the Raiders went 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs.
The Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995 and Hoss led them to an 8-2 record and the AFC West lead as the fans in the Oakland Coliseum roared once again, but he sustained a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the lineup for five games and the Silver and Black lost their last six to finish 8-8 to miss the playoffs again.
In Hostetler’s final season with the Raiders in 1996, he passed for 2,548 yards and a career-high 23 touchdowns in addition to running for another score, but after winning three games in a row, Oakland lost it's last two and once again missed the playoffs with a 7-9 record.
Following the season, the Raiders released the 36-year-old Hostetler, who played one last NFL season with the Washington Redskins, and Oakland signed quarterback Jeff George, which in the end proved to be a disaster as the Silver and Black went 4-12.
It’s simply a shame that Hoss didn’t come to the Raiders sooner rather than spending all those seasons on the bench in New York.
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