Greatest NFL Duo Ever? Mike Haynes & Lester Hayes

Perhaps the greatest cornerback duo in NFL history, the Raiders Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes, and they changed the game of football.
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When considering the best cornerbacks who have played for the Raiders in their 61-year history, the great Willie Brown comes to mind first, but Mike Haynes and Lester Hayes are right there, too.

In fact, Haynes and Hayes are considered the best cornerback duo to play for the Silver and Black, and perhaps the best in NFL history.

Their biggest achievement was taking away big-play wide receivers Charlie Brown, who made three catches, and Art Monk, who had only one, as the Raiders routed the Washington Redskins, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

With his top receivers unable to get open, quarterback Joe Theismann was sacked six times.

“Hayes and Haynes were the difference in the game,” Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard said.

Added Raiders defensive end Howie Long: “I could see the fear in Theismann’s face.”

The 6-2, 192-pound Haynes was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round (No. 5 overall) of the 1976 NFL Draft out of Arizona State and didn’t come to the Raiders until 1983, so he played opposite Hayes for only four seasons.

The 6-2, 200-pound Hayes was chosen by the Raiders in the fifth round (No. 126 overall) in 1977 out of Texas A&M and retired after the 1986 season.

However, in their relatively short time together, they made their mark.

“If they’re not (the best corner tandem), I would want to know who is,” said Dennis Thurman, who was a standout cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys for eight seasons during the same era and later was a defensive coordinator for the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

Hayes and Haynes combined with safeties Mike Davis and Vann McIlroy to give the Raiders a formidable secondary, which rivaled the Silver and Black’s famed “Soul Patrol” of Brown and Skip Thomas on the corners, with Jack Tatum and George Atkinson at safety.

Haynes, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, played in nine Pro Bowls, was selected to the All-Pro team six times, was NFL Rookie of the Year in 1976, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1984, and was voted to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team, the NFL 75-Year Anniversary Team and the NFL 100-Year Anniversary Team.

The NFL did not keep track of individual tackles and passes defensed in those days, but Haynes had 46 interceptions in his career for 688 yards and two touchdowns, including a 97-yarder for a Raiders touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in 1984. He also returned two punts for touchdowns while with the Patriots.

Hayes, who starred on two Super Bowl champions for the Raiders, played in five Pro Bowls, was selected to the All-Pro Team six times, was NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1980, and was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.

In his 10-year career, all with the Raiders, Hayes intercepted 39 passes for 572 yards and four touchdowns, including 13 picks for 273 yards and a 62-yard TD during an incredible 1980 season. He also recovered seven fumbles, returning one 39 yards for a touchdown in his final season.

Hayes’ 39 career interceptions tied the Raiders record set by Hall of Famer Brown, and his 13 interceptions in 1980 are one short of the NFL record of 14 made by Hall of Famer Dick “Night Train” Lane of the Los Angeles Rams in 1952.

Hayes also made eight interceptions in post-season games that he returned for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Incredibly, Hayes has not been selected to the Hall of Fame, and many believe it is because voters believe he cheated by caking his hands and uniform with “Stickum,” before it was banned by the NFL in 1981.

Hayes was introduced to “Stickum” when he was a rookie with the Raiders by wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1988 after he and fellow wide receiver Cliff Branch made use to the substance famous.

“Lester was one of the best cornerbacks ever at intimidation,” Haynes said. “He really did go after people. As a cover man and in tackling, he was just phenomenal.

“Lester was a great cornerback and should be in the Hall of Fame, and Cliff Branch, too.”

Haynes' claim spoke for all of Raider Nation.

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