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Super Bowl QB Rich Gannon:  A True Raider Great

The Oakland, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas Raiders have a legacy of great quarterbacks, often overlooked is a true great in Rich Gannon.

Four quarterbacks have led the Raiders to the Super Bowl:

Daryle Lamonica in Super Bowl II, Kenny Stabler in Super Bowl XI, Jim Plunkett in Super Bowl XV and XVIII, and probably the least heralded to the four, Rich Gannon in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Gannon came to the Raiders in 1999 at the age of 34 and played the best football of his NFL career in the next four seasons. After the Silver and Black went 8-8 in his first season, he took them to 12-14, 10-6 and 11-5 records and AFC West championships in the next three seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in four consecutive seasons.

“In 1999, I was really a journeyman quarterback,” Gannon told the Associated Press. “I had played in the league 11 or 12 years and never really felt I was given an opportunity or chance to be an everyday player.

“In 1999, the Oakland Raiders, Mr. (Al) Davis and (Coach) Jon Gruden gave me that opportunity to be an everyday starter. I tried to make the most of that opportunity.”

Gannon had been an honorable mention All-American as a senior and was the Yankee Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 1986, having passed for passing for 5,926 yards and 35 touchdowns in three seasons as a starter at Delaware.

The Minnesota Vikings picked Gannon in the fourth round (No. 98 overall) in the 1987 NFL Draft, but he was nothing more than a backup in 12 seasons with the Vikings, the Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs before coming to the Raiders.

“I think (Gruden) saw me as a quarterback who wasn’t young, but was getting a chance to have his own team and wanted to get it right, and wanted nothing more than to win football games and would do whatever it took to do that,” Gannon said.

“I never wanted to do anything in terms of my play that would let him down because I knew how much he had invested in me.”

In three seasons under Gruden, Gannon passed for 11,098 yards and 75 touchdowns, and when Gruden left to take the head coaching job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gannon was even better in 2002 with 4,689 yards and 26 TDs.

“I think the reason he and I hit it off so well is for whatever reason, Jon feels like he has to prove something every day of his life,” Gannon said. “I think it’s what drives him and motivates him.

“I think it’s why he and I had such great symmetry because I think I’m wired the same way. I feel like every day I came in as a player, I had to grind and really work on my craft to prove myself to my teammates and my coaches.”

Said Gruden: “His improvisation, his ability to see blitzes was something. He made three great audibles.”

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Of course, there were times when Gannon didn’t do what Gruden wanted and he heard his coach scream from the sidelines: “Gannon! What the (expletive) are you doing? No, No, No!”

When Gruden left the Raiders, Bill Callahan took over as head coach and Gannon led the Silver and Black to seven victories in their last eight games to win the AFC West before defeating the New York Jets, 30-10, to open the playoffs and downing the Tennessee Titans, 41-28, in the AFC Championship Game to reach the Super Bowl.

The Raiders would play Gruden and the Buccaneers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

The Silver and Black last played the Buccaneers in 1999 with Gannon at quarterback and routed them, 45-0, as center Barret Robbins and the rest of the offensive line dominated nose tackle Warren Sapp and the rest of the Tampa Bay front line.

However, Robbins sustained a knee injury in the AFC Championship Game and in the days leading up to the Super Bowl and an assistant trainer told him if he didn’t get better he wouldn’t be able to face the Buccaneers.

Robbins, who it was later learned had alcohol and substance abuse problems, freaked out and left the team to go on a rampage over the border in Tijuana, Mexico.

“I think Robbins is the most dominant offensive lineman in the game,” Peter King of Sports Illustrated said when he learned the center would not play in the game.

Long snapper Adam Treu replaced Robbins in the lineup, but couldn’t come close to playing at the same level.

Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson intercepted a pass by Tampa Bay quarterback Brad Johnson early in the game, but Gannon and the Raiders couldn’t move the ball and settled for a 40-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

The Buccaneers scored the next 34 points to blow open the game.

Gannon did his best to rally the Raiders, completing 24-of-44 passes for 272 yards and touchdowns to Jerry Porter and Jerry Rice to narrow the gap to 34-21 in the fourth quarter, but the Buccaneers picked off two of his passes in the fourth quarter and returned them for touchdowns.

The Buccaneers intercepted five of Gannon’s passes, but like any Raiders quarterback, if he was going to lose he went down throwing.

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