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Remembering Tim Brown's Hall of Fame Career

Gary Davenport

If you ask fans of the Oakland Raiders who best personifies the team's stay in Los Angeles from 1982-1994, odds are one of three names is coming up.

The first is tailback Marcus Allen, who spent his entire 11-year Raiders tenure in Los Angeles. The second is defensive end Howie Long, who spent all but one of his 13 seasons in the NFL in L.A. (the outlier was in Oakland). Both of those Raiders greats have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On Saturday, the third name in that conversation gets his turn.

Sure, wide receiver Tim Brown wasn't in La-La Land as long or Allen or Long, spending over half his 17 NFL seasons playing in the Bay Area. But there's no question as to Brown's place in the pantheon of the Silver and Black.

Not after you open the team's record books. Brown holds Raiders records in games played (240), seasons played (16), touchdowns (104), receptions (1,070), receiving yards (14,734), receiving touchdowns (99), punt return yards (3,272), all-purpose yards (19,431) and yards from scrimmage (14,924).

PAUL SAKUMA/Associated Press

Other than that, though, "Mr. Raider" really didn't do much.

Now, as Brown prepares to join the shrine of NFL greats in Canton, Ohio, here's a look back at some of the other numbers that defined his Hall of Fame career.

0 - Number of Heisman-Winning Wide Receivers Before Brown

For a player who didn't even play organized football until his sophomore year of high school, Brown was a quick study. By the time colleges came calling, he was regarded as one of the top prospects in the country.

Brown chose Notre Dame, and over four seasons with the Fighting Irish, Brown laid the same sort of waste to their record books that he would later do to the Raiders'. In his final year in 1987, Brown topped 800 receiving yards, 400 punt return yards and 450 kick return yards while scoring seven touchdowns.

Oh, and Brown also rushed for 144 yards. You know, because he could.

For those exploits, Brown received the Heisman Trophy, becoming the first player ever at his position to win college football's highest individual honor.

As Nick Ironside of Irish247 reported, Brown credited then-coach Lou Holtz with his success in South Bend, Indiana:

(Holtz) started to tell me he thought I could be the best player in the country, and I was like, ‘Come on, man. Really?’ I’m trying to be the best receiver on this team and he’s talking about being the best player in this country. ... But the power of his positive words really sunk in and it took a couple weeks really before I got it. But once I got it, I started to follow him around like a little puppy dog just trying to get more information from him. I really started to believe.

The Raiders apparently started believing too, as they nabbed Brown with the sixth overall pick in the 1988 NFL draft.

0 - Number of 1,000-Yard Seasons in Brown's First 5 Years in the NFL

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we'll get to numbers that aren't goose eggs in a bit.

As we all know, Brown went on to become one of the most prolific pass-catchers in NFL history. However, early in his career there was no Odell Beckham-esque impact as a rookie. In fact, in exactly none of Brown's first five seasons did he top 1,000 receiving yards. His 725 yards as a rookie are his high-water mark over that span.

Tim Brown 1988-1992
Year Games Rec. Yards Avg. TD
1988 16 43 725 16.9 5
1989 1 1 8 8.0 0
1990 16 18 265 14.7 3
1991 16 36 554 15.4 5
1992 15 49 693 14.1 7
Per NFL.com

Mind you, this isn't to say that Brown didn't make any impact with the Raiders early in his career. As a rookie in 1988, Brown led the entire NFL in kick returns (41) and return yardage (1,098), including a 97-yard score. And there were flashes—114 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13, for example.

But it wasn't until the 1993 season (the team's next to last in the City of Angels) when the light bulb finally came on.

9 - Number of Consecutive 1,000-Yard Seasons, Beginning in 1993

Once that light bulb came on, that bad boy stayed on.

Tim Brown 1993-2001
Year Games Rec. Yards Avg. TD
1993 16 80 1180 14.8 7
1994 16 89 1309 14.7 9
1995 16 89 1342 15.1 10
1996 16 90 1104 12.3 9
1997 16 104 1408 13.5 5
1998 16 81 1012 12.5 9
1999 16 90 1344 14.9 6
2000 16 76 1128 14.8 11
2001 16 91 1165 12.8 9
Per NFL.com

In 1993, Brown reeled in 80 receptions for 1,180 yards and seven scores en route to his third Pro Bowl appearance (his skills as a return man earned trips in 1988 and 1991). That would be the first of five straight trips to Honolulu.

It was also the beginning of a remarkable streak of both durability and productivity. For nine straight years from 1993-2001, Brown hauled in at least 75 receptions, topped 1,000 yards and scored at least five touchdowns. Over that nine-season span, he averaged over eight receiving scores a season, in an era when passing wasn't as prevalent as today.

No, it wasn't the Wing-T days, but it wasn't today (when 4,000 passing yards is considered "OK") either.

And over that 144-game stretch, Brown suited up each and every week.

What made the streak all the more remarkable was the Raiders' bevy of, how shall I put this, uninspiring quarterbacks at the time. Jeff Hostetler. Billy Joe Hobert. Jeff George. Donald Hollas.

OK, who the heck is Donald Hollas?

Sure, Rich Gannon's arrival in 1999 offered some stability under center, but Murderers' Row that ain't.

Brown also didn't exactly have a lot of weapons around him in the passing game to draw coverages away. In the first year of that streak, Ethan Horton (hears a Who) finished second on the team with 43 catches for less than 500 yards. In 2000, it was Andre Rison, who reeled in 41 passes for 606 yards.

Granted, in 2001, a fellow by the name of Jerry Rice arrived in the Bay Area, but for most of his heyday Tim Brown was a one-man band catching passes from average (on a good day) quarterbacks.

And opposing defenses still couldn't stop him.

More Than 1 - Dust-ups with Raiders Owner Al Davis

This may be hard for some to believe (well, not really), but despite the fact that Brown was as beloved by fans as any player in team history, his relationship with owner Al Davis was problematic.

Back in 2009, Brown told WCNN in Atlanta that things between him and Davis didn't take long to turn frosty:

Meeting Al (Davis) was pretty unique. I found out five or ten minutes after my first practice there that he hated African-American athletes from Notre Dame. And they literally told me that. They literally told me that because we’re known for using our education more than our athletic ability that he thought that I would be one of these guys that would basically take the money and run. I don’t know if that was a ploy to get me amped up, but it certainly worked.

In 1994, Brown signed an offer sheet with the Denver Broncos. Davis and the Raiders matched, but agreeing to terms with one of the Raiders' most hated rivals undoubtedly didn't sit will with Davis, who carried grudges like people today carry cellphones.

When the two happened across one another in an Atlanta restaurant during Super Bowl week back in 2000, the player and owner didn't exchange so much as a "hello," as Brown told Jeffri Chadiha of the San Francisco Examiner:

I couldn't find a way to go over and speak to him. I was saddened by that because I don't know anybody who I've dealt with for 12 years who I can't say hello to in that situation. I was saddened that the situation is where it is.

And that was just before Brown signed a five-year contract extension with the team.

It wasn't just Davis, either. In 2013, Brown created a firestorm of controversy when he suggested (per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk) that then-head coach Bill Callahan "sabotaged" the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

We all called it sabotage ... because Callahan and (Tampa Bay coach Jon) Gruden were good friends. And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders. You know, only came because Gruden made him come. Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years. So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn't pay him any attention. Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. ... It's hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl. You know, can you really say that? That can be my opinion, but I can't say for a fact that that's what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl. He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl. That's hard to say, because you can't prove it.

Still, despite the acrimony that eventually (at least partly) led to Brown's release from the Raiders in 2004, Brown was quick to assert to Joe Morelli of the New Haven Register that Davis was far from as out of touch as people thought after he very publicly (and bizarrely) fired head coach Lane Kiffin:

The way he went about the whole firing (of Kiffin) was not right. It made him look like a loose cannon who was out of touch dealing with his employees. That's not the case. ... In a lot of peoples' minds, Al is out of touch, but nothing is further from the truth. He is still quite lucid. Why he chose to do that, I don't know. It's a great place to play football, and the fans definitely deserve a better product on the field.

In a way, the end of Brown's career mirrored the Raiders' fall from prominence. A proud star/franchise who faded into mediocrity. But on Saturday, no one's going to be thinking about the end of the line and that one awful season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

No, they'll be thinking about the entire 16-year journey with the Raiders, and after five unsuccessful tries, Brown will finally be joining Allen and Long in Canton.

Mr. Raider is getting his due.

Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter at @IDPSharks.


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