- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Al Davis didn't waste time. Unwilling to wait for the postgame locker-room mob to disperse, Davis, the managing general partner of the Raiders, threaded his way through the feverish and the jubilant in the home team's quarters at the Los Angeles Coliseum to congratulate his troops for the way they had humbled the plucky but overmatched Seattle Seahawks 30-14. Davis didn't mince steps. He went straight to the adjoining lockers of cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes. Running back Marcus Allen had contributed 216 total yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Jim Plunkett had gained 240 total yards and played with an élan and nimbleness he seems to put away for safekeeping until games like Sunday's AFC championship. Strong safety Mike Davis had intercepted the Seahawks twice. Wide receiver Malcolm Barnwell had caught five passes for 116 yards. The locker room was fairly choked with stars. Al 'Davis rightfully could have chosen any of the above as the recipient of his initial kudos of the day, but he's a man of defined priorities whose first, immutable law has always been: Give me two great corners, and I can move the earth.
Davis raised his left fist and smiled ferociously at the two magnificent, undressed athletes. "Lester. One more. Michael. One more," Davis said. Then he moved on. Hayes and Haynes, judge and jury, had allowed the black-clad horde that plays between them to dominate the Seahawks. On the third play of the game, Seattle quarterback Dave Krieg threw to wide receiver Byron Walker. Hayes intercepted but was called for pass interference. "A phantom call," Hayes said. "My shadow must have bumped him." On the next play, the Seahawks ran their AFC Rookie of the Year, Curt Warner, to the left. Haynes—alone—folded Warner into a new shape. No gain. Linebacker Rod Martin then sacked Krieg. No receiver had come open. An incomplete pass followed, and Seattle had to punt. But the Raiders roughed the kicker. Krieg had a new, brief life.
On the first play after the roughing call, Krieg, under a heavy rush, looked right, toward Hayes, and threw for wide receiver Steve Largent. "Sometimes a quarterback will just test a guy's reputation," said Raider running back Greg Pruitt. "And often he'll wish he hadn't." Hayes intercepted the sideline throw and raced 44 yards to the Seahawk 26. Thereafter, the Seattle offense was funneled inside and reduced to a bare trickle. With 8:46 left in the third quarter and the score 20-0 Raiders, the Seahawks had 16 yards in total offense.
Hayes is an All-Pro again, having regained the reputation for excellence he'd had in the Raiders' last Super Bowl season, 1980, when he covered himself with an orange goo called Kwik Grip Hold Tight Paste and intercepted 18 passes. This year he has only four. "But I've dropped at least eight," he says. "Mentally, I miss the stickum."
He had no problem clutching those two early throws by Krieg. "Hayes was waiting for the blitz, " said Krieg. "He knew what we were trying to do. He gambled correctly."
Hayes concurred in that analysis. "Largent prefers the quick out or the slant whenever the defense blitzes," he said. "I was thinking five-yard pattern." Was he playing man-to-man? "Yes," Hayes said. "Of course." The Raiders, unlike most NFL teams, still like their cornerbacks to play the old one-on-one.
One reason Hayes's interceptions have fallen off so drastically—he has had but 10 in the last three seasons—is that the ball usually has been on the other side of the field. From 1982 until six weeks ago the Raiders played Ted Watts, a 1981 No. 1 pick at right corner, but Watts may be more a safety at heart. In any case, he wasn't an earthshaking cornerback. Meanwhile, the NFL had outlawed stickum.
The NFL, it seemed, also made an attempt to outlaw Haynes. This fall, commissioner Pete Rozelle voided a trade in which the New England Patriots would have sent Haynes, then a holdout, to the Raiders. Rozelle said the deal had been consummated minutes after the Oct. 11 trading deadline. "I thought I was going to be in New Jersey, with Mr. Trump," says Haynes. "When they blocked the trade, I was upset. No other team had been willing to give up what New England was asking for me [a No. 1 pick in 1984 and a No. 2 in '85]. No doubt about it, I was headed for the USFL."
Ah, but if Kwik Grip Hold Tight Paste had Howard Slusher for an agent, as Haynes does, perhaps it too would have had a better fate. Slusher threatened to sue the NFL for blocking the trade, and an out-of-court settlement was reached on Nov. 10. The Patriots got their draft picks; Haynes, 30, got a reported three-year, $1.2 million deal; and the Raiders got a six-time All-Pro who has even veterans reaching for terms of praise.
"The difference after Mike came was like night and day," says Martin, an All-Pro himself. "I haven't had a player like him on my side of the field since Willie Brown retired."