Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series acquainting fans with the Raiders’ illustrious 60-year history as the team moves to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
During a memorable 1970 season that concluded with a loss to the Baltimore Colts in the AFC championship game, the Raiders had a backup quarterback and field goal kicker who looked like your uncle.
The team had released 43-year-old George Blanda during the preseason for being … well, too old.
But he would be brought back for a 21st NFL season that some consider his most remarkable. During a five-game stretch, Blanda led the Raiders to four wins and a tie, with all but one coming in dramatic fashion.
Fellow Raiders legend Bill King might have put it best in the broadcast booth after the irrepressible football Methuselah kicked a 53-yard field goal with three seconds to play giving the Raiders a 23-20 victory over Cleveland during the middle of the amazing run:
“George Blanda has just been elected King of the World!”
A look at the five 1970 Raiders comebacks led by the forever-young Blanda:
1. Raiders 31, Steelers 24 (Oct. 25): After replacing injured Daryle Lamonica at quarterback, Blanda passes for three touchdowns — one to Warren Wells and two to Raymond Chester. Although the Raiders technically never trailed, it felt like it when Lamonica left a 7-7 game before Blanda turned back the clock.
2. Raiders 17, Chiefs 17 (Nov.1): Using a traditional straight-on approach that is now obsolete, Blanda kicks a 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining lifting the Raiders into a tie against their bitter rival.
3. Raiders 23, Browns 20 (Nov. 8): Blanda comes off the bench to toss a game-tying touchdown pass with 1:34 remaining, then kicks a 53-yard field goal with 0:03 showing on the clock.
4. Raiders 24, Broncos 19 (Nov. 15): Blanda replaces Lamonica again and throws a TD pass to Fred Biletnikoff with 2:28 left for the winning points.
5. Raiders 20, Chargers 17 (Nov. 22): Blanda boots a 16-yard field goal — the goalposts still were on the goal line then — giving the Raiders another dramatic win.
An awesome Brady twist would be if he worked all offseason to become a straight-on kicker, and ended his career as the latter day George Blanda, coming off of the bench to lead improbable comebacks.@georgescannell1
— Kyle G (@KG11_22) January 19, 2020
Postscript: In the 1970 AFC championship game against the Colts, Blanda again relieved an injured Lamonica and completed 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns while also kicking a 48-yard field goal and two extra points. He kept the Raiders in the game until the final quarter when he was intercepted twice.
At age 43, he became the oldest quarterback to play in an NFL championship game.