The center position is a special part of Raider history because the team has been fortunate to have some of the greatest centers in the history of the NFL.
The question among fans is “Who is the best center in Raider history?”
Let’s rank them, in order, from last to best.
5. Rodney Hudson
Height: 6-2 Weight: 300
Born: 07/12/2020 Mobile, Alabama
College: Florida State
Raider career: 2015–present
Jersey number: # 61
How acquired: Free Agency (2015)
Awards: 1 Pro Bowl (2016), PFWA All-AFC (2015)
After Barrett Robbins left the Raiders the team possessed a myriad group of centers that ranged from journeymen like Samson Satele to flops like Adam Treu. The Raiders tended to be winners when they had an All-Pro caliber guy at center and in an eerie coincidence, many of the franchise’s worst years took place when their centers were not very good. Perhaps the great Gene Upshaw was wrong when he said that the “offensive line is the basic heartbeat of a football team.” I think that the basic heartbeat of the Raiders franchise is who is manning their center position. The Raiders recent resurgence could be tied to great players like Derek Carr and Khalil Mack but isn’t it interesting that this two year renewal of the Raiders could be tied to the fact that they possess one of the Pro Football’s best centers again?
Do you even remember who the Raiders starting center was before Hudson arrived? Most people likely don’t because Hudson became the de facto starting center as soon as he signed his contract. Pro Football Focus ranked him the fifth best center in 2015 and graded him as the best pass blocker at center. The Raiders finished that season with a 7-9 record and their offense was just not the same when Hudson missed Weeks 10, 12, and 13 with a sprained right ankle. That season, Oakland lost two of the games that they didn’t have Hudson available and they barely beat the Chargers in overtime to finish with a 1-2 record without Hudson.
In 2016, Hudson mirrored Jim Otto’s greatness when he started in every single game and played in every single offensive snap. That included the Raiders only postseason game and being elected to his first Pro Bowl. If he continues to have the same success, if he continues to have the same dominance, I can see him surpassing the #4 person on this list and maybe the #3 person on this list.
4. Barrett Robbins
Height: 6-3 Weight: 320
Born: 09/26/1973 Houston, Texas
Raider career: 1996-2003
Jersey number: # 63
How acquired: Drafted in the Round 2 (49th overall) in the 1996 NFL Draft
Awards: 1 Pro Bowl, 1 First Team All Pro Award (2002).
Raider fans are likely going to respond to this ranking with something like “What about Super Bowl XXXVII when he screwed over the team?”
It is hard to defend the fact that the loss of Robbins greatly contributed to the Raiders eventual defeat in Super Bowl XXXVII but bipolar disorder is a dangerous medical issue that makes one realize that even a Super Bowl victory isn’t worth a life. Since his 2004 retirement, Barrett Robbins has had several issues with the law that includes alleged domestic violence and drug possession.
Despite his performance during the week of Super Bowl XXXVII, Barrett Robbins was a great center. During his first six seasons, Robbins only missed two games due to injury and even though the Raiders struggled on offense for most of those seasons, he was the Raiders most constituent offensive star outside of Tim Brown. In five of his first seven seasons he started every single game for the silver and black.
The fact that the Raiders offensive line struggled in the Super Bowl clearly illustrates how important he was to the play calling and blocking schemes. Moreover, older Raider fans will recall that the Raiders planned on running the football against Tampa Bay because they had similar success against the same defense in 2001. Without Robbins the Raiders lacked the anchor necessary to dominate Warren Sapp and the rest of the Bucs front seven and that forced the Raiders to pass more. Quarterback Rich Gannon was pummeled throughout the game and he threw 5 interceptions.
Regardless how that game turned out or would have turned out, Barrett Robbins deserves a place on this list as one of the greatest centers in team history but his personal issues sadly drop him to fourth on this list even though he was a better blocker and player than the number three person on this list.
3. Don Mosebar
Height: 6-6 Weight: 305
Born: 10/11/2020 Yakima, Washington
Raider career: 1983-1994
Jersey number: # 72
How acquired: Drafted in the 1st Round of the 1983 NFL Draft (26th overall)
Awards: 1 Super Bowl Ring, 3 Pro Bowls.
The Raiders legacy at center did not end when Dave Dalby hung up his cleats in 1986. In fact, the Raiders were just getting started.
Even though Mosebar is forever remembered as the man taken one pick before Dan Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft, he was a very talented player that just isn’t a Hall of Famer. In 1986, after backing up Dalby he became only the third starting center in franchise history. He made three Pro Bowls, more than his predecessor, even though Dalby was often overshadowed by famed Steeler center Mike Webster.
On the field, Mosebar could block both the run and the pass with the ability of a Pro Bowler and during his years in the NFL he ranked amongst the top ten centers in the league in those categories.
During his tenure (1986-1994) span, the Raiders reached the playoffs 3 times, in 1990, 1991, and 1993. Between 1990 and 1994 he started every single game for the Raiders and that included all five postseason appearances by the team.
During the Raiders 1995 training camp he suffered a career ending eye injury which ultimately led to the removal of his left eye. He was replaced by Dan Turk, who was a serviceable center but Mosebar’s loss would later prompt Al Davis to select Barrett Robbins in the 1996 NFL Draft.
2. Dave Dalby
Height: 6-3 Weight: 247
Raider career: 1972-1985
Jersey number: # 50
How acquired: Drafted in the 4th Rd of the 1972 NFL Draft (100th overall)
Awards: 3 Super Bowl Rings, 1 Pro Bowl (1977).
In a long forgotten interview with NFL Films, the late Gene Upshaw commented on his former teammate; “Dave Dalby was the center on our football team and we nicknamed him “the Pig”.
Offensive linemen do all the dirty work while the skill position players get all the accolades and credit for a team’s success. Gene Upshaw once said that the offensive line is the “basic heartbeat of a football team and without it you are dead.” Sadly, the position of center is largely forgotten even though he is the only offensive player who touches the football on every single snap. Like Otto before him, Dalby called every protection, every run blocking scheme and that makes him one of the most valuable players on the Raiders during his tenure there. He loved to pass block but as a run blocker he has few equals in the history of the position.
David took over in 1975 as the Raiders starting center and he went on to start in 135 games plus 17 more in the playoffs. Undoubtedly, Jim Otto left an indelible mark on the position but it was Dalby who was the team’s center during their glory days that are constantly replayed on NFL Network. Dave Dalby was one of just three players who were in the starting lineup for all three of the Raiders’ Super Bowl championship victories, and only a half-dozen other Raiders have played in more games during the team’s 57- year history.
His most recognizable statistic is actually one that he shares with Otto. During his 14 year career, Dave Dalby never missed a game and that included 135 consecutive starts at center. It is even more remarkable to think that between 1960 and 1985, a span of 25 years, the only primary Raider centers were Jim Otto and Dave Dalby. They started each Raider game by touching the football and snapping it to the quarterback. Amazing!
Dave Dalby passed away as the result of a car accident in 2002.
1: Jim Otto
Height: 6’2 Weight: 255
Born: 1/5/2020 Wausau, WI
College: Miami (FL)
Raider career: 1960-1974
Jersey numbers: #50 and #00
How acquired: Otto was drafted by the proposed Minneapolis franchise of the new American Football League. When the Minneapolis contingent reneged to accept an NFL franchise, Otto’s rights defaulted to the AFL’s Oakland Raiders. He then signed with the Raiders.
Awards: 3× Pro Bowl (1970–1972), 2× First-team All-Pro (1970, 1971), Second-team All-Pro (1972), AFL champion (1967), 9× AFL All-Star (1961–1969), 10× First-team All-AFL (1960–1969), AFL All-Time Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee (1980).
Jim Otto’s “00” number will forever remain a marker of toughness, fortitude and commitment to excellence in Raider history.
Today, he is still one of the Raiders’ most recognizable players despite the fact that his career began well before the Super Bowl era. As both a run and pass blocker he has no equal in the history of the league because no player of Pro Football’s Modern Era ever sacrificed more, on every play, than he did. Steeler fans could argue that Mike Webster was the better player but it is an argument that they should lose. Webster was a great player and he only slightly ranks behind Otto in terms of greatness.
He joined the Raiders in 1960 and he did not miss a single game as their starting center for 15 consecutive seasons. That total was good for 210 regular-season starts and if you count preseason and postseason games, Jim Otto started in 308 straight games.
Now that is a streak that will never, ever be broken.
Not only did he make those starts, but did so with the highest of quality. Otto was elected to the AFL All-Star game and the Pro Bowl in 12 consecutive seasons. Yet, another Raider record that no member of the silver and black will ever come close to surpassing.
Moreover, Otto’s sacrifice to both the game and the Raiders is unlike any player who ever donned the silver and black. He has had both knees and both shoulders replaced. In 2013, Otto told a reporter that he has had 74 surgeries, including 28 knee operations, and in 2007 he had his right leg amputated.
Jim Otto gave everything he had on every single play and he sacrificed his body and his health for the silver and back.
Jim Otto was the best center in Raiders history. There is no suitable argument against that.
Honorable Mention: I can’t think of one. Can you?