(Jim Plunkett photos courtesy of the Oakland Raiders)
Talk of Fame Network
When San Francisco released Jim Plunkett following the 1977 season, the former quarterback was running out of more than just options. He was running out of hope.
“There was quite a bit of self doubt,” he admitted on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “It was probably the lowest point of my career. I certainly thought about quitting; (that) the critics were correct, maybe, (and) it was time for me to step down. Surgery after surgery, betting beaten up quite a bit, almost always playing from behind … It makes it tough on a quarterback.”
While that changed when Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders came to his rescue in 1978, Plunkett’s situation really didn’t. He sat for two years behind Hall-of-Famer Ken Stabler, then backed up Dan Pastorini (acquired for Stabler) for the first part of the 1980 season.
It was then that Plunkett’s life … and career … changed.
When Pastorini fractured his leg early in the fifth game that year vs. Kansas City, Plunkett was summoned from the bench … and never left. He not only led Oakland to victories in nine of their last 11 regular-season games; he took them to the Super Bowl, where they defeated Philadelphia, 27-10, and Plunkett was named the game’s MVP.
It was one of two Super Bowl victories for Plunkett, who guided the Raiders past Washington in Super Bowl XVIII to become the only quarterback eligible for the Hall of Fame to start and win two Super Bowls … and not make it to Canton.
But, as Plunkett tells it, he never would have made it anywhere had Davis granted his wish 36 years ago.
“I asked to be traded actually that year we went to the Super Bowl … in the preseason,” said Plunkett, who was 8-2 in the playoffs. “They didn’t give me an opportunity to start, and I said, ‘If I don’t start now I’m getting older (he was 32), and I might not get another opportunity. Obviously, things worked out there. Unfortunately Dan got hurt, but fortunately for me, I got a chance to take over and help lead that ‘81 team to a Super Bowl.
“My first start after Pastorini got hurt was against the San Diego Chargers at home, and one of the things that Mr. Davis said to me was that ‘It’s not important that you do well; it’s important that we win.’ And he was right.
“Certainly I wanted to do well, and I was quite nervous going into that game because if I fail now I might never get that opportunity again. But, fortunately, I was ready to go, ready to play and things worked out well — not only for me but for the Raiders.”