Raiders taken at 24: DE Bob Buczkowski

“With the 24th Pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, the Raiders select Bob Buczkowski, defensive end, Pittsburgh.”

The reputation of Al Davis is a dichotomy in Pro Football history.  For one thing, Davis was a talented coach, scout, owner and businessman who built the Raiders from an obscure losing franchise into a powerhouse.  No football expert can ever doubt the success that Davis had and how that came from Al’s hard work, dedication and shrewd business tactics.

On the other hand, Davis was known to trot out first round draft picks that would leave experts, fans and even the player drafted scratching their heads in amazement.  If you reading this you likely remember JaMarcus Russell or Darrius Heyward-Bey but Davis had a long history of taking players that were better associated with athleticism than actual football ability.  The difference is, during the 1960s and 1970s Al took many players that fit that ideal but the majority of those picks became great players for him.  During that era it didn’t matter if a player had a plethora of football talent, the only thing that mattered was hard work on the field and mental toughness.  Actual football ability was sometimes secondary and Davis became a “creature of habit” that continually drafted many guys based on athleticism instead of football accruement.

The rumor going into the 1986 draft was that Davis was going to trade up and take quarterback Jim Everett after dealing backup quarterback Marc Wilson to the Eagles.  The Raiders were struggling at quarterback, Jim Plunkett was almost 40 and backup Marc Wilson was not working out despite the opportunities that the franchise had given him since coming to team as their 1980 first round draft pick.  The Raiders also had weaknesses at wide receiver and their aging offensive line needed upgrades.  Their defensive line consisted of six year veteran Howie Long, second year star Sean Jones and a solid veteran backup in Greg Townsend.  The last thing the Raiders needed to take was another defensive lineman.

Davis drafted a defensive lineman named Bob Buczkowski out of Pittsburgh and that pick would go down as one of the worst in Raiders’ history.  Buczkowski was a curious first-round choice from the start. He played on an undistinguished team at Pitt. The Raiders were impressed with his speed and size (6-feet-5, 265 pounds), but until the announcement, few were figuring on Buczkowski as a first-rounder. Not the draft experts. Not his coaches at Pitt. Not even Buczkowski.  Personally, I was unable to acquire anything regarding his collegiate career other than he went to Pittsburgh.  The Pittsburgh Panthers 2016 Media Guide had nothing regarding his career or any records that he held.  In fact, the only reference to Bob Buczkowski is that he was drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders and he later played for a few other NFL teams.  If Bob Buczkowski was the real deal than you would think that the Panthers would devote more time to him in their media guide.

That July, Buczkowski signed a four year deal with the Los Angeles Raiders and he was assigned jersey number 95.  Red flags sprouted up right after his signing.  On the first day of training camp he twisted his back during a pass rush drill and the injury was apparently bad enough that Buczkowski that it forced him to sit out his rookie year and get surgery.  His first surgery didn’t clear up the issue and in August 1986 he was forced to get surgery again forcing the Raiders to put him on injured reserve.  

In 1987, he made through training camp but persistent illnesses forced him to seek out medical help.  Doctors discovered that Bob suffered from a form of hepatitis which is a malady that requires heavy medication and can lead to future health problems.  As he recuperated he missed the first three games of the season but he quickly returned to make his NFL debut on October 12 against Denver.  He did little in the game but one week later he finally showed off his athleticism against the San Diego Chargers.  Bob powered into the Charger backfield and recorded the first sack of his career.  The Los Angeles crowd erupted in cheers and in his personal press box Al Davis was beaming with delight.  Had he finally made another coup?  Had he once again outsmarted the experts?

The celebration soon came to an end later that day when Bob severely twisted his ankle while defending a running play and he only appeared in one other game during the 1987 season.  Apparently, his three game performance was enough for Al Davis to trade away defensive star Sean Jones, who recorded 15.5 sacks in 1986 but both he and Davis didn’t get along and as any fan knows that usually led to your downfall as a Raider.

At the time Buczkowski told the Los Angeles Times, “”I opened some eyes in that game,” Buczkowski said. “That was when they traded Sean Jones away and told me I would go to spring with the starting position.”

In 1988, the Raiders had a new head coach in Mike Shanahan and when Buckoski missed minicamp because of shoulder surgery, Shanahan had seen enough.  The Raiders cut him and he tried to latch on with the Chargers but that attempt quickly failed.  His release from the Raiders did not shock the football world and it definitely didn’t surprise Buckowski.  “Mr. (Al) Davis drafted me, and everybody said it was a mistake,” Buczkowski said. “The Raiders stuck by me for a long time. It got old for everybody. It got old when the kid keeps getting hurt.”

Bob sat out the entire 1988 season before reemerging with the Phoenix Cardinals.  He appeared in only four games, recovered one fumble and recorded no sacks.  The Cardinals let him go after the season and he signed on with the Cleveland Browns.  In 1990, he appeared in 15 games for Cleveland,  starting three of them,  and recording half of sack.  The Browns finished the 1990 season with a 3-13 record and they quickly fired their entire coaching staff and hired a guy named Bill Belichick as their new head coach.  Belichick quickly axed Buczkowski from the Browns’ roster and the short NFL career of Bob Buczkowski mercifully came to an end.

The return for their investment was not good for the Raiders.  Buczkowski appeared in only three games for the team and his one sack occurred in a game that the Raiders eventually lost by a 23-17 score.  Sadly, the Raiders could have drafted RB Neal Anderson, LB Pepper Johnson, or LB Pat Swilling.  All three men would go on to have productive NFL careers and play far longer than Buczkowski could ever imagine.

Bob Buczkowski’s career statistics are as follows:

  • 21 career games, 1.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery.

JaMarcus Russell is often called the worst draft pick in Raiders history, but is that true?  If you were going to argue against that then look no further than Bob Buczkowski.


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