Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/26/12
The Oakland Raiders can lay claim to the record for the most Heisman Trophy winners suited up in team colors.  The list includes Billy Cannon (LSU, 1959), Jim Plunkett (Stanford, 1970), Marcus Allen (USC, 1981), Bo Jackson (Auburn, 1985), Tim Brown (Notre Dame, 1987), Desmond Howard (Michigan, 1991) Charles Woodson (Michigan, 1997) and currently Carson Palmer (USC, 2002) and Matt Leinart (USC, 2004). 

The Raiders can also count two others in Andre Ware (Houston, 1989) and Rashaam Salaam (Colorado, 1994), although they were briefly with the team but never took the field during the regular season. The Raiders also boast having two or even three Heisman champs playing simultaneously. Plunkett and Allen from 1982 through 1986, and Allen, Jackson and Brown for the 1988 and 1989 seasons.

As impressive as that may sound, most football pundits agree that a Heisman Trophy winner on the depth chart doesn't automatically equal success.

In fact, fully two-thirds of the men who eventually made it to the top of the college balloting are considered failures at the next level.

Perhaps the exception proving this rule was the Raiders' 1983 season spotlighting Plunkett and Allen which culminated in a Super Bowl win over the Washington Redskins. 

However, despite the Raiders' dearth of Heisman-winning players over the ensuing years, it would be their final Super Bowl win and last appearance in the Big Game for nearly a decade. During the 1988 and 1989 seasons that starred three of college football's best; Allen, Jackson and Brown; the Raiders posted a pair of mediocre records at 7-9 and 8-8 respectively. 

Even the 2003 campaign which saw the Raiders' return to "Super Sunday," showcasing the athletic talents of Woodson and an aging Tim Brown can't properly be called a success after a humiliating 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The 2012 Raiders will once again list two Heisman winners on the roster, this time from the same school.  It's highly unlikely that Palmer and Leinart will ever be on the field together, but the pairing of former teammates is intriguing nonetheless. The USC Trojans alums reportedly have a great working relationship stemming from their college days, and Leinart was specifically picked up to help Palmer transition to working under new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and offensive line coach Frank Pollack.

Knapp and Pollack were hired away from the Houston Texans where Leinart backed up Matt Schaub in 2011.  However, both Palmer and Leinart have had limited success at the professional level, Palmer more so, in his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. But, experts usually consider the 32-year-old Palmer's best years to be behind him, roughly around 2005 when he led the Bengals to the playoffs only to lose in the first round. 

The same experts are usually of the opinion that the Raiders got the short end of the stick in last year's trade with the Bengals to acquire Palmer. Sitting on a 4-2 record at the time starting quarterback Jason Campbell went down to injury, it probably seemed like instant salvation. Had the Raiders known the season would finish up 8-8, they might have reconsidered. Still, judging by some of the team's previous questionable pickups, maybe not. 

To Palmer's credit, he was joining a new team almost midseason and after an announced "retirement."  His numbers in 2011 can best be described as "workman-like," (199 completions on 328 attempts for 2,753 yards and 13 touchdowns against 16 interceptions), considering the number of games he played, the loss of his star running back Darren McFadden and inconsistent receiving corps. 

However, no one would ever call his performance "Heismanesque."  Leinart too has not been without issues, showing flashes of brilliance in his limited appearances; he still must to live down the image of the over-hyped, entitled product of the "University of Spoiled Children" and prove he can make it in the league.

The Raiders of old had a knack for taking players widely thought to be too aged, washed-up, or incapable of discipline and molding them into a terrifying gridiron juggernaut. Deceased owner Al Davis managed to cobble together such a beast more than once and the Heisman Trophy winners were always an integral part of the process. 

Al Davis is gone now and it's difficult to decide if the Oakland Raiders are sticking to his formulas or biding their time through a rebuilding period. If that's the case, perhaps fans won't see as many Heisman champs on the team program in the future.  If not, maybe Eric Crouch is available.

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