ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Sebastian Janikowski leaving the Oakland Raiders after 18 years -- at the behest of the organization, mind you -- is more than a simple roster move on a soon-to-be 40-year-old, high-priced placekicker; it is a symbolic end for fans and longtime team employees.
With Janikowski gone, the last remaining player on Oakland’s roster drafted by the late Al Davis is also gone. Only one other player currently on the roster -- long snapper Jon Condo -- was signed by Davis, and Condo will become a free agent next month.
No wonder Davis’ son Mark went so deep in his statement acknowledging the contributions of the erstwhile SeaBass (he despised being called Jano, by the way).
“The Raider Nation salutes Sebastian Janikowski as the sun sets on his illustrious career with the Oakland Raiders,” Mark Davis said in the team release. “He joined the team as a surprise first-round pick in the 2000 Draft and finishes his time in Oakland as one of the greatest or perhaps the greatest kicker in pro football history. His powerful left leg produced an NFL-record 55 field goals of 50-or-more yards. The motto ‘Once a Raider, Always a Raider’ has never been more true as his 18-year career makes him the longest-tenured player in Raiders history. Sebastian, his wife, Lori, and their three children will always be a loved and treasured part of the Raiders family.”
Janikowski, owner of the strongest and richest leg in league history after signing a four-year, $16 million extension in 2014, is also the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 1,799 points, which ranks 11th in NFL history, even as he did not play last season after taking a $1 million paycut to get down to $3 million and spending last season on injured reserve. His locker was cleared out by midseason.
Does he deserve a spot on Oakland’s Mount Rushmore of greatest players? Hardly.
But is his face chiseled into the silver-and-black mountainside of all-time Raiders great characters? Arguably.
Jon Gruden actually favored drafting either receiver Sylvester Morris or running back Shaun Alexander with the 17th overall pick of the 2000 draft. But Al Davis went with the Polish Cannon.
“Thank God for Raiders fans they listened to Al Davis and not me,” Gruden laughed on a radio interview more than a decade later. “I’ll say he was right.”
At a barrel-chested 6-foot-1, 258 pounds, Janikowski more resembled a beer-league softball player early in his career and then an MMA fighter later rather than your stereotypical lithe placekicker.
And Janikowski went from being a hell-raising wild child with a police record -- four arrests at Florida State, four more run-ins with the law after entering the NFL before 2004 and another in 2011 -- into a family man later in life.
There was the good -- his tying the then-NFL record with a 63-yard field goal at Denver in 2011; his OT-record 57-yarder to beat the New York Jets and Brett Favre in 2008; his 61-yarder in Cleveland’s freezing temperatures in 2009.
There was the bad -- his missing three field goals, including a game-winning 32-yarder as time expired at Arizona in 2010; the cellulitis that cost him two games of his rookie season, when he missed 10 field-goal attempts; his missing the 2001 season finale against the Jets because of injury, in which replacement-for-the-day Brad Daluiso missed an extra-point and a 28-yard field goal in a 24-22 loss that set in motion the events for the Tuck Rule game a few weeks later.
And there was the ugly -- Lane Kiffin thumbing his nose at both convention and Al Davis by trotting Janikowski out to attempt a 76-yard field goal in what would be Kiffin’s final game as head coach in 2009; Tom Cable calling for a fake field goal later that season in which Janikowski would have had to lumber some 17 yards for a first down after taking the flip from holder Shane Lechler. Neither play worked.
The kinder, gentler kicker known as “Automatic Seabass” spoke last summer about playing for the Raiders in Las Vegas, where they will set up shop in 2020.
“I hope so,” he said at the time, "I mean, that’s my goal.”
And how long longer, then, did he see himself lacing them up for the Raiders?
“Until,” he said with a wink, “they kick me out.”