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Daryle Lamonica, the deep-throwing quarterback who won an AFL Player of the Year award and led the Raiders to their first Super Bowl appearance, is dead. He was 80.
The sheriff of Fresno County said Lamonica died at his home in Fresno Thursday morning. The death is considered to be of natural causes.
The Raiders acquired Lamonica in a deal from Buffalo in 1967, and he was immediately the perfect fit for the owner of vertical attacks, which Al Davis coveted for his franchise.
Nicknamed “Mad Bomber”, Lamonica made an immediate impact in Oakland after only starting four games in four seasons with the Bills.
Lamonica’s deep arm teamed up with receivers like Warren Wells and Fred Biletnikoff, turning the Raiders into a powerhouse. They went 13-1 in his first season as Lamonica was a first-team All-Pro and AP AFL Player of the Year as he led the league with 30 touchdown passes.
Lamonica then threw two TD passes in a win over Houston in the AFL title fight to send the Raiders to their first Super Bowl, losing 33-14 to Green Bay.
In his six seasons starting for the Raiders, Lamonica was one of the most productive passers in the game, leading professional football with 145 touchdown passes – 24 more than second-place finisher Fran Tarkenton. His 16,006 passing yards became number three from 1967-72.
Lamonica was an All-Pro again in 1969 when he led the AFL with 3,302 passing yards and 34 touchdowns. The 34 TDs still stand as the franchise’s record for a single season more than half a century later.
Lamonica was at its best during the playoffs, throwing five TD passes in a 41-6 victory over Kansas City in 1968 and a record six the following season against Houston. Only Steve Young and Tom Brady have matched Lamonica’s six TD passes in a playoff game, and only Patrick Mahomes and Kurt Warner have more games with at least five.
Lamonica also starred in one of the most memorable games ever, throwing four TD passes, including the clear signal to Charlie Smith in a 43-32 victory over the Jets in a game now known as the “Heidi Game” , because NBC cut away from goals on the East Coast before the Raiders comeback to show the children’s film.
Lamonica was replaced as starter in 1973 by Ken Stabler and went to the World Football League the following season, where he ended his career.
Lamonica ended his career with 19,154 passing yards and 164 TDs. The Raiders went 62-16-6 in Lamonica’s starter for the best winning percentage for any starting QB of the Super Bowl era with at least 75 starts.
Lamonica was born and raised in Fresno before attending college in Notre Dame. He was drafted in the 12th round by Green Bay and the 23rd round by the Bills in 1963 and chose to go to the AFL. He was the backup for Jack Kemp in Buffalo before becoming a star in Oakland.