Lester Hayes, still heard but no longer seen in the Raider scheme, got around to passing the torch to the Cleveland Browns' Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon this week.
Those two are generally regarded as the best set of cornerbacks in the National Football League, and the Judge acknowledged as much during an informal visit to the Raider press room one day.
They used to say that about Hayes and Mike Haynes, who continues at the other side after three straight Pro Bowl appearances--nine in all.
Hayes played 10 seasons and in five Pro Bowls, before a foot injury put him down this year--remarkable durability for the game's most vulnerable position, where guys make a living getting apples shot off their heads.
But if Hayes has to go, he feels better believing he has been cloned in Minnifield, a cocky little United States Football League refugee who will call out the Raiders Sunday at the Coliseum.
"His forte is playing bump, and he plays bump viciously, like a tyrannosaurus rex," Hayes said. "I like Minnifield. I like him. He talks. He's dirty. He plays like a vicious pit bull. I like Minnifield because he reminds me of me."
Except in one respect. Minnifield is notorious for needling receivers, but he cut back on interviews after a humbling encounter with Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers three weeks ago.
Rice has done that to a lot of people. He has 18 touchdown catches this season, equaling the league record in only 10 games. He got three of them against the Browns in that 38-24 rout.
"I'd rather talk on the field than off the field," Minnifield says now. "I don't want to know anybody's name. I just want them to know mine."
His sidekick, Dixon, understands.
"Jerry Rice is a fine receiver," Dixon said, patronizing Rice with faint praise. "Not taking anything away from him, we made him look a lot better than he really is.
"We could have played him a lot better--and if we see him again, you would see us play him a lot better.
"No doubt about it, though, he's making his dent. He accelerates and can really change gears. He catches a lot of defensive backs . . . I know he caught me by surprise and a little off guard."
Whatever they said to Rice, it didn't work.
"Frank does a little more talking than I do," Dixon said. "I've really gotten away from that. I remember a couple years ago, I was a little more talkative, but I've learned now that you can do your job without all the harassment--although every now and then I get engaged in it when I see some receivers who look like they're trying to take advantage of my boy over there. We try to team up on 'em.
"You try to say stuff to take 'em away from their game, keep him from thinking what he really needs to think about."
Minnifield has said: "The talking on the field is part of me trying to stop a completion. There's only one player who hasn't responded to me: John Stallworth (of the Steelers). I won't talk to Stallworth anymore. It just distracts me."
Minnifield will line up Sunday against Dokie Williams, who caught two long touchdown passes from Jim Plunkett in the Raiders' 27-14 win over the Browns last season. Minnifield was slowed by a torn hamstring that day but gave no excuses.
Williams told Cleveland reporters this week: "Minnifield doesn't bother me. Good cornerbacks do that to psych themselves up.
"He says things I probably shouldn't repeat here. Sometimes I get into a little talking thing with him. I think he wins most of the talking because some of the things he says actually make me laugh right on the field. I enjoy a good joke now and then."
Dixon will face James Lofton, but he doesn't expect to have much to say.
"Oh, man, he's playing well, too," Dixon said. "With a guy like Lofton--the old vets--I don't think talking is going to do much good. You just have to study him and play him."
Brown Coach Marty Schottenheimer picked Minnifield to play in the Pro Bowl as an alternate last season--the only way Minnifield figures he'll ever get there, considering that his mouth will cost him votes from opponents.
"I never expect to get voted into the Pro Bowl," he said. "The other teams take this personally."
But Dixon and Minnifield don't just talk. Sometimes they bark.
"That's been going on about three years," Dixon said. "It really became big during the playoffs (last season).
"We hadn't been known for a great pass rush here in Cleveland, and I was trying to think of something to motivate the defensive linemen. Then I thought how dogs love to chase cats, so why not have our dogs chase the quarterbacks?
"I was on the field in training camp and started barking, like a ruff-ruff, and everyone started looking at me, like, 'What are you doin'?'
"Then I started doing it after big plays. I told the defensive linemen I was barking at them, and not only did (they) like it but the whole defense liked it. I don't have to tell you how the fans picked up on it. You come to the stadium and there's dog paraphernalia everywhere."