Todd Tobias runs the blog Tales from the American Football League where this article was originally published on October 8, 2011.
March 26, 2017
Todd Tobias runs the blog Tales from the American Football League where this article was originally published on October 8, 2011.
The Cleveland Browns made the trip out to Oakland to take on the Oakland Raiders. The Browns were coming off a bye week and the Raiders were coming off an emotional 25-20 win over the Houston Texans. Emotions were running high again as this was the first game played in Oakland without Al Davis watching his team. He was honored before the game and at halftime. The highlight for me was seeing John Madden lighting a torch in memory of Mr. Davis.
The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half. Unlike most kickoffs, kicker Sebastian Janikowski didn’t send this one through the end zone. It was taken at the nine and returned 30 yards by Mike Adams. There’s not much to say about the first possession for the Browns. Running back Peyton Hillis was stopped for a gain of one on first down, that was followed by an incomplete pass and on third and long, Raider safety Matt Giordano sacked Brown’s quarterback Colt McCoy for a loss of ten yards. Punter Brad Maynard punted the ball 54 yards and Raider return man Denarius Moore was brought down for a loss of four on the return.
The Raiders went to work form their own 12 and running back Darren McFadden quickly ran off the left side for a gain of 24. He then added gains of three and six yards. Running back Michael Bush got the third down conversion and the Raiders were near midfield. On second and ten, Raider quarterback Jason Campbell found wide receiver Jacoby Ford for a gain of nine. On third and one, backup fullback Manase Tonga got his first career carry and rumbled up the middle for a gain of twelve. That gave the Raiders the ball at the Cleveland 32. McFadden got four yards on first down and on third and six, the Raiders converted another third down as Campbell connected with Ford for a gain of seven. On the next two plays, Bush and McFadden both had four-yard gains which set up a third and two at the 13. From there, Campbell found rookie tight end David Ausberry for a gain of four and another third down conversion. That put the ball at the Cleveland nine. After McFadden rushed for five yards on first down, he finished off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run. Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 7-0 with just under six minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Browns took over at their own 20 and three straight runs by Hillis got them a first down at the 30. From there, they went no farther and were forced to punt again. Maynard got off another good punt and the ball was downed at the Raider 14. Campbell hooked up with wide receiver receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey for gains of nine and 21 to move the Raiders to their own 41. On first down, a reverse to Moore was quickly snuffed out by the Browns for a loss of three. On second down, Campbell scrambled across midfield, but lost the ball as he was diving forward. The ball was recovered by defensive back Mike Adams. That gave the Browns the ball at their own 43. McCoy wasted no time going to the air and hit tight end Evan Moore for a gain of 11. On third and 11, McCoy went deep for wide receiver Josh Cribbs, but the pass was overthrown. However, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly jumped offside and that gave the Browns another chance. On third and six from the Raider 42, McCoy found Cribbs for a gain of 23. On second and seven, McCoy hit wide receiver Greg Little for a gain of 15 down to the one. On the next play, McCoy found tight end Alex Smith wide open for a one-yard touchdown pass. Kicker Phil Dawson made the point after and the game was tied at seven.
Dawson kicked off and return man Jacoby Ford proved that his hamstring is healed as he ran back the kick 101 yards for a touchdown. On the return, Ford ran down the right sideline and it appeared that he may have stepped out of bounds. The play was reviewed and showed that he did not step out and it was indeed a touchdown. Janikowski made the point after and that made the score 14-7 with just under 12 minutes to go in the second quarter.
Cleveland took over at their own 13 and on third and ten, McCoy connected with Little for a gain of 12. On first down, McCoy scrambled for four yards and running back Montario Hardesty added five more. On third and one, McCoy found wide receiver Brian Robiskie for another third down conversion. Then on second and ten, Smith caught another pass for a gain of 13. Hardesty ran off right tackle for six more and the Browns found themselves in Raider territory. But, a holding call was followed by two more incomplete passes and the Browns were forced to punt.
The Raiders took over at their own 19. After a short gain by McFadden, a pass interference call on the Browns gave the Raiders a first down at the 25. An incomplete pass to wide receiver Louis Murphy and a short completion to McFadden gave the Raiders a third and eight at the 27. On third down, Campbell scrambled for seven yards and was hit hard as he was going to the ground. Campbell stayed down and was helped off the field. I have learned that he has a broken collarbone and is likely out for the year. On fourth and one, quarterback Kyle Boller took over at quarterback and dove into the pile for a gain of two and a first down. But the drive stalled and punter Shane Lechler booted a 49-yard punt that was returned by Cribbs for a loss of one. The Browns took over at their own nine with 1:48 remaining in the first half. They quickly went three and out and the Raiders followed suit. The score remained 14-7 at halftime.
The Raiders got the ball first in the third quarter as Taiwan Jones returned the kick to the Raider 19. Some quick gains by McFadden and a short completion to Heyward-Bey moved the ball to the 42. On third and four, Boller scrambled for a gain of five to get the Raiders a first down in Cleveland territory. On first down, Boller fumbled and the ball was recovered by McFadden. On second and 15, Boller went deep for wide receiver Chaz Schilens. The play was ruled incomplete, but it appeared Schilens had both feet in bounds. It didn’t matter as center Samson Satele was flagged for illegal use of the hands. That moved the ball back to the 38. Nine yard completions to Moore and Bush weren’t enough to get a first down and the Raiders punted the ball away. The punt was fair caught at the ten and once again, the Raider defense was all over McCoy. The Browns were forced to punt and the Raiders took over at their own 35.
On third and seven, Boller hooked up with Jacoby Ford for a gain of 27. That gave them a first down at the Cleveland 35. On first down, Boller badly missed a wide open Heyward-Bey that would have likely been a touchdown. I think a cheerleader ended up catching that pass. McFadden ran up the middle for two on second down and Boller came up short on his scramble on third down. That made it fourth and five at the 30. Janikowski trotted on to the field and nailed a 48-yard field goal. That made it 17-7 with three minutes to go in the third quarter.
Cribbs fielded the kickoff at the eight and brought it out to the 25. On second and ten, McCoy fumbled and Tommy Kelly pounced on it to give the Raiders a golden opportunity. On first down, a reverse to Ausberry was quickly stopped for a loss of three. With speedy guys like Ford, Heyward-Bey, Murphy and Moore, why would you try a reverse to a tight end? That play made no sense. Boller missed Moore badly on second down and on third down, he was sacked and the ball was jarred loose by Jabal Sheard for a loss of ten. Fortunately for the Raiders, Boller was able to recover the fumble. That made it fourth and ten from the 35. Janikowski came on to try another long field goal. Shane Lechler took the snap and instead of another cannonball from the Polish Cannon, Lechler tossed the ball to a wide open Kevin Boss. Boss took it in for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Raiders on top, 24-7. That was definitely the play of the game.
With just under a minute and a half to go, the Browns started their next drive from their own 21. But, it wasn’t much of a drive. The Raiders continued to harass McCoy and forced three straight incomplete passes. Maynard’s punt was fair caught by Moore at the Raider 14. The Raiders could do absolutely nothing with the ball and punted again. Cribbs fielded the punt at his own 27 and returned it to the Raider 42 for a 31-yard return.
A short run by Hardesty and short completions to Little and tight end Ben Watson gave the Browns a first down at the Raider 29. That was as far as they would go and kicker Phil Dawson made a 47-yard field goal to make it 24-10 with just under 12 and a half minutes to go in the game.
Jacoby Ford took the kickoff two yards deep in the end zone and headed straight up the middle. He almost got loose again, but he was tackled at the Raider 35. On second and seven, Boller hit Heyward-Bey for a gain of 16 to move the ball into Cleveland territory. On first down, a holding call on Satele moved the ball back ten yards. But, a 14-yard pass to Heyward-Bey and three straight runs by Bush put the ball at the Cleveland 30. On third and five, Boller found Heyward-Bey again for 15 more yards. Three straight runs by McFadden put the ball at the five and set up a fourth and one. Everyone in the stadium thought that Janikowski would be brought in to put the Raiders up by three scores. Instead, Bush ran up the left side and was stuffed for no gain. The drive took almost eight minutes off the clock, but it didn’t result in a score. What was Hue Jackson thinking? With 4:44 to go in the game, there was no way the Browns would score three times! I can understand wanting to go for the kill and go up 31-10, but a field goal should have been the obvious choice. Not a smart move, Hue.
The Browns got the ball at their own five and McCoy went right to work. All of a sudden, he had time to throw and he also started finding open receivers. He spread the ball around to four different receivers and quickly moved the ball to the Cleveland 45. Finally, the Raiders got some pressure on him and he was sacked by defensive end Lamarr Houston. But, McCoy would not be denied as he hit wide receiver Mohammed Massaquoi and Little for ten-yard completions. That put the ball at the 37. On the next play, the ball was tipped and appeared to be intercepted by safety Tyvon Branch. But instant replay showed that the ball hit the ground. On second and ten from the 25, McCoy found Little again for 13 more yards. Two plays later, Massaquoi caught another pass. This one was good for a 12-yard touchdown. Dawson made the point after and the score was now 24-17 with 1:06 to go in the game.
All the Raiders had to do was recover the onside kick and the game was theirs. But, like I said last week, this is the Raiders we’re talking about. There’s never a dull moment when it comes to this team. Dawson’s kick was recovered by defensive back James Dockery and the Browns got the ball at the Raider 49. The play was reviewed as it looked like Cribbs may have illegally touched the ball before it went ten yards, but the call on the field stood. The Raiders really started to come after McCoy on this drive, but he hit Cribbs for seven yards on first down to move the ball to the 42. That would be his last completion of the day. After two incomplete passes and facing a fourth and three from the 42, his pass intended for Massaquoi fell incomplete and that gave the Raiders a 24-17 win.
Well, it wasn’t pretty and the loss of Campbell definitely hurts. The question now is what do the Raiders do? They definitely have to sign another quarterback. The quarterback depth chart now reads: Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor and Shane Lechler. Maybe sign David Garrard? Turn the whole thing over to Boller? During his five game suspension, Pryor was given time to learn the offense, but my personal opinion is that he isn’t ready. Boller said he felt comfortable out there, but he missed wide open receivers and even his completions were low. It will be interesting to see what happens in Oakland this week when it comes to the quarterback situation. I have just learned that the Raiders have contacted David Garrard and former Raider, Josh McCown. Given the choice, I’ll take Garrard.
Darren McFadden led the Raiders in rushing with 91 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Michael Bush added 28 more and the Raiders rushed for a total of 151 yards. Before Campbell left the game, he was six for nine for 54 yards with no touchdowns and no picks. Boller went eight for 14 for 100 yards and also had no touchdowns or picks. Heyward-Bey led all receivers with six catches for 82 yards. Another good statistic from this game is that the Raiders were only flagged five times for 35 yards. Very impressive.
For the most part, I liked what I saw from the Raider defense. Although they registered only two sacks, they were all over McCoy and held the Browns to 65 yards on 21 carries. McCoy completed 21 of 45 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and no picks.
The Kansas City Chiefs will be heading out to Oakland next week and just like Cleveland, they’ll be coming off a bye week. Very interesting. You don’t often see a team face two opponents in a row coming off byes. After starting out the year with losses to Buffalo, Detroit and San Diego, the Chiefs have had two straight wins over Minnesota and Indianapolis. They should be rested and ready for the Raiders. Until then, take it easy.
The Raider Guy
Arizona Cardinals: It’s only five games but so far the Kevin Kolb era is off to a slow start…..S Kerry Rhodes broke his foot during the game Sunday and will be out for a least a month…..For those of you keeping track, Arizona will host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015…..With all the attention that defenses are paying towards WR Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet is quietly having a nice season.
Atlanta Falcons: I’m not sure which is more surprising – that the Eagles are 1-4 or that the Falcons are 2-3. I didn’t see either one coming…..WR Julio Jones will miss at least this week’s game with a hamstring injury, which will give Harry Douglas a chance to make a bigger impact…..DE Ray Edwards is still not fully recovered from off-season knee surgery and isn’t having the pass rush impact that the Falcons were hoping for…..I hate when analysts say this because it all counts, but take away two long runs from RB Michael Turner and he has been virtually non-existent this season.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, but missed practice Thursday. It seems unlikely that he will play this week…..CB Jimmy Smith also is unlikely to go as he still can’t run at full speed…..The Ravens are catching the Texans at the right time. DE Mario Williams is out for the season and WR Andre Johnson will also miss the game. It certainly makes life easier when the opposing team is missing their best offensive and defensive player.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills will be going up against one of their own this week in Perry Fewell, the Giants defensive coordinator. They should certainly know some of his favorite schemes…..WR Donald Jones will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a high-ankle sprain, so Brad Smith could see more action…..LB Chris Kelsay won’t play versus the Giants…..What kind of team the Bills have will become much more apparent within the next month.
Carolina Panthers: Fantasy owners couldn’t have been happy when the Panthers offensive coordinator stated this week that QB Cam Newton will be the Panthers goal line back going forward. Now there is something you just don’t hear every day. The ironic thing is this statement came the same week that coach Ron Rivera stated he didn’t want Newton running the ball as much. Can’t seem to have it both ways.
Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler has now admitted in back to back weeks that all the hits he is taking are starting to make him gun-shy in the pocket. In other words, he is starting to see the rush rather than looking for his receivers down the field…..RB Matt Forte turned down a contract worth $13-$14 million in guaranteed cash during the off-season. It seems with the season he is having that he is certainly not going to take any less now.
Cincinnati Bengals: By yardage allowed, the Bengals have the best defense in the NFL. Yeah, who saw that coming?…..RB Cedric Benson still doesn’t know if and when he will be suspended by the NFL. His appeal has been heard, but no decision has been made. The problem for fantasy owners is that they are forced to keep Bernard Scott on their roster until a final decision is made. That’s a valuable roster spot being wasted as of now.
Cleveland Browns: WR Greg Little has been named a starter going forward and has been a popular pickup in fantasy leagues. While I like his added playing time, I’m not seeing big things happen here…..CB Joe Haden is out this week. That’s a big loss to the Browns pass defense…..DE Marcus Benard suffered a broken arm in a motorcycle accident Monday and will be lost to the Browns for the remainder of the season. There is a reason emergency rooms call them donor cycles.
Dallas Cowboys: The bye week may have come in Week 5, but for the Cowboys it couldn’t be early enough. WRs Dez Bryant and Miles Austin should be as close to 100% as they have been all season, CB Orlando Scandrick will play in his first game since Week 1 (lucky him as he gets to cover Wes Welker), and QB Tony Romo gets two more weeks to recover from his broken ribs. Speaking of those ribs, Romo will still wear a flak jacket and take a pain killing injection before playing.
Denver Broncos: I’m still not a big believer in Tim Tebow’s ability to be a franchise QB, but at this point in the season the Broncos needed to see what they have in him. If you’re going to lose, you might as well lose big…..Fantasy wise though, Tebow is an interesting play. He’s probably good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 yards a game which helps offset his probably lack of passing yards, and if he can run in a touchdown he could have a decent week–figure around 18 points…..For those of you who want the Broncos to trade QB Kyle Orton, it’s probably not going to happen. The deadline is next week. The only team that might be interested is Miami, and the Broncos happen to play Miami that Sunday. I’m just not seeing that PR nightmare happening.
Detroit Lions: TE Tony Scheffler suffered a concussion during the game Monday and is unlikely to play Sunday…..S Erik Coleman was placed on season ending IR with an ankle injury…..DL Nick Fairley finally got to play Monday. Although he didn’t make an impact during his first game, he should only help what may be the best defensive line in football as he gets more experience…..WR Nate Burleson seems to be seeing his role in the offense decline as QB Matthew Stafford seems to be looking for his TEs as secondary targets when Calvin Johnson is covered.
Green Bay Packers: Pretty amazing game for the Packers and QB Aaron Rodgers last week against the Falcons when you consider they lost both starting tackles. This may be a problem that comes more to the forefront in the coming weeks…..I know WR James Jones has had back to back big weeks but there are just too many offensive weapons for Rodgers to choose from to see this being an every week thing…..Staying on that note, WR Donald Driver’s best days are behind him and the Pack may be better off only using him in four and five WR sets.
Houston Texans: As mentioned earlier, WR Andre Johnson is out for this week’s game but may return sooner than thought, possibly even next week…..What does have to concern the Texans however is that RB Adrian Foster has been slowed in practice once again this week and one has to wonder if that hamstring is bothering him once again…..The acquisition of WR Derrick Mason from the Jets goes to show how unimpressed the Texans were with Jacoby Jones.
Indianapolis Colts: Who would’ve thought that the most dynamic passing combo in the NFL would be QB Curtis Painter to WR Pierre Garcon? The Colts are still going to need another positive week though before I completely buy in…..WR Joseph Addai injured his hamstring last week and is unlikely to play Sunday, leaving the running game in the hands of Delone Carter and Donald Brown. I’d rather have Carter.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Aaron Kampman is expected to finally play in a game this season–Sunday versus the Steelers. With the state of the Steelers offensive line, he couldn’t have picked a better game to come back to…..How long until coach Jack Del Rio is fired? He was told that the team would have to make the playoffs to save his job. Ummm, this team is not going to make the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs: QB Matt Cassel has come alive of late and has made WRs Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston good plays as well in fantasy leagues. There is one problem though, the Chiefs schedule gets much tougher in the weeks ahead. Although they will probably be playing behind which will lead to more passes, they will also be playing against tougher defenses…..RB Jackie Battle had well over 100 yards rushing last week but don’t be looking for big things from him when the Chiefs return from their bye. He’s just not that kind of back.
Miami Dolphins: How will the Dolphins do with QB Matt Moore at the helm? It can’t be any worse than what they did with Chad Henne…..RB Daniel Thomas should be back as the bye enabled him to recover from his hamstring injury. The Dolphins will need him this week as it would seem unlikely that Moore will have great success against the Jets defense…..Look for the other RB, Reggie Bush, to line up in the slot as the Dolphins look to get him more involved in the offense.
Minnesota Vikings: QB Donovan McNabb is playing better behind center, but once the Vikings come to the conclusion that the playoffs are out of reach, the Christian Ponder era should begin…..CB Antoine Winfield and WR Percy Harvin both missed practice Thursday. Winfield has a neck injury and seems questionable at best while Harvin is dealing with sore ribs but is more on the probable side.
New England Patriots: RB Danny Woodhead has been practicing on a limited basis the past couple of days and could play Sunday, just what Tom Brady needs–another weapon…..Speaking of weapons, TE Aaron Hernandez is still limited in practice, but as we saw last week versus the Jets, even at 80% healthy he is quite a weapon…..Fantasy wise I’m giving WR Chad Ochocinco one more week to show he can still play at the NFL level or it’s waiver wire time.
New Orleans Saints: Coach Sean Peyton admitted this week that he is having a hard time giving RB Mark Ingram enough carries during the game. I can’t really blame him. I’d want the ball in QB Drew Brees’ hands as much as possible also…..WR Devery Henderson has a calf injury that is slowing him down. He hasn’t been able to practice this week after having a subpar game Sunday. He could be sitting this week…..For those of you wondering who the number one receiver is for the Saints, even with the return to health of Marques Colston, it’s TE Jimmy Graham.
New York Giants: RB Brandon Jacobs is still having problems with severe swelling around his knee. Not a good thing for a running back, especially one who is normally taken down around the knees…..WR Victor Cruz is still technically the 3rd receiver for the Giants, but he is making more plays than Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. It seems to be just a matter of time before Manningham is demoted…..DE Justin Tuck has been hearing it from a number of ex-Giants about not playing in games due to injury and this week may be no different. Even if he does play, it certainly wouldn’t be anything more than as a situational pass rusher.
New York Jets: The Jets are starting to feel the pressure after losing three straight road games. They aren’t talking as much to the media, but are complaining plenty in-house about the offensive strategy. One of those so-called complainers found himself shipped out when WR Derrick Mason was traded to the Texans for a 7th round pick…..What has happened to TE Dustin Keller after a hot start to the season? Come to think of it, you could say the same thing about WR Santonio Holmes as well…..Will this be the week the Jets get back to ground and pound, smash mouth football on both sides of the ball.
Oakland Raiders: Like him or hate him, Al Davis was a pioneer and one of the people who made the NFL what it is today. “Just win baby!” RIP Al
Philadelphia Eagles: I know it’s only Week 6, but the Eagles are in what may be a must win situation. A loss to the Skins Sunday and the Eagles will be four games out of 1st in the NFC East…..WR Steve Smith is now fully healthy, but still may be no better than 4th on the Eagles’ depth chart…..The Eagles reached out to former Jets and Browns coach Eric Mangini to be their defensive consultant. He turned it down however, preferring his gig with ESPN.
Pittsburgh Steelers: RB Rashard Mendenhall’s hamstring is said to be better and he will be good to go Sunday, but keep in mind his carries may be limited and that hamstring can easily be re-injured…..OT Max Starks, who hadn’t played in about a year, was in on all but two snaps in Sunday’s game and seemed to stabilize the Steelers offensive line. Was this just a one game phenomenon or will things start to get easier for QB Ben Roethlisberger and Mendenhall?
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are off this week and once again the bye couldn’t have come at a better time. RB Ryan Matthews is dealing with a calf strain that may have made him unable to play this week, Mike Tolbert has a concussion, WR Vincent Jackson a leg injury , and hopefully TE Antonio Gates can use the time off to finally get his foot healthy enough to get back on the field.
San Francisco 49ers: WR Josh Morgan is out for the season after suffering a broken ankle last week. The 49ers are riding high, but their depth at receiver is going to be tested until Braylon Edwards returns…..Until Edwards returns, Ted Ginn will be the 49ers number two. Scary isn’t it? Not to mention Michael Crabtree isn’t completely healthy either.
Seattle Seahawks: Pretty impressive win by the Hawks last week versus the Giants. There were plenty of big plays and turnovers, but in the end they made more of the good kind than the G-Men…..QB Tavares Jackson suffered a strained pectoral muscle and may not have been able to play if the Hawks had a game this week, but they don’t, so he has an extra week to rest…..WR Doug Baldwin went off against the Giants, but I wouldn’t be running out to the waiver wire just yet.
St. Louis Rams: RB Steven Jackson should be fully recovered from his quad injury and should be safe to start in fantasy leagues. Problem is the Rams play the Packers this week and could be behind by multiple touchdowns quite early, forcing them to abandon the run game…..WR Mark Clayton should return from the PUP next week. We all know the Rams could use all the help they can get at receiver as Danny Amendola was placed on IR, ending his season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: What has happened to the Bucs? That was a complete butt kicking handed to them by the 49ers last week. Seems the offense can’t quite get in gear as QB Josh Freeman is not having the big season many predicted of him. WR Mike Williams is also suffering as he seems to be going through a rough sophomore season. Is it the fault of Williams that Freeman has regressed or vice versa? The Bucs better figure it out soon before the season slips away…..The running game may not be able to help as LeGarrette Blount will miss the next game or two with a knee injury. Look for Earnest Graham to handle the load until Blount’s return.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans came out hot versus the Steelers last week, but when they were unable to score a TD on the opening drive despite having multiple chances inside the 10-yard line, all the air seemed to come out of the balloon and the game slipped away very quickly…..Look for the Titans to become more of a running team as the season progresses.
Washington Redskins: The big question for the Skins, besides if they are for real, is who will be the main ball carrier each week. Tim Hightower still has a banged up shoulder but is in line for more carries. Ryan Torain and Roy Helu have been impressive at times. All three could see the ball Sunday against the Eagles whose defense can’t stop anyone…..As for the QB, Rex Grossman hasn’t looked good the past few weeks and it’s hard to see him having a big day versus the Eagles secondary. He just needs to avoid the big mistake.
Decades before Mark Cuban maneuvered his Dallas Mavericks into the spotlight, Al Davis brought the Oakland Raiders to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness.
Read “Badasses” by Peter Richmond because:
1. Al Davis was a master architect.
Leading up to Super Bowl XI, Davis made himself scarce. His job was done. While the silver and black cult following had itself in a fervor with the nation watching, Davis was rumored to be scouting the Senior Bowl. Time magazine declared that the “Bad Boys of pro football,” were “led by Al Davis – master schemer.” John Madden was integral as the coach, but for the first time, an owner presided from a loftier post in the media. (310, Badasses)
“In order to run an efficient organization, there has to be a dictator,” Davis said. Davis studied military battles and football was not that far removed in his mind. For more than two decades, Davis’ teams did not post a losing record. The Raiders were the best in the world. Everyone else, take a number.
Davis was beloved by players on his good side. They knew him as “Al.” In Oakland the idea was, “pull up a chair. You’re family here.” Win or lose, the booze was on Davis after the game. No wonder Davis raised the Super Bowl XI trophy like a father lifts up his child. “People who knew him loved him, and he was a guy who’d absolutely go out of his way for his friends,” a friend said. (31-32)
2. In the 1970s, John Madden was a whole different animal.
Younger fans may think of John Madden as a peppy TV pitchman or as a commentator. Madden won 103 games in 10 seasons. His .763 winning percentage surpasses Vince Lombardi’s .738. Madden entered the NFL in an unparalleled era of coaching talent and didn’t flinch.
At practice, Madden sported polyester pants and chomped on a towel. During his tenure, Madden saw players ride on horses to practice and invite streakers on to the field. “The thing is you have a person, and he’s made up of a total package. You don’t just cherry-pick what you get,” Madden said. (76) Not all of the freedoms under Madden were fun and games, however. Madden was also free to explode in bursts of rage. Just another facet of the complex and captivating Raiders.
3. It takes exploits and star personalities to be “badasses,” and Davis’ teams from the seventies had plenty.
The book opens with the Raiders’ Bob Moore in a confrontation with police. Right away you know the Raiders aren’t your typical team. The suspicions you’ve had about them are probably true. In fact, the team exceeds your expectations. “There was no recession in Santa Rosa during Raider training camp,” Pete Banaszak said. “We were single-handedly boosting their economy. We’d show up two days early.”
Added Ken Stabler: It was just kids having fun and life being good. We couldn’t wait to get to training camp, to get away from wives and girlfriends, play some football, have a few drinks at night. (84-85)
That was only the beginning of the year and the tales to follow.
Sam Miller is a graduate of the University of Illinois where he worked with various teams in sports information and received the Freedom Forum – NCAA Sports Journalism Scholarship for his achievements. At the University of Illinois, Miller regularly wrote feature stories about the football team. He has also served as communications intern for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate. Prior to that, he worked as a communications intern for USA Basketball and as an associate reporter for MLB.com.
Saturday, October 8, 2011 started out like any normal Saturday for me. My wife and I had breakfast and she sat down and started reading her book. I went to the computer room to check on some fantasy football stuff and basically just see what was new in the world. I was really looking forward to seeing the Oklahoma-Texas game. So, as I am browsing on one of the Raider websites, I see a post that says “Bad news about Al.” That’s all it said. My first thought was “What? I saw him at the game against the Patriots last week! No way he’s dead!” But, as the minutes passed, more and more reports were coming out and I realized it was true. Al Davis was dead at the age of 82.
Al Davis was very colorful. With his hair slicked back, the dark glasses and the black and white jumpsuits, he was unique in his appearance. Although he was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, he definitely had a Southern drawl when he spoke. When it came to hiring people, he was color blind and didn’t discriminate against people because of their race, sex, color or creed. He hired the first Hispanic coach (Tom Flores) the first African-American coach (Art Shell) and the first and only female CEO (Amy Trask) in the NFL. People that worked with him were quick to realize that he did things his way. If you were with him, things would run smoothly. If you were against him, you probably wouldn’t be working with him for long.
When it came to his players, they were just as colorful as he was. From John Matuszak to Kenny Stabler, he had acquired himself a group of renegades and misfits. They fought a lot, partied until three in the morning and they were unruly. But, when Sunday came around, they knew how to win and win they did. Those were the days that slogans like “Pride and Poise,” “Just Win, Baby” and “Commitment to Excellence” definitely applied to the Oakland Raiders.
From his moving of the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982 to his bitter wars with Marcus Allen and Mike Shanahan, he was always the subject of controversy. Couple that with rarely speaking to the media, only the people closest to him knew what kind of person he was. That’s the way he wanted it.
Aside from football, Al Davis loved one other thing. That was his wife, Carol. When Carol suffered a severe heart attack, Al moved into the hospital room for a month and never left her side. I like to think that his undying support wouldn’t let her die. Carol lives to this day along with their son, Mark.
What follows is the history of Al Davis and the history of what his teams accomplished while he was in power. Nobody else in the history of sports has been an assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner, owner and Hall of Famer. Al was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 and he has also given induction speeches to nine Hall of Famers. They are Lance Alworth, Fred Biletnikoff, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Ted Hendricks, John Madden, Jim Otto, Art Shell and Gene Upshaw.
Al Davis started out as an offensive line coach at Adelphi from 1950-1951. From there he was the head coach of the US Army team in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia. He then went on to the Citadel where he coached the offensive line and was chief recruiter from 1953-1956. From there, it was on to Southern California where he was wide receivers coach from 1957-1959. He was then receivers coach for the Chargers from 1960-1962. Then, at the young age of 33, Raiders general partner F. Wayne Valley hired him to be the head coach and general manager of the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League. He was named coach of the year in 1963 as the Raiders compiled a record of ten and four. He ended up with a record of 23-16-3 in three years as the head coach of the Raiders.
From there, he was commissioner of the American Football League and managed to sign some big name players from the National Football League. He was a rebel in the true sense of the word and saw the NFL as a rival. However, not all the owners of the AFL saw it that way and Davis resigned as commissioner in 1966. The two leagues merged in 1970.
Davis then returned to Oakland and bought a ten percent stake in the Raiders. He was also named head of football operations and named John Rauch as head coach. Rauch had some great success with the Raiders, but couldn’t win the big game as the Raiders fell to the Packers in Super Bowl II by a score of 33-14. The Raiders won their division the next two years, but lost in the title games to the Jets and Chiefs. Both of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl. It quickly became apparent that Davis hated to lose. As a matter of fact, he LOATHED it.
Then, in 1969, John Rauch resigned and went to Buffalo. Linebacker coach John Madden was hired as head coach of the Raiders. Like Davis, Madden had a passion for winning and had only three rules. They were be on time, pay attention and play like hell when I tell you to. Unfortunately, the Raiders still kept coming up short. They were winning games and the division, but when it came to the conference title games, they just couldn’t get it done. Unlike with Rauch, Davis stood by Madden and on January 9, 1977, the Raiders finally got their first Super Bowl championship with a dominant 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Madden would remain with the team until 1978 and ended his coaching career with a record of 112-39-7. After Madden left to pursue a career in broadcasting, Davis needed another coach. He decided to hire Tom Flores. Flores had played quarterback for the Raiders and was an assistant under Madden.
The unique thing about Flores was that he was Hispanic. There were no other Hispanic head coaches in the league and Davis didn’t give a damn. All he cared about was winning and he thought Flores was the best man for the job. He was right. Flores took the Raiders to the Super Bowl and they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV. They were the first wild card team to ever win a Super Bowl.
In 1982, Davis packed up his team and moved them to Los Angeles to play in the huge Los Angeles Coliseum. Despite changing cities, and a 7-9 record in the 1981 season, there was no change in the head coach position. Tom Flores stayed with the Raiders until 1987 and won Super Bowl XVIII in 1984 with a 38-9 win over the Washington Redskins. However, Flores was starting to get burned out and he decided to move to the front office. He spent one year in the front office for the Raiders but left to become president and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. He then returned to the sideline to coach the Seahawks from 1992-1994. While with the Raiders, he won 83 games. That’s second to John Madden.
Mike Shanahan took over in 1988 and did not fare well. His record was 8-12 and he was replaced four games into the 1989 season by former Raider great Art Shell. Once again, Davis made history by hiring the first African-American head coach. Shell brought a smash-mouth style to the Raiders and although they missed the playoffs in 1989, the future looked bright with Shell at the helm. In 1990, the Raiders made the playoffs with a 12-4 record and made it to the AFC title game. But, a career ending hip injury to star running back Bo Jackson ended their Super Bowl hopes and they were humiliated 51-3 by the Buffalo Bills. The Raiders made playoff appearances in 1991 and 1993, but lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round in 1991 and to the the Buffalo Bills in the second round in 1993. After the 1994 season, Art Shell was let go and Mike White was hired. Shell finished with a record of 56-40.
In 1995, Davis brought the team back to Oakland after 13 years in Los Angeles. The team got off to an impressive eight and two start, but an injury to quarterback Jeff Hostetler destroyed their playoff hopes. The team lost six in a row and missed the playoffs with an eight and eight record. 1996 wasn’t much better and White was relieved of his duties as head coach. His record as head coach was 15-17. The hunt for a new head coach began again and Davis hired offensive line coach Joe Bugel. For the players, Bugel was the overwhelming favorite to become the next head coach. In his one year as head coach, the team put up great numbers on the offensive side of the ball as quarterback Jeff George threw for 4,000 yards, 29 touchdowns and nine picks. However, the defense was horrible. They couldn’t stop anyone and the 1997 Raiders finished with a record of 4-12. Needless to say, if you don’t win, you’re gone. Bugel was gone and Davis hired former Philadelphia Eagle offensive coordinator, Jon Gruden.
In his first two years, the Raiders were 16-16 with Gruden as head coach. Gruden brought in the West Coast style offense and with former Chief quarterback Rich Gannon leading the way, the Raiders were looking like a playoff contender. Sure enough, in 2000, the Raiders put it all together and made it all the way to the AFC title game. It was a home game against the Baltimore Ravens and the Raider faithful had high hopes for a Super Bowl berth. That wasn’t the case as the Raiders fell 16-3. The Raiders made it to the playoffs again in 2001, but were knocked out in the controversial “Tuck Rule” game by the New England Patriots. That would be the last game Jon Gruden coached for the Raiders. In his tenure with the Raiders, Jon Gruden had a record of 40-28. In 2002, Davis shipped Gruden off to Tampa Bay in a trade that included high round draft picks and eight million in cash. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan was hired to replace Gruden.
The Raider offense thrived with Callahan as head coach and the Raiders led the league in offense and finished the year with an 11-5 record. Quarterback Rich Gannon was named league MVP and the Raiders made it all the way to the Super Bowl. But, in Super Bowl XXXVII, the Raiders met up with Jon Gruden and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs humiliated the Raiders and won the game easily by a score of 48-21. Callahan stuck around for another year, but the 2003 Raiders finished with a record of 4-12. Callahan was out and Norv Turner was brought in as head coach. While he was with the Raiders, Callahan finished with a record of 17-18.
The 2004 Raiders started out the year with a two and one record and even avenged their loss to the Buccaneers with a 30-20 win in Oakland. However, in that game, Rich Gannon suffered a career ending neck injury. The Raiders finished the year with a five and eleven record. 2005 wasn’t much better and the Raiders finished four and twelve even though Davis managed to pull off a trade with the Minnesota Vikings to acquire wide receiver Randy Moss. With a 9-23 record, Turner was out and Art Shell was brought back to coach the disaster that was known as the 2006 Raiders. He lasted one year and the team went 2-14. The only things notable about that team were a 20-14 win over the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugah making eight interceptions. That’s it. 2006 was pure garbage.
Shell was gone and Davis went for youth as he hired Lane Kiffin from Southern California. Kiffin didn’t stick around too long as he and Davis never seemed to be on the same page. This led to a press conference with an overhead projector and the famous quote “I know you didn’t want to draft JaMarcus Russell. Get over it. He is a great player.” That proved to be a very incorrect statement. Russell is currently out of football after being the first overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Lane Kiffin was let go after compiling a 5-15 record and was replaced by offensive line coach Tom Cable in week five of the 2008 season. The players really seemed to like Cable, but he finished the year with a four and eight record. Still, that was good enough to get Davis to name him head coach. The media would say that no one else wanted the job. In 2009, the Raiders didn’t show much improvement and finished 5-11. But, Davis didn’t relieve Cable of his duties. Russell was cut and Jason Campbell of the Redskins was brought in. Davis really liked Campbell and likened him to two time Super Bowl winning quarterback, Jim Plunkett. However, Cable didn’t like what he saw of Campbell early in 2010 and benched him in favor of journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. After Gradkowski injured his knees, Campbell was back as the starter and the Raiders ended up going undefeated in their division. However, outside of their divisional games, their record was two and eight. They finished with a record of eight and eight and missed the playoffs again. An undefeated record in the division wasn’t good enough to keep Cable around and he was replaced by offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Many players objected to the firing of Cable and he ended up getting hired as offensive line coach in Seattle. Free agents Robert Gallery and Zach Miller were so fond of him that they followed him to Seattle. Cable ended his career with the Raiders with a record of 17-27.
As you can see, the most recent years for the Raiders were far from great. As a matter of fact, they sucked. From 2003 to 2009, they had a record of 24-72 and sell outs at the Oakland Coliseum were a rarity. They became the laughing stock of the NFL and I know that frustrated Al Davis. I could go on and on about the bad draft picks, the bad free agent signings and basically how poorly the team played from 2003-2009. But I won’t. There’s no need to. When it’s all said and done, I like to think of the great years of the Raiders. They won 16 division titles, five conference titles and three Super Bowls under the reign of Al Davis.
Following his death, the quotes from former players and friends have been pouring in. Even Lane Kiffin and Marcus Allen had some kind words for him. However, the best quote that I saw came from Pittsburgh Steeler, Mean Joe Green. He said “To become a championship team, you had to slay the Oakland Raiders. They were the embodiment of Al Davis’ hard driving style and they were very essential in the meaning of the word “team.” To beat them, you had to have that same kind of force as a group. This is what I admire most about Mr. Davis and his leadership of the Raiders. He may have passed away on Saturday, but his imprint is on the NFL forever. As much as the Raiders and Steelers spent the better part of a decade battling for supremacy in one of the fiercest rivalries in the history of the game, I have a special place of admiration and appreciation in my heart and soul for Mr. Davis. You may not have liked him or agreed with him, but you damn sure needed him. With Mr. Davis, you knew the most important thing was the game. Yes, he had his team and he wanted to win. Ultimately, however he was doing what was in the best interests of the game, of the NFL. Sometimes you need that contrarian, that person that pushes you because he’s not afraid to say what he thinks.”
I know there is a lot more to be said and I could go on for hours. I’d personally like to thank Mr. Davis for all the thrilling wins and great times I’ve had watching his team play. If it weren’t for him, I would have missed out on a lot of great memories. All I can say is “THANK YOU!”
Just Win, Baby.
The Raider Guy
|Lem Barney||Matt Bahr|