The Oakland Raiders are perhaps the most storied team in all of pro football, and possibly the most notorious franchise in all of professional sports. No other team in the NFL can evoke so much passion or contempt among football fans. The Raiders are an organization steeped in history and tradition, with a story that goes back nearly fifty years.
In 1959, the burgeoning American Football League had just conducted their first draft. Shortly afterward, the National Football League invited the Minnesota Vikings to join in 1961 as an expansion team. This move left the young AFL in quick need of a replacement team.
Back in the late 1950s, Oakland was not viewed as a viable market for professional football. There was no accommodating venue in Oakland for Pro Football at that time, and Oakland had shown little interest in having its own team. The NFL's San Francisco 49ers had already established themselves as a successful franchise in the Bay Area, so there didn't appear to be a need for another team to locate there.
The decision to target Oakland for the next AFL team came about when Barron Hilton, owner of the Los Angeles Chargers, insisted that another team be based on the west coast or else he would forfeit his Chargers. As a result of Barron's threats, the AFL awarded the city of Oakland the 8th American Football League franchise on January 30th, 1960. Although the new team inherited the Viking's draft picks, the Raiders have never been associated with Minnesota due to the fact that no AFL organization has ever played there.
Local civic leaders and business people jumped at the chance to invest in the new franchise. An ownership group was formed via a limited partnership that consisted of: general partners Harvey Binns, Don Blessing, Charles Harney, Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, F. Wayne Valley and a number of limited partners. The managing general partner was a local real estate developer by the name of Chet Soda.
The Oakland... Señors..?!
The team was originally to be named the Oakland Señors. This came about after it was chosen in a "Name the Team" contest that was held by an Oakland newspaper. The young team endured a lot of heckling due to this choice, so after a few weeks of incessant jabs by the locals and the press, the franchise changed its name to the Raiders. The "Raiders" happened to be the 3rd place winner in the naming contest.
Originally, the team colors were black, gold and white. Their logo was an earlier version of the unmistakable Raiders emblem featuring the football helmet wearing pirate. It is rumored that it was created in the likeness of actor Randolph Scott.
The Raiders chose to use San Francisco's Kezar Stadium, after UC Berkeley denied the team home field use of Memorial Stadium. The Raiders' first regular season home game was a 37-22 loss to the Houston Oilers on September 11th, 1960. For the final three home games of their inaugural season, the Raiders were granted permission to use Candlestick Park by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Commission. Even with the change of stadiums, the Raiders failed to sell tickets and ended with a losing record of 6-8 and a financial loss of $500,000.
In January of 1961, Chet Soda decided to cut his losses and leave the ownership group, which led Valley, McGah and Osborne to buy out the remaining partners. In order to keep the team going, Valley was given a $400,000 loan by Ralph C. Wilson Jr., founder of the Buffalo Bills. Osborne then sold his share to Valley and McGah, and Valley was named managing general partner. The Raiders ended their '61 season with a dismal record of 2-12.
The Raiders played their home games at Candlestick Park in 1961 and had a horrible season long attendance record of only 50,000. Unless Oakland provided a stadium for the team, Valley announced he would pack up the Raiders and relocate. The following year the Raiders were moved to Frank Youell Field. The 18,000 seat venue was to serve as a temporary home until construction was completed for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Home game attendance continued to be poor, which certainly wasn't helped by their 13 game losing streak in 1962, with their only win coming in the season finale.
Enter Al Davis
Following the disastrous 1962 season, F. Wayne Valley hired 33 year old Al Davis as head coach and general manager. Davis, who had been an assistant head coach for the San Diego Chargers, was the youngest person in pro football history to ever hold those positions.
The teams colors were changed from white, gold and black to the infamous silver and black. Davis felt those colors would stand out more, and make a better impression on television viewers who primarily watched on black-and-white screens. This early influence on the team would unknowingly have a resounding impact on their identity and tradition.
Along with the change in uniforms, Davis also implemented an aggressive offensive strategy he dubbed, "the vertical game". This aerial attack was based off of Chargers' head coach Sid Gillman's West Coast offense.
With Davis at the helm, the Raiders finished their 1963 campaign with a respectable 10-4 record. That same year, Davis was awarded AFL's Coach of the year.
The Raiders fell a little in 1964, finishing at 5-7-2, but came back in 1965 with a winning record of 8-5-1.
The following year, Al Davis departed from the Raiders to become Commissioner of the AFL. As commissioner, Davis was instrumental in facilitating the landmark AFL-NFL merger. His foresight and determination, along with the league's attractive contract negotiated with the NBC television network, led to the NFL merging all 10 AFL teams into one 26-team expanded NFL.
Unfortunately, Davis was quickly disillusioned by this merger and became bitter with the league. His intention was to have a league similar to that of Major League Baseball, where two independent leagues share the same draft and face one another in a championship game at the end of the season. Instead, the owners of the AFL teams saw it as an opportunity to abandoned their teams in favor of NFL franchises.
He felt betrayed and resented the fact that owners who were nowhere near his level of expertise, could whimsically affect the future of the league. Davis was a "football man", and he vowed to become an owner in order to bring structure and competitiveness to the league.
As a result of the merger, Davis' job as commissioner was no longer necessary. Davis then returned to the Raiders after talking with Valley about an ownership deal. Davis bought a ten percent interest in the team for a mere $18,000 and became the team's third general partner and head of football operations.
Along with Al Davis' return to the Raiders, success followed for the 1966 season. The team continued to improve under the leadership of Davis' chosen successor, John Rauch, as head coach. The Raiders went on to beat the Houston Oilers 40-7 in the AFL Championship game. That win sent them to Super Bowl II where they were upended 33-14 by Vince Lombardi and his Green Bay Packers.
The Raiders won the western division titles the following two seasons, but lost the AFL Championship both years to the teams that would go on to win their respective Super Bowls, the New York Jets in 1968 and the Kansas City Chiefs in 1969. The AFL-NFL merger took place in 1970, joining the Raiders to the Western Division of the American Football Conference within the newly merged NFL.
The John Madden Era
John Madden joined the Raiders in 1969 and began what was to be one of the most successful runs in the NFL. At 32 years of age, John madden was the youngest person to ever coach in the National Football League. During the 1970s, the Raiders won 6 division titles under John Madden.
This success was tainted somewhat due to the three consecutive losses they were handed in the 1973-1975 AFC Championship games, two of them by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders went on to have an incredible 1976 season in which they finished 13-1 and went on to exact revenge upon the Steelers, defeating them 24-7 in the AFC Championship. This win led them to Super Bowl XI, where they beat the Minnesota Vikings 32-14 and earned their first NFL Championship.
Al Davis Imposes His Will
Back in 1972, managing partner Wayne Valley was away for several weeks attending the Olympic Games in Munich. During his absence, Davis took that opportunity to have his attorney draw up a revised partnership agreement which would give him complete control over the Raiders' operations. The agreement was signed by McGah who was a Davis supporter. Under partnership law, the new agreement was ratified as a result of a 2-1 vote by the general partners.
Infuriated with the news, Valley attempted to have the new agreement overturned, but the court ruled in favor of Davis and McGah. Valley sold his remaining interest in the team to Al Davis in 1976, giving Davis just a twenty five percent stake in the Raiders while still maintaining total control over the organization.
Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett and Super Bowl XV
Madden eventually left the Raiders in 1979 to become a television football commentator. He left behind a legacy of ten consecutive winning seasons and a Super Bowl victory. Former Raiders quarterback Tom Flores was named as Madden's replacement. Flores' hiring, due to the fact that he was the first Hispanic coach in NFL history, further established the Raiders as an organization that accepted people of all races and cultures. In the next decade, the Raiders would also become the first team to hire an African-American head coach (Art Shell).
In week five of the 1980 season, Raiders' starting quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg and was replaced by Jim Plunkett. Plunkett, who was a number one draft pick by the Boston Patriots in 1971, took the Raiders to an 11-5 record and a wild card playoff berth. The Raiders went on to beat the Houston Oilers, Cleveland Browns, San Diego Chargers, then ultimately went on to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV. The Raiders became the first wild card team to win a Super Bowl with their 27-10 win over Philadelphia.
Al Davis moves the Raiders to Los Angeles
After multiple failed attempts to get improvements made to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Al Davis signed a memorandum of agreement to move the team from Oakland to Los Angeles. The motion, which required at least three-fourths approval by NFL owners, was defeated by a count of 22-0 (five owners abstained from the vote). Following this decision, Davis tried to move the team anyway, but he was halted by an injunction.
The Raiders then proceeded to join the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's antitrust lawsuit, while also filing one of their own. The initial case was declared a mistrial, however, a second jury voted in favor of The Raiders and the LA Coliseum in May of 1982. This enabled the Raiders to relocate to Los Angeles and host all of their home games at the Coliseum.
Their first season in LA was curtailed by the strike that year, which left them with a record of 8-1, sitting atop the AFC. Unfortunately, they were knocked from the playoffs in the second round after a loss to the Jets by a score of 17-14.
Just Win Baby!
The 1983 season was a banner year for the Raiders, which ultimately led them to the Super Bowl. After decisive wins over the Steelers and Seahawks, the Raiders went on to dismantle the Redskins in the Super Bowl, scoring 38 points vs. Washington's 9. This game featured what is perhaps one of the greatest highlights in Raiders history, Marcus Allen's 75 yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter.
Before the game, Davis rallied the players by telling them, "Just win, baby! Be right!". This phrase went on to become synonymous with the Raiders and is a hallmark of the teams' tradition. Along with Davis' "Just win, baby", he also coined the other two phrases that are ingrained upon the Raiders tradition, "Commitment to Excellence" and "Pride and Poise". All three of these slogans are registered trademarks.
In 1984 the Raiders finished at a respectable 11-5 and made the postseason as a wild card, but were shut down in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks 13-7 in Seattle.
In 1985, running back Marcus Allen was awarded Offensive Player of the Year and NFL MVP. Allen and the Raiders had a strong finish to the season, winning their last six straight games, and claiming the AFC West title once again. The glory would be short lived however, due to a 27-20 home loss to the Patriots which was rife with Raider turnovers.
The Raiders struggled early on in the 1986 season, dropping their first three straight games. This tension between Allen and Davis starts to build as an injured Allen plays through the pain, while Davis raises controversy claiming the injuries are a hoax. The Raiders began to right the ship 3/4 of the way through the season, but slid downhill fast after a home overtime loss to Philadelphia as a result of a Marcus Allen fumble which was returned for a touchdown. This heart-wrenching defeat began a four game losing streak for the Raiders and the turnover fueled the animosity between Al Davis and Marcus Allen.
In 1987, the Raiders drafted former Heismann Trophy winner and two-sport athlete, Bo Jackson. This move caused even more bad blood between Allen and Davis. This disdain for one another heightened when Allen refused Davis' demands to cross the picket line during the NFL strike that year.
Bo Jackson was unable to begin suiting up for the Raiders until his season ended with the Kansas City Royals. In the midst of the strike and off-field tensions, the Raiders struggled to put wins together. This drought ended with a 37-14 win over the Seattle Seahawks, where Bo figuratively ran over the Seahawks, and literally ran over Brian Bosworth. Much to Brian's dismay, Bo's steamroll of Bosworth ended up becoming a prominent highlight reel in the Raiders' annals of classic moments.
After their disappointing 5-10 season, Tom Flores resigned as head coach and moved to the Raiders' front office. He was replaced by the Denver Broncos offensive assistant coach, Mike Shanahan.
Under Shanahan, the Raiders continued to play lackluster football and finished the season at 7-9. On-field and off-field problems plagued them, with Allen being under-utilized once Bo returned after baseball, their new quarterback Jay Schroeder struggling with turnovers and Al's hint at relocating back to Oakland once again.
Mike Shanahan was fired after a 1-3 start in 1989. Davis then brought in former Raiders guard Art Shell as Shanahan's replacement. The Raiders became the first pro football team in the modern era to hire an African American for the head coaching position. With Shell as coach the Raiders immediately started playing better football, winning four out of the next five games, but they still fell short of the playoffs.
The following year Allen saw the ball more, which resulted in him scoring 13 touchdowns and the Raiders posting wins in six out of their first seven games. With Allen and Jackson providing a powerful 1-2 punch in the backfield, the Raiders elevated to 12-4 and made it to the AFC Championship game. However, That's where things took a turn for the worse. Bo Jackson suffered a career ending injury in the third quarter and the Raiders went on to lose 51-3.
The next two years Marcus Allen was seeing more and more time on the bench, further adding to his unhappiness with the Raiders. His hostility towards Davis grew when free agent RB Roger Craig was signed by the Raiders to handle the majority of the duties in the backfield. Shortly after the end of the season, Marcus Allen who was now a free agent, signed a deal with one of the Raiders' arch rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Raiders made the playoffs in 1993, but failed to do so in 1994. When the season was over, Davis fired Shell and hired Mike White to coach the team for the 1995 season.
In 1995, the Raiders returned to the Bay Area after the city finally agreed to a massive overhaul of the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum. This marked the end of a thirteen year tenure in Los Angeles.
Raiders Come Back to Oakland
The Raiders homecoming got off to a great start with them winning eight out of their first ten games. Their luck finally ran out however, as they ended up losing their last six straight games, finishing the season at 8-8 and missing the playoffs.
The following year they finished with a losing record of 7-9 and Joe Bugel was brought in to replace Mike White as head coach. Under Bugel, the Raiders had a pitiful year finishing the season at an embarrassing 4-12. Al showed Bugel the door and brought in a young and fiery head coach by the name of Jon Gruden.
The Jon Gruden Era
Although they played with more passion and discipline under their new coach, the Raiders still fell short of the playoffs and ended with an 8-8 record in both of Gruden's first two seasons. However, the team continued to improve under his guidance and "Chucky" was immediately a fan favorite due to his intense nature and propensity to spew four-letter-words on the sideline.
Gruden would lead the team to their best record in a decade, with a 12-4 finish in 2000. The Raiders advanced to the AFC Championship game that year, but ended up losing 16-3 to the Baltimore Ravens, who eventually went on to win the Super Bowl.
Just before the start of the 2001 season, the Raiders signed all-time leading WR Jerry Rice. They finished 10-6 and ended up losing in a controversial divisional playoff game to the New England Patriots. This game is referred to as the "Tuck Rule Game". LB Greg Biekert recovered what appeared to be a fumble by New England quarterback Tom Brady late in the fourth quarter. This turnover would have decided the game, but the officials declared it an incomplete pass. This ruling kept the Patriots drive alive and allowed them to kick a game tying field goal, and eventually go on to defeat the befuddled and frustrated Raiders in overtime 16-13.
The Raiders released Gruden from his contract in 2002 and promoted offensive coordinator Bill Callahan to the head coaching position. The honeymoon was apparently over and Gruden and Davis both needed a change. Gruden was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who gave the Raiders compensation in the form of cash and future draft picks.
The following year, the Raiders came charging out of the starting gate firing on all cylinders. Their powerhouse offense racked up 162 points in only their first four games. All-Pro Quarterback Rich Gannon threw for 4,689 yards and was named NFL MVP that same year. The Raiders continued their assault all the way to the Super Bowl.
The Raiders seemed poised to overtake their former coach's team, but off-field drama (C Barret Robbins' MIA status before the game) coupled with Gruden's knowledge and insight of the Raiders' offense was ultimately too much to overcome. Gruden's Bucs went on to defeat the Raiders in the Super Bowl by a final score of 48-21.
The Unraveling (2003-present)
Reeling from their Super Bowl loss, the Raiders never really got it together in 2003. They struggled all season long and finished the season with the lowest record in NFL history for a team just coming off of the Super Bowl (4-12). Following the season, Callahan was let go and replaced by former Redskins head coach Norv Turner, Tim Brown (who holds the majority of Raiders' receiving records) was released and Warren Sapp was brought in to help bolster the defense.
Norv Turner's first year started out promising, but quickly went downhill when quarterback Rich Gannon suffered a career ending neck injury in a victory over Tampa Bay in week 3. After weeks of not utilizing Jerry Rice, he was dealt to the Seahawks mid-season. The Raiders improved over their previous season's total by only one win, finishing 5-11. After the end of the season, the Raiders signed All-Pro WR Randy Moss in a monumental deal with the Vikings.
The Raiders wouldn't fare any better the following year, finishing with a pathetic 4-12 record and one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Norv Turner was shown the door just as so many coaches before him, and Davis elected to bring back former head coach Art Shell.
Art Shell's return to the Raiders was a complete debacle. The team was the laughing stock of the NFL, finishing with a 2-14 record. The Raiders that year seemed to be very apathetic about playing competitive football. Despite their underachieving offense, the Raiders' defense played pretty well all year, but it wasn't nearly enough to avoid the trainwreck that was the 2006 season.
Art Shell's reunion with his former team was short lived. Davis decided to once again draw from the youthful well that brought him such talents as Madden and Gruden. This time he went with 31 year old Lane Kiffen who was the offensive coordinator at USC.
In 2007, the Raiders drafted quarterback Jamarcus Russell out of LSU with the number one pick overall. Russell held out on his contract and ended up missing all of training camp, which really hindered his offensive development with the team. Without a reliable quarterback behind center, among other issues, Kiffen became frustrated and even lashed out at Davis by saying derogatory things about him to the media.
The shoe finally fell on September 30th during the Raiders' bye week. Davis fired Kiffen and promoted linebackers coach Tom Cable as interim head coach. Despite having only won four games under cable, the Raiders won the last two games of the season and began to show some promise. The Raiders finished the 2008 season with a record of 5-11.
to be continued...