“They handed us our asses on a tray and the tray was bent.”
Washington Quarterback Joe Theisman after Super Bowl XVIII loss to the Raiders 38-9.
Official Statement of the Oakland Raiders on the passing of Charlie Sumner.
“The Raiders are deeply saddened by the news of Charlie Sumner’s passing. Charlie was an esteemed part of the Raider family and was instrumental in some of the Silver and Black’s greatest triumphs. Our deepest sympathies are with Charlie’s Family at this time”.
“I remember Matt Millen going ballistic yelling at Charlie not to take him out because they couldn’t handle him. Two minutes later I look over and Matt is hoisting up Charlie screaming with joy.”
Raider Coach Tom Flores
Here is a great video showing Matt Millen lifting Charlie Sumner. NFL films also doing a quick tribute to the Raiders Super Bowl team
“Charlie had a great overview of the whole picture. He worked on drills and techniques, but his overall input on game day was what I thought was most impressive. He was unique in that he could find a weakness in an offense and attack it. He gave players the opportunity to succeed and the hopes were that they’d get it done. Players loved to play for him and they knew they’d always be supported and prepared.”
Raiders Coach Tom Flores
Howie Long and Ted Hendricks thanked him in their Hall of Fame acceptance speeches. Raider coaches and players swore by him, and the NFL hated to go against him. Al Davis and Ron Wolf smiled whenever they talked about him.
Another icon in the family of the Oakland Raiders is gone with the passing this weekend of the great Charlie Sumner at the age of 84. His son Colin announced that he had passed away in Maui due to complications from Gall Bladder surgery. He was a player and a coach who like Ron Wolf always wanted to stay in the background.
In my sports writing, I always try to honor and respect those successful people that many of us may not know. I think for the most part, Oakland Raider fans do too. I LOVED getting dozens of direct messages on twitter from young Raider fans thanking me for telling them about Ron Wolf. Wolf is now in the hall of fame. I hope that I can do that for Charlie Sumner as well.
The word great is thrown around way too much these days. In regards to true greatness, the Mt. Rushmore of Oakland Raiders leadership was one of the greatest in the history of the game. You had John Madden; the ultimate motivator and players coach. You had Charlie Sumner, a genius in game management and game preparation. There was Ron Wolf, who was probably the greatest evaluator of talent in the history of the NFL. Then you had Al Davis, the amazing leader who demanded excellence and loyalty, and is in the top 5 most important figures in NFL history. Three hall of famers and another with hall of fame talent.
Al Davis and Ron Wolf said it constantly in regards to their defensive philosophy; the quarterback must go down and go down hard. Charlie Sumner was more than happy to accommodate them.
The offensive players in most Super Bowls get all of the attention but in reality if you look at the Raiders 3 Super Bowl wins, their defenses dominated and harassed some great offensive teams and quarterbacks. For two of those Super Bowls; and for many years; the leader of the defense was the great Charlie Sumner.
Sumner started his coaching career when Al Davis came to Oakland in 1963. He began as the defensive backs coach. He then went to Pittsburgh and was one of the coaches that helped start the Steel Curtain era. He was fast becoming a hot commodity in coaching and the lowly New England Patriots called him to run their defense.
Within 2 years the Patriots defense greatly improved and they had their first non losing season in 8 years. Within 3 years of Sumner arriving, the Patriots were in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and they lost a controversial game in Oakland against the Raiders. Mike Haynes who became a star with New England, has given a lot of credit to Charlie Sumner helping him to become a good player. The Patriots were big and physical.
He returned to Oakland and he continued to show a cerebral approach off the field, and a physical one on it. He helped lead an amazing run in 1980 that lead to a Super Bowl win; the first Super Bowl title for any Wild Card team.
At times the Raiders offense struggled that year and the defense kept them in the games that they did. It was during a high scoring era with the San Diego Chargers “Air Coryell” attack leading the way with an electric and explosive offense. The Raiders found ways to win though.
In the playoffs the Raiders stunned the NFL by beating the upstart Cleveland Browns “Cardiac Kids” in a frigid game 14-12. The game was saved by an amazing interception by Mike Davis. “River City” Sam Rutigliano was the Cleveland Browns coach and he was known for taking risks. Sumner had anticipated this and had the defensive backfield play up; ready for the pass; just in case the Browns decided to throw the ball.
The next week the Raiders stunned the NFL again by beating the heavily favored San Diego Chargers 34-27 in San Diego, in what is probably the Chargers greatest team in their proud history. The Raiders seemed destined to win early. On their first drive Jim Plunkett threw a probable interception that bounced off a Chargers players hands and right into the hands of Raiders tight end Raymond Chester who happily coasted to a 65 yard touchdown. The Raiders defense held the mighty Chargers to only 3 fourth quarter points for a 34-27 win.
In the Super Bowl against Philadelphia, the Raiders again were an underdog by 4 points against a very physical Eagles team that had dominated the Raiders and quarterback Jim Plunkett earlier in the year with a 10-7 victory in the city of brotherly love.
In the Super Bowl, the offense was good but the defense was better. Sumner began mixing occasional blitzes and putting pressure on Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski. The Raiders pass rush made Ron Jaworski rush many throws and the vaunted Eagles running game with Wilbert Montgomery was stifled to an amazing 69 total yards as a team.
Rod Martin had the greatest defensive game in the history of the Super Bowl with 3 amazing interceptions. Charlie Sumner’s defense was so dominating, the Raiders won 27-10 with Plunkett only completing 13 passes in 21 attempts. Two touchdowns to Cliff Branch sealed the win.
Charlie Sumner’s shining moment was in Super Bowl XVIII. The Raiders were playing the highest scoring offense in the history of the NFL up to that time in Washington. The Raiders had lost to them @ RFK Stadium in week 5 by a score of 37-35 in a classic thriller.
Washington was first listed as an amazing 10 point favorite and many said the Super Bowl was actually played the week before. They had beaten Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers @ RFK to win the NFC title game. Most felt they would handle the Raiders fairly easily and if they did, they would be the GREATEST team in football history.
Charlie Sumner changed up his tactics in the Super Bowl and went after quarterback Joe Theisman. The Raiders would get an amazing 6 sacks during the game, including 3 in the fourth quarter. Washington’s brilliant rushing attack with Joe Washington and John Riggins running behind the famous “hogs” was grounded and held to 2.8 yards per rush. No one ever dominated Washington’s offensive line the way the Raiders did.
Al Davis hated to blitz but Sumner brought the very rare cornerback blitz as a constant weapon. He had surprised teams in the post season with it. Davis had one rule; if it works and you win, then I’ll stay out of it. He did.
Late in the first half of the Super Bowl, Washington called time out. They had the ball deep in their own territory. To the amazement of an unhappy and very angry Matt Millen, Charlie Sumner replaced him with backup linebacker Jack Squirek who was good against the pass. Sumner remembered in week 5 that Joe Theisman ran a screen to Joe Washington in the same part of the field late in the half. It went for a long pass play that lead to a late touchdown.
Sumner told Squirek that he was sure that they would run a screen and he told him to shadow running back Joe Washington who was the best pass catching running back in the NFL. Then he grabbed him and said, “Don’t drop the interception”. In true Super Bowl lore, it happened exactly the way Sumner said it would. Theisman lofted a pass to Washington and Squirek jumped in front of the pass and scored a touchdown to put the Raiders up 21-3 at halftime. Matt Millen lost it and grabbed Charlie Sumner and lifted him up in the air screaming with happiness.
Amazingly the Raiders held the greatest offense in history at that time to ZERO points in the final 24 minutes of the game for a 38-9 demolition of the supposed GREATEST team in NFL history.
Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive mind to ever lead the Oakland Raiders. His defenses were designed to rush the quarterback and stop the run which is a huge key to any team that wants to win the Super Bowl. He was a big part of the success of the Oakland Raiders dynasty and will always hold a rightful place as a key player in the greatness of the Oakland Raiders.