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“Ron Wolf enters the Hall of Fame With Tim Brown; Wolf, The Greatest Raider of Them All”

ron wolf Tim brown

The Greatest Raider of them all.

Other than Al Davis, NO ONE ever made an impact on the Oakland Raiders like Ron Wolf did.

When you ask a Raider fan who is the greatest Raider of all time, you will get several different answers. Maybe you will hear Ken Stabler, Art Shell or Gene Upshaw. Some may say Tim Brown or Marcus Allen or any of the other all time Raider greats like Jim Otto. In reality though, the greatest Raider of them all is Ron Wolf. Some under 30 years old are saying, “Who is Ron Wolf?”

Ron Wolf was Oakland’s Player Personnel Director and one of the greatest evaluators of talent in the history of the NFL and he now takes his place among the games greatest, recently being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the architect of the great Raider and Packer teams and was in charge of the draft and player moves starting in 1963. Few teams in history had a better scout team lead by Wolf.

ron wolf and al davis
Ron Wolf & Al Davis before a Raiders game

Wolf was the perfect fit to team up with Al Davis. He was the strong silent type who didn’t compete for attention. It is fairly common knowledge that Wolf was one of the few people that Al Davis actually listened to, and followed. Many of the great Raiders of all time like Stabler, Shell, Upshaw, Tatum, Villapiano and Cliff Branch were all key choices by Ron Wolf. Wolf and Davis had no peers when picking up castoffs that other teams gave up on.

In 1975 Wolf took the job of Vice President of Operations for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He went on to be the architect of the Bucs great early teams. His first draft included one of the greatest defensive lineman of all time Lee Roy Selmon and his brother Dewey, along with future 49er HOF QB Steve Young.  In the second draft he selected the great USC running back Ricky Bell (whose career was cut short tragically by a terminal illness which took his life in 1984) and 12 year NFL starter Charley Hannah who played 6 years with the Raiders and won a Super Bowl v.s. Washington. With these key players, Tampa Bay is still the fastest expansion team in the history of the post merger era to win a division, a playoff game, and host an NFC championship game.

ron wolf unveils his hof bust jpeg

Citing differences with the meddling Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse and head coach John McKay, Wolf came back to the Raiders before the 1979 season. In usual fashion the Raiders soon drafted players like Marcus Allen (who they literally had to con Mr. Davis into thinking he was faster than he was) and Howie Long. Allen was considered a question mark by many because he was considered too slow and Long was thought to be a long shot due to him coming out of Villanova who no longer had football. Unfortunately though, Mr. Davis transformation had begun.

Al Davis Change is Complete:

What changed the NFL and the Raiders forever was in 1982, when Dallas Owner Tex Schramm asked the NFL competition committee to hold an evaluation time for all of the players together, so all of the teams can evaluate them at the same time. Before that, teams had the option to share notes, films, and evaluations. Now players would be timed and rated on basic exercises and drills in gym shorts at the NFL combines. Al Davis loved it, especially the 40 yard dash times which was his main tool when drafting a player. Ron Wolf considered the Raiders evaluation of players to be superior so he hated it. When he was asked once why he doesn’t share information or films with the rest of the league he said, “why would we; we know more than everyone else”. A true Raider.

As time went on in the 80’s their relationship became strained. The draft became a mini war between the two. In the 70’s they both often said, “the quarterback must go down, and go down hard”. The key to that was a strong defensive front seven but Al Davis had gone away from that formula.

The Green Bay Magic:

In 1991 without new Green Bay GM Wolf’s input, Mr. Davis was in total control and the Raiders 1st and 2nd round picks were Todd Marinovich and Nick Bell.  Both would be out of the NFL in 3 years, which is easily one of the worst first 2 picks in history.  With pretty much no one to contradict him, Wolf’s first moves for the Packers was to fire head coach Lindy Infante, hire Mike Holmgren and trade for an awkward quarterback in Atlanta by the name of Brett Favre.  Within 4 years he transformed one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL to one of the best.  He signed free agent DL’s Reggie White, Sean Jones, Santana Dotson and “The Gravedigger” Gilbert Brown.  Along with free agency, he also drafted key pieces like RB’s Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens, TE Mark Chmura, WR’s Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks just to name a few.  A little vindication for sure.

In his 9 years as GM of the Packers, Wolf helped lead them to the second best record in the NFL (second only to Bill Walsh’s 49er’s) and two Super Bowl appearances with one Super Bowl win.

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His Rightful Place in the Pro Football HOF:

In time, every team that Ron Wolf directed became a winner. Last year during his daily interview on KCBS sports in the bay area, John Madden said, “The unsung hero of the Raiders will always be Ron Wolf. When Ron and Al were on the same page, it was pure magic. The genius of Mr. Davis at that time was to trust Ron Wolf and the scouts and it helped create a winning formula”.

Wolf’s mentoring tree is long and talented. It includes Packers GM Ted Thompson, Seahawks GM John Schneider, Chiefs GM John Dorsey, Washington GM Scot McCloughan, and Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.

During their glory years, the Raiders had not only the highest winning percentage in football, but the highest winning percentage of any U.S. sports franchise during a two and a half decade span.  In today’s world where teams tell you what they are going to do and mediocrity is celebrated, can you imagine how fans would react to such dominance?  There aren’t enough memes or gifs to express it.  Thus, every Raider fan young and old, should appreciate the legacy and foundation that was created with the talents of Ron Wolf; the greatest Raider of them all.

 

 

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“The Passing Of Legendary Raider Ken Stabler Shocks a Nation”

Kendra: @JimJaxMedia this is an amazing article and tribute to my Dad. Thank you. He would have loved this. The love & support has amazed us all.

Marissa:  @JimJaxMedia  Thank you so much for honoring my dad with such beautiful words.
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“Some People need 8 Hours of sleep and some need 3 hours.  I didn’t need much sleep and sometimes studied my playbook by the light of the jukebox”

Ken Stabler

“He was the perfect quarterback and the perfect Raider.  If I had to pick one quarterback to win a game in the final drive, it would be Ken Stabler”

John Madden

“It’s a Travesty of sports justice that Ken Stabler is not in the Hall of Fame.  He was as good as any quarterback I ever saw”

Former Bronco Great, Tom Jackson

“Joe Namath was the greatest athlete at quarterback that I ever had, but Ken Stabler was the best quarterback that I ever coached.”

Paul “Bear” Bryant, legendary Alabama Coach

“He was such a gentleman.  He wanted to fight it quietly without bother.  That’s who he was”. 

Ted Hendricks, HOF Raider Linebacker

“I never saw anything like it.  He was like Madison Bumgarner the way he could throw fastballs or sliders with pinpoint accuracy.” 

Lester Hayes, Former Raider Cornerback

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“The Passing Of Legendary Raider Ken Stabler Shocks a Nation”

A leader and true Southern Gentleman to the end.

I’m the big brother people call when there is a tragedy or a problem. There isn’t a week that goes by where someone won’t call me between midnight and 3 am with either a problem or wanting to talk.  Call it the John Boy Walton in me.  For this I don’t cry much in front of people and I try to be strong. And to be honest I never cry over a celebrity or an athlete’s death. Famous people have never impressed me that much and when people drop their names I just kind of shrug.  Unfortunately after hearing the fiasco which is the internet tell me finally that the matriarch of the dynasty which was the Oakland Raiders was gone, I was filled with emotions that shocked me.

Kenny Stabler; Snake; passed away yesterday at the age of 69 due to complications of stage 4 colon cancer sending a shock wave of sadness throughout the NFL world. In death, as he did in life, Kenny took on the pressure himself and many of his teammates didn’t even know he was sick. Stabler, until the end; was the classy leader that took on the pressure while lifting the load off of others.  Later in life he did color commentary for Alabama games and the state is in mourning for their favorite son.

I slowly walked down my hiking trail and just wanted a minute alone with no sounds. I looked out over the water and for the first time in my life I cried over the loss of a professional athlete.

Ken Stabler; like many; was my favorite athlete. In fact I often either wanted #12 on my teams or the #21 for Roberto Clemente. As an adult I would often write both numbers on professional contracts at the bottom of pages. I remember my parents and coaches getting mad at me as a little boy for wanting to use my left hand like Kenny. I remember praying to God to make me have special powers so I could use my left arm like Stabler did.

For a young fan to even grasp in a small way what Stabler meant to the Raiders would take a lot of effort on their part. If you ever get the chance, read the book Snake. It’s the candid account of the lifestyle and crazy ways of the Raiders of that time. In the greatest era of the NFL in the 70’s, George Clooney and Clint Eastwood had nothing on the Snake.

In high school Stabler was 29-1 as a starter.  He averaged 29 points a game as a high school basketball player and was drafted by two major league baseball teams.  At Alabama he was 28-3-2.  For the Raiders he was 69-26-1.  126-30-4.  I’m speechless.

To see how dominating the Raiders and Ken Stabler were, look at this stat.   In Stabler’s first 69 games as a regular starter for the Raiders, the Raiders were 56-13. I actually had to check the numbers 5 times to make sure they were right. That is unreal. That’s greatness.

The Stabler Kindness:

Stabler’s generation is amazing. Many times under the darkest of circumstances, they are so selfless. This is seen especially in sickness and death.  When he was sick he didn’t want to be a burden and again, was as selfless and giving as a man can be. Kenny and his family have helped countless people through the XOXO Stabler Foundation. Kenny also was amazingly giving of his time and his efforts in many charities and causes. Like most of his generation he didn’t want much fanfare and didn’t call the presses every time he helped someone. He was a great person. He never turned down a fans request to sign something or talk to him.

I often feel bad for his daughters, grand kids & his long time Partner Kim who have shown great patience with some of us loving Ken so much. They have been as caring and kind as he was. In death they also showed the selfless Stabler spirit. The Stabler family announced that his brain and spinal cord will be donated to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to support research for degenerative brain disease in athletes. People forget that the Snake was involved in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL.

The Bond:

People often say why does it matter where the Raiders play? I always tell people outside the Oakland bay area that the Raiders are your team but they are our family.

The stories about the fans and players interactions during the glory days of the Raiders in the 70’s are of legend and will never be seen again.   The Santa Rosa area would be up all night during training camp, and many times Ken Stabler was up with them. My father actually got to drink with Mr. Stabler once in Santa Rosa when the Raiders were holding court in one of the watering holes.

People forget that during the 70’s the players weren’t getting rich off of the NFL. Many players had extra jobs and did other things to make money. Often times they would meet, work with, or become friends with the fans.   You can still see it with some of the Raiders kids and grandkids who are online still repping the silver and black.   With fans. the Raiders were not considered celebrities but literal family members.

The fans were close to the players but the most beloved player of them all was Ken Stabler. Mix part Clint Eastwood, part Johnny Cash, part Sammy Baugh and Part Johnny Unitas and you had Ken Stabler.

I laugh now when fans say the NFL and other teams hate the Raiders. They really have no idea what hate is. Back in the 70’s there was no internet, and there wasn’t even an ESPN. The only way to get national news on any team was to watch it on television and most news services were based on the east coast and they were extremely biased. There were times that you would get more coverage about the Jets and Yankees than you did on your local teams.  If they covered the Raiders, it usually wasn’t very positive.

The Raiders were flat out hated; by everyone; including some in the media. Since the merger Raider owner Al Davis felt screwed by the AFL and the NFL because he felt they had told him he would become their commissioner.   Al Davis from then on was a renegade and it was us against the world. The Raiders constantly had one of the best teams in the NFL and the loudest home crowd but because they never had won a Super Bowl, they were shredded in the media.

The media often said there was a reason for their apathy towards Oakland.  “The Raiders and Ken Stabler can’t win the big one; they choke in the big games; the road to the Super Bowl easily goes through Oakland; The Chokeland Raiders”; it was hard for fans at that time to take, and only a Super Bowl win would fix it.

The animosity for the Raiders was so bad that even after Stabler won the 1974 MVP trophy (and even opponents were shocked he didn’t win it in 1976); many times announcers would have to remind people during the game all the things that Stabler had accomplished. If you were west of the Mississippi in those days, you had to really fight for respect.

Stabler was Joe Montana before Montana. Montana often said Stabler was the guy he tried to be like and that was someone he looked up to. Stabler was a master at game management and his pinpoint passing accuracy was of legend.   Because the Raiders were so good he never got the credit for being as great as he was and that often bothered other players, but not Snake. Remember this was during the time where there are no HD high speed camera and videos on the sidelines, or radio transmitters in the helmets. Quarterbacks actually did call their own plays. From Stabler to John Madden, to Ron Wolf to Al Davis; they all told the media the same thing. We don’t care what the other team does; we are going to do what we do and they can’t stop us. Supreme confidence with results.

Players often have wondered how someone as great as Stabler could not be in the Hall of Fame. My friend Tim Casto who I really enjoy; founder of Raiders Homeport; reminded me of a nasty situation between Stabler and quality sports writer Bob Padecky.  There were rumors of a drug set up and most writers supported Bob and turned on Snake. Writers around the country helped ruin Stabler’s reputation and tried to keep him out of the hall of fame.  They said they did not want to be intimidated into writing fluff pieces on athletes.  Ken Stabler is still the only Super Bowl winning QB of the 1970’s not in the HOF.  He’s also the only all decade QB not to be elected into the hall.  Travesty.

I rarely get into twitter wars but I got into 2 of them yesterday. Two clueless east coast writers said Stabler wasn’t all that talented. Are you kidding me? Bear Bryant, the Alabama coaching Icon called Stabler the greatest quarterback he ever coached. John Madden said the same thing and said even today if he needed to have one quarterback for one drive, he’d pick Ken Stabler to run that drive.   Raider hater and Denver Bronco great Tom Jackson said Stabler was as good as any QB to ever play the game.

We fans are too young but what about the 1967 “Run in the Mud” Stabler did to beat Auburn in the Iron Bowl when he was at Alabama? His 53 yard run was the longest of the season and is a Crimson Tide legend. The Sea of Hands game; the Holy Roller; Ghost to the Post and the countless other games that he lead comebacks in. In fact if the call were reversed, Stabler would have won the game in the Immaculate Reception fiasco with his long run for a touchdown against the Steelers.

Some say Snake didn’t have the numbers but it was a different game then. The rules allowed defenders to do anything they wanted to quarterbacks and wide receivers and passing wasn’t a huge part of the game. It got so crazy with the violence that Chuck Knoll once called the Oakland Police Department to arrest Jack Tatum and George Atkinson for assault. It isn’t like today where Wide Receivers roam free skipping over the middle like school kids while QB’s can’t be touched. The numbers you see now are comical and the passing game is much easier.

Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton reiterated that yesterday on KNBR. “In fact a rule change changed the NFL.  After the 1979 Season, the NFL stopped allowing players to hit Wide Receivers after 5 yards down the field. This literally was directly attributed to George Atkinson and Jack Tatum.  This made the game much more wide open and easier for quarterbacks.”

The 70’s also was the most talented era of all time. The Steel Curtain; the Doomsday Defense; The Orange Crush; the Purple People Eaters; the No Name Defense; no era was dominated with so much talent in NFL history. There was no salary cap and teams were loaded with talent. In one game in the 70’s between the Steelers and Raiders there were 21 future hall of fame players, owners and coaches on the field. Try naming 10 hall of famers in a game today.   I usually don’t hold grudges but I will always hold a grudge against the Hall of Fame Voting Committee for not voting the Snake in while he was still alive.

Someone close to my heart; my friend Mike Yokum; has lead a valiant effort to try and get Kenny Stabler into the Hall of Fame. Anyone reading this article hopefully will take one minute to sign his petition.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/541/199/738/petition-to-induct-ken-stabler-into-the-pro-football-hall-of-fame/?taf_id=12432385&cid=fb_na#

“It may sound corny”, Mike said, “but Kenny’s effect on my childhood was profound. Just this week I received some signed merchandise from him. He thought of me even though he was dying. I didn’t even know he was sick. He was so giving. A man’s man to the end.”

Tim Casto also gave light on what he thought would happen in regards to the hall of fame. “He was born to be a Raider. I think this finally will be the year that he gets into the Hall of Fame. People forget that Ken was the 3rd fastest to get to 100 wins taking only 150 games. If you look only at his statistics as a Raider, they are pretty amazing. People also overlook what a kind man he was. He was very giving and did a lot through his great foundation and many other charities that he helped. The Steelers and Rooney family; the Raiders hated rivals; are actually pushing for Ken to be in the hall of fame and they have a lot of pull”.

http://xoxostablerfoundation.com/

After I sat for a few hours and just kind of wondered about things I thought to myself, what would the Snake tell me now if he were here. I then imagined Ken Stabler’s voice; a cool guy with his smooth southern accent say,

“Jim I’ve had a wonderful life; I had 3 amazing daughters that are the light of my eye and the beat of my heart; I have grandkids that make me proud every minute of the day; I played for the greatest organization and college in sports in front of the greatest fans in the world.   I have loved and lived hard. I had fun every step of my life and now I’m with my maker with no more pain or worries. So get up and go live life to the fullest and don’t worry about me.   Live it with a wink in one eye and a twinkle in the other.  I’m fine.”

final stabler

All of a sudden I smiled broadly, quickly got up and I felt like a million bucks. I walked half way up the hill, stopped and then looked up into the sky into the lights across the water. For some reason I took a picture although it was pitch black, and said out loud, “Thanks Kenny. For everything.”

Like I said. A leader and true southern gentleman to the end.

“What Does the Signing of Michael Crabtree Do To the Raiders Draft & What They May Not Be Telling Their Fans”

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“What Does the Signing of Michael Crabtree Do To the Oakland Raiders Draft”

Michael Crabtree was signed by the Raiders for a one year 3 million dollar deal with various incentives.  It makes for an interesting turn in the direction that the Raiders may go.

Raiders Needs:

When the Raiders started the free agency period, these were their top 4 needs:

  1. A fast #1 Wide Receiver
  2. 1-2 pass rushers to fix the 31st ranked pass rush
  3. Run Stopping DL
  4. Run Stopping MLB

So far in free agency the Raiders have solved the #3 and #4 problem by shoring up their run defense.  A fast #1 WR and the 1-2 pass rushers; which were their biggest needs; are still an issue.  That’s a lot to fix in one draft.  Let’s look at the puzzle further to look into what is happening and what may happen.

First the Pro’s; Why Crabtree Makes Sense

I have to be honest; I LOVE  this guy.  He’s a great talent who hasn’t had his best games yet.  How the Raiders picked DHB over him is still a head scratcher.  (oh those fast 40 times at the NFL combines that Al Davis loved so much).  I fought with Raider fans for 3 years who told me give DHB time.

Crabtree and the 49ers passing game were limited due to their quarterback situation and their philosophy which was a power running, grind them out offense.  He also played last year after a horrendous Achilles heel injury and many think he’s finally healthy.  I still think it’s a good signing but it is a worry.

I’m sure the Raiders see him as a starting WR at a great price.  They also see in him as a player that makes key plays when they are needed as was seen in the 49ers Super Bowl run.  He’s also tough; many felt he wasn’t healthy all year last year but he insisted on playing the entire season.  A physical WR that will make a difference.

The Cons: Why Crabtree Doesn’t Make Sense

With Today’s medical advances, coming back from a severe knee injury is doable. Coming back from a severe achilles heel injury as a wide receiver is rough.  Some have said few regain their speed and agility so Crabtree’s true health remains to be seen until he gets on the field.

Detractors will also point out to his terrible year last year with 10 drops; some pretty bad ones.  It was obvious his head wasn’t in the game at times.  He also was the rumored leak to Deion Sanders talking about the dissension with Jim Harbaugh as coach, which he vehemently denied.  The local media often complained it’s obvious he’s checked out.

Bad Attitude?:

Others will talk about his bad attitude, but I laugh at that.  Jerry Rice was a diva personified at San Francisco.  Rice told the press Steve Young’s passes were hard to catch and he would never be Joe Montana.  He also went off in the press because he needed more passes thrown to him; even though he led the league in catches.

Terrell Owens played brilliantly while injured in the Super Bowl on the way to throwing his quarterback under the bus.  Dez Bryant’s temper tantrums on the sidelines and off the field dramas are all but forgotten now that he’s one of the best in the NFL.  NFL Wide Receivers are the blond headed cheerleaders that you saw in the movie Bring It On.

What Does This Do To The Draft:

First of all, no, the Raiders are not going to trade down.  Name all the time’s that they have done that. (crickets)  Every year we go through this.

Also, if the Raiders brass said that they hate ice cream, I’d bet a million dollars that they’d be having hot fudge sundaes at Hooters that night.  DON’T BELIEVE WHAT TEAMS SAY!  Name all of the football teams that are going to run to the press and announce their plans and tell people all that they are thinking.  The only ones that lie more than NFL teams are politicians!

If USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams is there, I think the Raiders pick him because their pass rush was atrocious last year but the Raiders have made some crazy choices in the past so nothing is for sure.  Amari Cooper is the best WR in the draft IMHO; his amazing numbers at Bama were impressive.

Devin Smith the WR out of Ohio St. will be there in the second round (The Patriots are supposedly into him so he may go late first round) and he’s a stud.  A bigger clone of ex Panther great Steve Smith, this guy had his biggest games against the best competition.  Tough as nails, brash and he has track speed.  He has that rare talent of not losing speed when he cuts.  If you look at old clips, Cliff Branch had that rare talent too.  Even if you get Crabtree and he pans out, you still need a speedy WR to stretch the field.

What the Raiders May Not Be Telling the Fans:

I said it in a previous article; I think the Raiders may have a two year plan but there was NO WAY that they were going to make that public because of all the years of losing.

If they choose a wide receiver #1 this year in the draft, I get it.  Next years draft has at least 6 really good pass rushers, and possibly up to 9.  They are young and are on the verge of really getting good.  I can see the Raiders filling in holes this year, and going for broke in the draft and free agency next year to finalize their pass rush.

Can you imagine the outrage on social media if the Reggie McKenzie came out and said we are looking for a 2 year plan to get good?  If you thought people were wild now. In reality though I think they realize they need another good draft and signings to get the team that they envisioned.

Guarded Optimism:

For fans that pick playoffs and Super Bowl for the Raiders every year, they may FINALLY be right, but it may take a year.  I think a .500 season is realistic but thinking you can fix a terrible pass rush with a second or third round draft pick is naive at best.  I think the Raiders had many holes to fill and they’ve done a good job at filling most of them.  I think they are a year away from really filling them in the way that they want to and being a playoff contender.  Until you do it on the field and win, talk is cheap.

People also need to keep in mind that rookie wide receivers usually struggle some in their first year.  It takes time for them to evolve, even in today’s pass happy world where defenses can’t touch them.

In today’s NFL especially, if you don’t have a pass rush, you can’t win.  No way will you get to the next level if you can’t rush the quarterback and stop the run.  The run defense looks fixed but the pass rush still needs to be addressed.  Fans may need to have a little more patience for the Raiders to become a playoff team again though.  We’ll know for sure after the post draft signings what the team looks like.  It should be fun to watch.

Even with many fans worrying about him,  I think Crabtree will be a valuable piece that could have long term success, but the pass rush still needs to be fixed.

     

“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

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“Who is Bill Musgrave? The Raiders Hire a new Offensive Coordinator”

The Oakland Raiders yesterday added ex Jack Del Rio hire and Jacksonville Jaguar Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave as their new Offensive Coordinator.  It was a surprise hire to many people.

Local fans may remember Bill Musgrave as a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and a few other teams.  After his playing days, the Raiders hired him in 1997 as a quarterbacks coach.  He had 4 really good years as a quarterback at the University of Oregon.

Musgrave is a journeyman coach who has never stayed at one place very long.  He has been the OC of 5 teams in 17 years and in between that he’s been quarterbacks coach or an assistant.

As offensive coordinator with those 5 teams, he has had very mild success.  His best year was in 2013 when the Vikings offense was 13th in total yards and 14th in scoring.  As an OC, his offenses have never been in the top 12, and most have struggled.  Before his job at Minnesota, he had never had a top 21 offense.  He has had some good moments though and he’s a well respected and hard working guy.  He’s also very well liked which definitely doesn’t hurt.

To his credit; even though it’s hard to give QB coaches all the credit; he did also have some nice years as quarterbacks coach.  He was QB coach when Matt Ryan first started out and did well.  Byron Leftwich was never great but his best year was when Musgrave was at Jacksonville.

Some like to give him a moderate amount of credit for Mark Sanchez having his best QB rating in his career in 2014 when Musgrave was QB coach of the Eagles.  If you do that though, then you also have to give him the blame for Nick Foles who played half of the year before he got hurt.  Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and had only 2 INTs in 2013 before Musgrave arrived.  Last year in half a season with Musgrave as QB coach, Foles threw 13 TD’s with 10 interceptions and looked lost at times.  Foles now is a question mark for the Eagles and they are debating whether to give him a big money long term contract.

As offensive coordinator it’s a much clearer picture with shaky results.  He was no longer allowed to call the plays after only 4 games when he was the OC at Carolina in 2000.  He was also let go by Jack Del Rio at Jacksonville after only 2 years of being an OC with near the worst offense in the NFL.  In his defense he has never had great quarterbacks as a coordinator, but his style is pretty clear.  He’s always had a conservative style of running the ball and running it often with a WR heavy passing game.

He did have some west coast influence with Mike Shanahan but he’s never truly instilled it into his offenses.

When he was first hired at Minnesota, the Minneapolis-St. Paul newspaper did two articles on him asking him about his philosophy.  Most of it was just vague answers saying that he liked to mix up things and do a little bit of everything. He liked to talk about making communication between QB and play callers more simplified.

At Minnesota the offense was very straight forward.  Run Adrian Peterson on first and second down, and then pass on third down if needed.  The offense was a little more conservative than the approach at Kansas City with Alex Smith.  With Adrian Peterson as your running back, there are worse options.  Chris Ponder was the quarterback for most of the time, and he never grew into a good player.

Is he the right fit for Oakland?:

I think if the Raiders hired him as a quarterbacks coach, that this would have been a good hire.  I think he’s solid and even with some fails he’s had some success too, and he’s a hard worker.  The hopes are that he can help David Carr grow into a pocket quarterback that can command an offense.  If he can do that alone, this will be a good hire.  For those that cringed every time they saw Greg Olsen call a play, this is an upgrade by subtraction.

As an offensive coordinator this seems to obviously be a Jacksonville reunion with Mike Tice and Bill Musgrave working with head coach Jack Del Rio in the past.  It’s hard to think Del Rio wasn’t the reason for the Musgrave hire.  Musgrave struggled a lot though so it’s a surprise.

As an offensive coordinator, he was a nightmare in his first 4 jobs and his teams have mildly improved as he has gotten more experience.  He’s never had a top 12 offense and to think that all of a sudden the Raiders are going to turn into juggernauts is hopeful at best.  Let’s face it; it’s a league of talent though and if you have the talent, success will follow.

I think the love for some fans with Mark Trestman was strange.  Trestman never called the plays or made the game plans when Jon Gruden was here; Gruden admitted he did.  Trestman was supposed to fix the Bears and his lack of leadership and passive demeanor was ripped apart by both fans and the press alike in Chicago.  Epic fail.  Trestman wanted the Raider OC job; he said so in the press; but the Raiders obviously didn’t want him and it was a good move not to hire him.

This is another head scratcher in a long decade of head scratching hires by the Raiders.  I like Mike Tice but this one is puzzling. Del Rio obviously feels comfortable with him and hopes that he can help David Carr grow.

I think Jack Del Rio is an upgrade at head coach.  Even though they are a train wreck right now and 3-4 years away from being good, it’s hard to watch the Chicago Bears hire John Fox and DC Vic Fangio; two coaches with Super Bowl experience and who have had a ton of success; and then watch the Raiders hire Bill Musgrave; well, as they say, it is what it is.  The hope is that somehow with the Raiders rebuilding their talent pool on offense, this will work out in Oakland and Carr and the offense will grow with Musgrave at the helm.  I think he may do well for a while and be a stepping stone, but it’s hard to think of Bill Musgrave taking them to the highest level and raising Super Bowl trophies any time soon.

“Raiders Win The Battle of the Bay Again; Jack Del Rio is a Solid, but Not Great Hire as Oakland Raiders Coach”

jack del rio

I know that not one Super Bowl was ever won in an opening press conference of a newly hired coach. Even taking that into account it was uncomfortable to watch the 49ers brass hire Jim Tomsula. The 49ers presser was like seeing two elitist, arrogant rich guys hovering over a good solid lifer coach who was scared to death to say anything wrong. The Raiders showed them up big time.

Owner Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie were professional and seemed on the same page. It was good to see the media also focused on the Raiders coaches over their obsession with Davis love of Hooters and PF Changs. Lot’s of men are breast and lettuce wrap guys but it’s time to get down to business. Davis and McKenzie were relaxed and didn’t go crazy with wild predictions of Super Bowls, the greatness of the Raiders, and future glory like the 49ers stumbled through. There was definitely a unified feel in the room. Jack Del Rio is good on the microphone and most knew he’d be very well received and he did a good job as was expected.

With the hiring of Jack Del Rio as Oakland Raiders coach, the Raiders picked a solid football man who has integrity but he has very limited success. As every fan and media person loves to bring up, Jack grew up in the bay area and he and his family have long been Raider fans. As head coach, that means nothing, but it’s kind of the full circle story that makes good headlines and you also feel good for him because he obviously loves the Raiders. Personally I thought there were better candidates but he’s a solid, safe choice but one that I question.

Positives:

I like Del Rio’s defensive philosophy. He mixes things up with different coverage’s and formations. He likes to move players around; especially pass rushers; and at times takes chances. He also loves physical play and brings toughness to a team that desperately needs it. He has the philosophy to win in the NFL; stop the run, and rush the passer with 4 players. Last year the Raiders could not stop opponents running game and they were a dismal 31st in sacks. If the Raiders can shore up the DL, I see better things ahead for the Raiders defense.

Jacksonville linebackers raved about Del Rio’s support of them, and his hands on philosophy. They were a key focus at Jacksonville. The Raiders for too long have lost site of what makes a good defense; stopping the run and rushing the passer. It needs to be a mantra. You do that by having a stud front 7 on defense and not drafting defensive backs with good 40 times. You can have the best defensive backs in the league, but if you can’t rush the passer they are toast.

Jack Del Rio is also a players coach. He’s a fair person and is direct. As a coach at Jacksonville for 9 years, his defenses were good, not being lower than 12th in total yards allowed. Of course he had a good defensive coordinator as well in Mike Smith which helped.

Del Rio is well respected around the league and defensive free agents will be willing to come to Oakland more freely now that he is a coach. Denver is loaded with talent so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few players come over from the Broncos to play for the Raiders, but don’t expect a mass exodus. The Broncos still have a ton of talent and that is hard to leave.  The fans will enjoy Del Rio’s interactions with the media as well. He knows how to get people excited and is very likeable.

Negatives:

Del Rio has a bad history with coaches.  During his time as the Jaguars coach, he went through 19 of them during his tenure.  That’s a lot of them.  Some of the hires in the first place were questionable.  Some complained he was too controlling and others hinted Jack wasn’t exactly first in line when it was time to take responsibility for failures.

The lack of success bothers me too.  I personally want a coach that has a track record of success, even as an assistant. Del Rio has never been a consistent winner as a head coach. In 9 years at Jacksonville, he never won a division title. He also had only 3 winning seasons and only 2 playoff years. Del Rio is 1-2 as a playoff coach. He built up the team after Tom Coughlin left and then it crashed again while he was coach.

Two fans yesterday were posting wherever they could that Del Rio’s first 9 years were as good as Jon Gruden’s first 9 years. They were extremely popular posts among the Raider nation. Those stupid facts get in the way though. In his first 9 years Gruden was 10 games over .500 at 77-67; had 4 division titles; played in one AFC championship game and had a Super Bowl title. Del Rio has no division titles and one playoff win in 9 years and was 68-71. It’s not even close who had more success. Even with talent at Jacksonville, the defense held it’s own but offensively the Jag’s seemed to struggle for consistency under Del Rio.

What Del Rio Will Need to Succeed:

Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis will have to hire good assistants as does any NFL team. Mike Smith’s name has been thrown about and he would work well with Del Rio due to their long history together. If the Raiders hire Mark Trestman I guarantee issues. Trestman never had any pull or control when Jon Gruden coached the team but he got a lot of credit. Gruden was in control of the game plans and called the plays. Trestman used Gruden’s success to land the Bears job and his goal was to fix Jay Cutler and the Bears offense. The Chicago press grinded him to dust for his apathetic demeanor and poor leadership skills. Twice there was physical fighting in the post game locker room and they were out of control. Trestman isn’t the answer and they need a coordinator that will bring a toughness on offense and create an identity.

Speaking of Identity; the Raiders need one and they need one badly. The coaches at times seemed to have no clue on what direction the team should go. Don’t expect Sporano to get any head coaching job offers any time soon. If you are a power running team then you need to run the ball.

The play calling though still needs to have imagination. Derek Carr has to learn to call audibles’ as well. If there are 9 defenders in the box and a running play is called and the quarterback doesn’t audible to a passing play, don’t blame the offensive line for the lack of a running game or the coaches play calling. The Raiders were predictable and helpless to run the ball at times especially on the road. In the last 4 road games the Raiders averaged 8 points a game. It remains to be seen what role Del Rio will play to fix that.

My Take on the Hiring of Del Rio:

I don’t mind the hiring of Del Rio but I think there were better coaches out there and I would not have picked him.  Maybe they’ll win a Super Bowl in 3 years and I could be wrong, but I just didn’t like his tenure at Jacksonville.

The Raiders need to stop all this talk of winning Super Bowls and build a foundation. I think Del Rio can do that. He will bring toughness and a sense of discipline which is really lacking in Oakland.  As for long term I have my doubts and though unpopular, I don’t think he’s the long term answer.  To think that a coach of a good team who never won a division title in 9 years and only made the playoffs twice, is all of a sudden going to start hoisting up Super Bowl trophies, is wishful thinking.  I do think though he will get them to a level that hasn’t been seen here in 12 years and that is definitely a great start that would please Oakland fans craving success.

“The Greatest Defensive Backfield of all time! The Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol”

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There will never be a defensive backfield like the Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol of the 1970’s ever again.  They were the most intimidating and greatest group of all time.

The 70’s will always be remembered as the greatest era for the NFL.  It’s the era when there were many great teams and great quarterbacks.  Without a salary cap some backups on the great teams could start elsewhere.  Defenses could do as they please with little to no protection for QB’s and WR’s.  Television helped make the Superbowl become a must see event.  Teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings made this a decade of excellence.  The Steel Curtain, the No Name Defense, Doomsday, and the Purple People Eaters are all revered names in NFL lore.  When the Steelers met the Raiders in the mid 70’s, there were no less than 22 hall of fame coaches, owners, and players on the field at one time.  That will never happen again.

“There was nothing like them”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton about the Soul Patrol in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum, Brown, Thomas and the Raiders.  Wide Receivers could not get off the line of scrimmage against them.  Atkinson and Tatum and the rest of the gang were so physical and strong that I’d have to wait and hope my guys could get open before I got killed”.

The wide receivers of the 70’s never get their due because their numbers weren’t the pinball numbers of today.  In today’s NFL, if you exhale near a receiver it is a penalty.  In the 1970’s it was literally survival of the fittest.  They had to worry about the great physical play of the era and you could not be a wide receiver unless you could go over the middle. I’ve seen pass interference penalties in today’s game where a defensive back literally brushed by a player.  The rules are so comical now that records are being broken almost weekly.  The 70’s on the other hand was an extremely brutal and tough era, and the most talented and toughest defensive backfield of them all was the Soul Patrol in Oakland.

Oakland the King of Professional Sports:

The center of the sporting world in the 70’s was Oakland California.  In 1975 a team lead by superstar Rick Barry silenced all the east coast and their writers by sweeping the Washington Bullets for the NBA title after writers practically laughed at their chances.  The Oakland A’s dynasty had an amazing 3 straight World Series Championships beating national league royalty in the Dodgers, Reds, and NY Mets.  And then oh by the way, for a 25 year stretch the Raiders were the winningest team in all of US sports with several division titles, and 3 superbowl wins.  No city ever had so many titles in such a short time.

The Soul Patrol embodied what the Oakland Raiders were all about.  They were tough, borderline dirty, intimidating and extremely confident.  Each member played their role in a defense that still today is revered.

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George Atkinson Jr.:  (“Butch” 6’ 0”; 180 lbs.)

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet 1 inch tall, many say it was more like 5’ 11” but no one had the guts to tell him that.

Atkinson was an intimidator that roamed the field like a lion ready to pounce.  He was the trash talker of the group often seen taunting and intimidating players that were much bigger than he was.  He once broke Russ Francis nose with a vicious forearm hit, and his hits against Lynn Swann of the Steelers are a part of NFL history.  He had blazing speed and in fact still holds the single game record for punt return yardage for the Raiders at 205 yards.

Atkinson took it very personally when someone tried to block him low.  He learned from Tatum to go after a Wide Receiver if they tried to hit their knees or ankles.  In some films you can actually see Raiders defensive backs going towards blockers to actually hit them after they tried to hit them low.  All time great Paul Warfield once said when you went over the middle against Oakland and didn’t account for Tatum and Atkinson, you would not be in the game long without being carried off the field.  Against the run, he could go through blockers and make amazingly hard tackles.  If you ran wide against the Raiders, their DB’s would make you pay.  Atkinson loved to make players pay.

willie brown

Willie Brown:  (6’ 1”; 195 lbs.)

Amazingly Hall of Famer Willie Brown was never drafted when he graduated from Grambling St.  He was signed by the Buffalo Bills who cut him and then he was picked up by the Denver Broncos.  He soon became an all star but was traded to the Raiders in 1967 where he played for the rest of his career.  Unlike the other 3 members of the soul patrol, Brown was fast, graceful and laid back.  He wasn’t a talker but a great defender who was a shut down corner. He had good size and played the run very well, but he was a master of the bump and run man to man game that the Raiders loved so much.  His famous interception in the Superbowl with the great announcer Bill King’s call of old man Willie is as famous as any highlight NFL films has.

skip thomas

Skip Thomas CB (Dr. Death; 6’ 1”; 205 lb.):

In a day when cornerbacks were just as important in attacking the run as they did the pass, Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas role was to make everyone that came near him remember that he hit them.  What is funny is he was nicknamed Dr. Death by Raiders great Bob Brown who said Skip Thomas looked like the cartoon character Dr. Death.

Skip Thomas was a vicious tackler who was the king of the clothesline tackle.  Many times his padded arm was seen knocking the ball out of wide receivers hands.  When he hit people, sometimes he would actually launch his whole body and his arm swung like a Russian sickle.  It was intimidating, violent and sent the message to not come his way.  He had a two year stretch of 6 interceptions per year.  Due to the great talent of Willie Brown, teams would try to pick on Skip Thomas and usually the results were not good.

People forget that in the Super Bowl, Minnesota moved their fine wide receiver Sammy White around so that Thomas mostly guarded him in the first half.  White didn’t  catch a pass in the first half and Thomas was on him like glue.  As the great Raiders announcer Bill King once said, “the Raiders have 3 safeties when Dr. Death was playing cornerback”.

Sadly and ironically he passed away too soon in 2011 also at the age of 61, but he will always be remembered for his talent, toughness and personality as one of the great members of the Soul Patrol.

jack tatum

Jack Tatum Safety (Assassin; 5’ 10”, 205 lb.):

If Atkinson was the voice of the Soul Patrol, Tatum was the heart.  Ronnie Lott called him his inspiration and the standard bearer for all NFL safeties.  John Clayton said there was never a harder hitting safety in the NFL.  Once during the Super Bowl break, the NFL Show with Cris Collinsworth and Chris Berman were discussing players that should be in the Hall of Fame, and to a man they all said the same name; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. John Madden said many times he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed Stingley for the rest of his life.  Many close to Tatum said he really never got over it up to his death in 2010 at the age of 61 due to complications from diabetes.

Earl Campbell said no one ever hit him harder than his touchdown run where he and Tatum hit head on.  Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton said he thought Tatum knocked Sammy White’s head off in the Superbowl hit that Tatum laid on him when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings.  Even his counterpart George Atkinson said once, “he hit a tough Denver TE Riley Odoms so hard it sounded like a gun shot.  Odoms was in agony and his eyes rolled back.  I thought he had killed him”.

I remember a story that Ahmad Rashad told.  He said that days before the Vikings were to play the Raiders in the Superbowl, Tatum had walked into a room where the Vikings were relaxing and playing cards.  Tatum walked into the room and into the closet and just stood there for a couple of minutes.  He then walked out of the closet and left.  Rashad said that not one Viking laughed or said a word until they saw Tatum walking out of the building.  Rashad said that it was a mind game of intimidation and he said it worked.  He said, “we laughed; we just made sure Tatum couldn’t hear us”.

Tatum was a linebacker playing safety.  He also was dominating against the run and would take on guards and tackles at any given notice.  Many game films show Tatum chasing blockers trying to hit them before the blockers would try to block him.  Tatum was vicious, fearless and ready to hit anyone.  He epitomized the great physical play of the day, and what the Raiders defense always tried to do; stop the run and make the quarterback go down, and go down hard. With a good pass rush, the Raiders defense was hard to beat as was seen in their dominance.  I would like to do an in depth article just on Jack alone in the future.

Jim’s Jamz:

With today’s rules there will never be hits and aggressive play like the Soul Patrol did.  Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers pretty much do as they please and the Soul Patrol would not be allowed to do what they did best; intimidate, make plays, and be legends.  In the most physical era, the Soul Patrol was like a pack of wolves ready to take down any sized prey.  They remain the greatest defensive backfield of all time.

“A Tribute to an Iconic Raider & NFL Fan Azel Grasty Sr.; AKA The Oaktown Pirate”

Azel Grasty kid

“In Honor of Azel’s birthday 10/5; RIP”

Today was just one of those days where not much goes right.  Nothing seemed to work and go well. I came home, opened up an ice cold Bass beer and read the news hoping for a story that would make me smile.  I first found out that one of my favorite Hispanic actresses Elizabeth Pena was dead at 55.  What a great career and what a cool lady.  I then got another shocker.  One of the all time iconic Oakland Raider fans had also passed.  I couldn’t relax before writing a little about him.  His name was Azel Grasty Sr., AKA the Oaktown Pirate (Raider).

The Oakland Coliseum; (I’m not calling it that other name) is the most unique environment in the NFL.  I’ve been to other stadiums and what I love about Oakland is the diversity of the fans.  Let’s be real; if you watch a game in places like New England, Denver, and New York; most of the fans are white.  In Oakland, all walks of life are there.  Black, brown, white, red; and with so many that dress up, silver and grey too.

Raider fans are like no other so when one of the iconic fans passes on, I always remember the glory days.  I love history and the Raiders history is of legend, and in those times there was no place like the Oakland Coliseum.  During the fall the overcast gray skies, the fans dressed in black, and the enclosed stadium made it more like a thunderous tomb than somewhere to play football.  Don Shula and the Dolphins players hated everything Raider; the fans, the players, the colors.  Don Shula once called Oakland hell, and Chiefs head coach Hank Stram said he was going to call the governor of California and make him stop allowing inmates from San Quentin to be released on Sundays so that they couldn’t come to any more games.  Steelers coach Chuck Noll hated the Raiders so much in time he refused to mention them.   He felt the Raiders were the criminal element and evil and so were their fans.  He once called John Madden before a game to complain about rats in their dressing room.  Coach Madden laughed and said, “really?  There are some in our dressing room too!”

In the first 11 years at the Oakland Coliseum the Raiders were 66-9-2.  The House of Thrills was not the place to be for opponents.

I remember many years later being on a business trip in Denver and Cincinnati and wearing a Raider sweater and people by the dozens booing me at the mall.  It was so much fun being hated.  Now I know what Ty Cobb meant.  It was wonderful!

Even though I’m a writer trying to be honest and un-biased, my family’s roots are deep in the tradition of Oakland Raider football.  My father as a young man would go to the Raiders games at Candlestick Park and Frank Youell Field and told me stories of how the Raiders front office staff would go to local restaurants and give away tickets just so people would come.  Their fan base was built from the ground up and in time, the waiting list for tickets was in the thousands.  Many of the players didn’t make a lot of money and most had off season jobs and many became friends with the fans and even work with them.  My dad became friends with a few of them and in his dealings as a Teamster; he had the opportunity to get to know them better.  The bond between Oakland Fan and player was as deep rooted as any sports relationship in history.  The “gatherings” among fans and players in Santa Rosa during training camp still would make a truck driver blush.  It was just a special time.  To many fans the Raiders were their team.  In Oakland they were our family.

No place was louder and more intimidating than the Oakland Coliseum.  As the great George Atkinson once said, “you come into our house you better be prepared to fight, and fight all of us”.  No team had a better fan base.

That’s why every year when I hear the news of a great long time Raider fan passing, it really hurts deep.  As the years go by we are losing more and more of them.  Time can be a cruel mistress.

One of those iconic fans was Azel Grasty Sr. who passed away at the age of 57;  much too young of a man to leave us.

Azel was like most Raider fans that dress up; he was unique.  His Raider fan persona was the Oaktown Pirate, dressed up in full silver and black pirate gear.  He even had contacts that made his pupils look different.  Many major news outlets like ESPN and Yahoo sports did stories about him and other fans and showed photos of them.  Azel enjoyed kids, and fans of all ages, and loved having a good time.  Azel donated a lot of his time to others and was very proud of his involvement in youth football.  There is a sweet video on Youtube of Azel meeting some youth football players at the Oakland Coliseum.  I met him a couple of times and he couldn’t have been nicer and funnier.  He really loved people.  He also served our country and was a U.S Veteran.

I think what is funny too is that the more menacing, evil, and scary some of the Raider fans make themselves up to be, they usually end up being the complete opposite.  Azel was that way too.  When he was dressed up as the Oaktown Pirate, you would think little kids would be scared of him, but every game kids were coming up to give him high fives, or take a picture with him.  His heart was as big as his smile.

There are so many photos of him on Yahoo, ESPN, facebook and Twitter that you could fill a book.  He never took himself too seriously and loved mingling with others.  He was kind, fun, and showed what being a fan is all about.

I was really appreciative of all of the great things people said about Azel on social media.  Even with the frustration, anger and rants of some Raider fans through all of the losing, they still remain some of the kindest, warm hearted and down to earth people you’d ever meet; especially during bad times.  Azel would be touched I’m sure.

One Twitter follower direct messaged me and said that the Coliseum is going to be a little darker with another one of it’s fun bright lights gone. I thought about it and messaged her back and said that she was probably right.  But doesn’t the sky look a little brighter.  Rest in Peace Azel; you were a good Raider fan who made people of all ages smile; but more importantly you were a good man indeed.