Category Archives: chargers

“What Happens With The San Diego Chargers; a Lesson For All NFL Fans to Learn”

chargers
A man & His Daughter @ San Diego Chargers Lot

I’m writing this for the good San Diego Charger and NFL fans that are interested. It’s truly a sad time for them and my heart hurts for any city that loses their team. No, loyalty and doing right doesn’t mean much anymore.   Let’s look at what is happening and what will happen.

What Happened At the NFL Vote?

It’s hard to listen to the insiders or the experts anymore because they are so wrong so often. I use common sense and business savvy and try to figure things out.  It’s really not as hard as people make it out to be.  Social media makes it that way sometimes.

When Raider fans already had the Raiders moving the last month I didn’t react. Why? Because if I’m an NFL owner and I have to pick between a guy that has built up a multi BILLION dollar sports empire and a 61 year old man that has never formally held a job in his life and only got the team because he inherited it, then it’s a no brainer for me. I pick Stan Kroenke over Mark Davis. In the end the NFL felt the same. Raider great Tim Brown even said he was shocked at how little the owners listened to Mark Davis and how they were so excited when Stan Kroenke spoke.   Welcome to the business world everyone.

Where Will the Chargers Play Next Year:

The NFL’s fiscal year starts April 1st. Most in the know feel that the Chargers will negotiate a deal to play in Los Angeles sooner than later. The key point for the Chargers is not getting screwed by Stan Kroenke.   They want to have equal profit sharing and they still need to pay for the relocation fee of 500 million and find a place to play.

It’s hard to think that the Chargers will stay in San Diego.   In fact it’s near impossible.  Too many bridges have been burned.   While 92 y/o Alex Spanos is still beloved, his son Dean isn’t. When he and Mark Davis thought the Carson deal would go through, Dean continued with negative remarks about the City. The San Diego Supervisors released a statement yesterday saying that if the Chargers want to negotiate in good faith that they are committed to it.   BUT if they just want to turn it into a charade because they want to move to Los Angeles then they are not interested. Not exactly words to cuddle by.

I listened to the San Francisco bay area sports talk shows Tuesday and they had 2 San Diego Sports reporters on and both said that the relationship between San Diego and the Chargers is over. They ripped Dean Spanos to shreds calling him dishonest and his negative remarks about the City of San Diego were death blows to the relationship. The new stadium in Inglewood is not going to be finished until 2019 which is a long way away so this transition; especially with the flakiness and quirkiness of Southern California fans with sports teams (Lakers have another record loss in tv viewer ratings) will make it interesting.  The NFL only wants two teams in Southern California and San Diego doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Stan Kroenke’s Rams so there is much to do.

The Real Reason Spanos is Leaving San Diego:

In 2008 the Chargers were legally able to move if they wanted to. They also could negotiate a new stadium in San Diego too. The reason why the City of San Diego has called the negotiations a charade is that many feel Spanos always wanted to move to LA. Insiders said that he felt if another team came to Southern California; (and especially if 2 teams would come); the Chargers fan base would dwindle due to new competition. Spanos probably was right but he wasn’t honest about it. Many feel he put the City and the fans through a lot of nonsense thinking he wanted to stay, when he really didn’t. He was biding his time.

Spanos also knew financially that he could not move on his own. The Chargers and the Raiders are family owned teams; which means they have no other business but the NFL so they have much less cash than other owners. He then teams up with the Raiders Mark Davis who is another man that inherited his team from his father and is in the same financial situation. They both thought the Carson project was a done deal so Dean Spanos gloated a little bit and stayed out of the limelight. He was so hated in San Diego that he refused to go out in public or on the field for some ceremonies.

Davis; who has never really held a job in his first 57 years of life; was also devastated when the Carson project fell through. Now he’s going back to Oakland with his tail between his legs and his hand out saying gimmee.

 Final Thoughts:

It doesn’t matter if you are a Charger fan, Raider fan, Bronco Fan or a Chiefs fan. The NFL has proven they don’t care about the cheerleaders, the refs, the retired players or the fans.   They are billionaires who want to make even more money and the fans are their puppets to get it. Anyone thinking that their teams are in love with them are as naive as it gets. Ask those in Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis how much their teams loved them. Nada much.   They DO love our money though.

The NFL and the owners do not care if you have a million people at a rally; they don’t care about your loyalty and they don’t care how it hurts you or your family if your team leaves. This is business, especially in the new millennium.

Does that mean we can’t enjoy our teams? Of course not. Love them, cheer for them, wear their gear and have fun. But we are not gang members. Rib each other in fun but stop showing hate and venom to other teams fans.   Do you think your teams owner cares if you are broke or sick or having problems?  Do you think your undying loyalty is cared about unless they get money out of you?  I was born but not yesterday.

Remember that we are all in this game called life and that is much more important than loyalty to a sports team. There are joys and triumphs, successes and failures, sickness and pain, and happiness and love in our lives. The important things.

Love those that love you and be good to each other. And say a little prayer for Chargers fans all over. They lost a part of their childhood today and even adults lost some innocence. In the end, it’s a painful lesson for us all.

 

 

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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.

rw hof

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.

 

 

“Part CSI, Part Breaking Bad. The Real Reasons Why Ken Stabler is NOT in the Hall of Fame”

ken-stabler-was-a-country-music-lyric_8862482a_m

Rod Serling would love this story.  Pull up a chair, get a drink and sit back.  This is a wild one.

In the annals of sports, the behind the scenes power and bias of sportswriters is of legend. In baseball it’s out in the open, but in the NFL it’s a little harder to see.

From the Oakland A’s Mike Norris not getting a Cy Young award to the great Cris Carter not being voted into the hall of fame 5 times; writers have a way of getting the last laugh.

Enter the legendary story of Bob Padecky.

A California Thing:
Bob Padecky was an award winning writer for the Sacramento Bee. He was covering the Raiders during the 70’s and 80’s and he wanted to talk to Ken Stabler. After the 1978 season, Ken was coming off what would be his worst year in Oakland. The Raiders were 9-7 that year which was a near tragedy at that time for a team that ended the 1970’s with the most regular season wins of any NFL team. Ken was frustrated and said that he would talk after the season was over.

Bob said he went to the 1979 New Years day Sugarbowl between Penn St. and Alabama. He decided that since New Orleans was not far from Alabama, that he would just drive over there. For some reason he just went.

Ken wasn’t happy when Bob showed up unannounced. He said he did not want to talk. Bob then said I’m going to go to Foley, AL (where Ken is from) and Gulf Shores and talk to people. Ken said, “I wish you wouldn’t do that Bob, but if you are; just talk to me”. Bob refused, and then left.  So much for wanting to talk.

Padecky came back and did a three part story on Ken’s issues; mostly what he said was how Stabler was partying too much and wasn’t in shape. Bob felt it wasn’t all that bad (writers never do) but Ken and his friends were not amused. Bob also said others made remarks about Ken and his private life including how he should marry the woman he was with, and not just play around. It may be tame for today’s standards, but at the time it was not taken lightly.

The Cocaine Bust:

Stabler called Padecky during Super Bowl week and said he wanted to spill his guts. He wanted to confront some of the things he was going through with Al Davis including Al blaming many of the Raiders failures on him and now not wanting to pay him.

Padecky flew over the day after the Super Bowl to meet with Snake. They met at Lefty’s; a restaurant Stabler partially owned; and eventually ended up at the Silver Dollar Lounge.

When they finally sat down, Kenny was not happy. With Ken was Kenny Walker, a 250 pound ex Alabama center.  Along with him was Randall Watson; a convicted bank robber in 1971 who had recently plead guilty to trying to extort $75,000 from an Alabama telephone executive.

Ken asked Padecky why he was out to get him. “I never met anyone like you”, Ken said. “Why are you coming to my hometown trying to dig up dirt?”.

During the conversation Bob had the tape recorder rolling without asking Ken if he could tape their discussion. I didn’t think this was cool and I always thought reporters would ask the people they interviewed if it was ok to tape the conversation. Ken got mad again cussing occasionally and then took another call. He said I’m sorry I have to go and told him to meet him at a different restaurant.

http://www.si.com/vault/1979/04/23/823571/the-key-to-the-case-is-missing-even-now-no-one-can-say-whether-kenny-stabler-was-involved-when-cocaine-in-a-key-case-was-used-to-set-up-a-sportswriter-for-a-drug-bust

Stabler left and Bob got up and walked outside to his rental car. As he did, officers were there and arrested him. When he asked what for, they told him that an anonymous caller said that he was carrying cocaine. People forget that in the 70’s, some were doing prison time for having small amounts of pot, so cocaine was the big time. An officer looked under one of the wheel wells of the car and found a magnetic key holder with cocaine in it. Bob was taken to the police department to be booked.

The Nightmare As Bob Padecky Tells It:

He implied that they did a full cavity search and threatened him saying that they were going to ask for the hardest sentence the judge could hand down. He called the Sac Bee Managing Editor Frank McCulloch and went into his cell. Another cop, Cotton Long came up and said I think you were set up. They escorted him to his hotel where he talked more with Police Chief Jimmy Maples who had a .357 magnum in his hand. In future investigations, no arrest record was ever found.

Maples called out several patrol cars to stake out the area and protect them. Officer Long came into the room and said that rumors were swirling Padecky’s life might be in danger and that he has to leave immediately. They offered a police escort to the airport and he took it. Padecky said Maples then got a machine gun and (insert pun now) rode shotgun and told him to move away from the window just in case someone pulled up beside them so he could shoot them if they tried anything.

They drove him to the tarmac of the plane and he left. Padecky immediately began writing the story which broke to shock and outrage nationwide. Sportswriters everywhere blamed this on the Snake and were angered that someone would do this to one of their own. Kenny to his last days denied any involvement or knowledge of the situation.

Sportswriters Including Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Were Outraged:

ESPN NFL draft guru (he was the NFL draft guru that made it popular to watch the draft before Mel Kiper had thick hair) Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman was especially outraged. He vented his displeasure to anyone that would listen and at that time ESPN was the only voice in Sports.  East coast legend Dr. Z held a lot of weight and he was quoted as saying I will never vote for Stabler to get into the Hall of Fame as long as I live.  Many writers supported Bod Padecky and Dr. Z, and a deep resentment began.  They felt Stabler bullied Padecky.  I saw quotes from Dr. Z in the Google archives from an old Sports Illustrated article and he stated that the only player eligible for the Hall of Fame that he ever lobbied against was Ken Stabler.

Here is a recent podcast of Bob’s on local radio. I like his writing but his personality rubbed me the wrong way especially when he started calling the Alabama cops “bubba’s”.  (I downloaded it here)

http://media.957thegame.com/a/107400103/bob-padecky.htm?q=padecky

With cocaine involved; The FBI, State of Alabama and the NFL launched what was called “routine” investigations but nothing could be proven. The cocaine was tested; it had been diluted or “cut” a lot and on the streets it was worth $100. Problem was being in possession of any cocaine in Alabama carried a mandatory 2-15 year sentence depending on the circumstance.

On February 13th, the Alabama Attorney General said that Ken’s friend, Randall Watson was seen having a waitress buy a magnetic key holder for him that looked exactly like the one that was found on Padecky. He stated that at the time they could not find Mr. Watson and wanted to talk to him. Eventually Watson was investigated for planting the cocaine but due to a lack of evidence they could not try him for anything.

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1817&dat=19790213&id=KjAdAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2J4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6732,2540036&hl=en

What is very interesting is that I got the original article from a gulf shores throwback site. At the time, many in the police department including Police Chief Maples said Padecky embellished the story.

http://www.gulfcoastnewstoday.com/people/history/article_25922712-6fde-11e2-b04d-001a4bcf887a.html

The Aftermath:

The press went crazy. Police Chief Maples said he got calls from all over the country for stories including Penthouse magazine. They started calling the Gulf Shores area the Redneck Riviera. Local reporters laughed because every southern stereotype was being written about by the national media.

The lies told were of legend including how everyone there now hated Ken for what happened which was a literal lie. It got so bad that country music singer Madison “Shine” Powell wrote the song Redneck Riviera.

Stabler Linked to Gamblers, Radicals:

This is as bizarre as the Bob Padecky story and is rarely known or talked about. For about a 4 year period in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the FBI tailed Raiders QB Ken Stabler.  Along with the FBI, the NFL and different agencies investigated Ken for his friendship with long time New Jersey gambling figure Nicholas Dudich. Dudich was also an associate of the Simone DeCavalcante organized crime family.  The Feds in the past have been relentless in hounding the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Martin Luther King Jr. looking for any type of dirt.  They did that to Kenny as well.

Due to the extreme hate from owners and commissioner Pete Rozelle towards Al Davis and the Raiders (The late 70’s was the start of the 10 year lawsuit and war between Davis and the NFL), many wanted to see them go down. Davis had heard that several rival owners had contacted the NFL and the other agencies complaining about Stabler’s association with Dudich.

At first it was denied but in time different Law enforcement agencies including the FBI admitted to putting Stabler under surveillance without a shred of negative evidence against him ever being found. Much to the chagrin of the media and the NFL, after the 4 years, nothing wrong was ever reported on Ken Stabler.

In the NFL constitution it does state players can’t associate with known gamblers or penalties including termination can result. There have been suspensions and threats like in the cases of Paul Hornung, Alex Karras and Joe Namath, so this was a serious issue for the league.  Again, Stabler was found to be not guilty to anything but the damage and resentment had been done.

Remember the Ray Rice situation? In true NFL form, when Pete Rozelle was asked about the situation between Stabler and Dudich in 1981, Pete Rozelle said he had never heard of Dudich and that the league was never told about any investigation or problems with the Snake and his possible association with Dudich. Pete seemed to be the only person in the country not knowing about the situation. Even the Raiders said they were giving regular reports to the NFL via executive assistant Al LoCosale.  Sadly TMZ and Twitter was not around to help.

When Stabler was traded for Houston quarterback Dan Pastorini, the Oilers ownership didn’t think there was a problem and were very happy to go along with the trade. The FBI in Houston still tailed Stabler without telling the Oilers.

http://www.nytimes.com/1981/08/30/sports/pro-football-s-ken-stabler-is-linked-to-a-gambler.html?pagewanted=1
Many writers also bristled at Ken’s association with other people. He was seen having beers with Huey Newton of the radical Black Panther movement and he played pool with Sonny Barger, the founder of the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angel’s.

Here’s the Deal; What Really Happened:

I get Ken Stabler. I have friends of all colors, sexual orientations and backgrounds too. Not everyone approves of them. Not all of them have been church folk let’s say.  I do know that they are always there for me when I need them.  They don’t hurt me and they are loyal to the end so I give them the same love. The only one’s that have ever screwed me over wore nice clothes, drove great cars and were well thought of due to their looks, money or charm.

Ken Stabler was a loyal and good friend. If you were good to him, he was good to you. He was a fun person who wanted to have a good time and didn’t care who you were.  He didn’t gamble and he didn’t plant cocaine on Bob Padecky.

I’m not naive.  Of course drugs were planted. After listening to people that knew Kenny, I don’t think he was involved at all. Snake was a straight shooter who was definitely not shy to tell you how he felt and this wasn’t his style.  I’m sure someone close to Ken without his knowledge planted the cocaine to send a message and to get him off of Stabler’s back.  Watson I’m sure was the one that did it.

Will Ken Stabler be Elected Into the Hall of Fame?:

Yes. After years of investigation he was never seen doing anything wrong. Many have had crimes linked to them including Lawrence Taylor and others but it’s all good for the Hall of Fame. Baseball never forgets; football at least moves on, and close minded and biased writers fade away.

Padecky & Stabler Meet Again:

In 2009 here at the Sonoma Raceway, Bob saw Kenny for the last time. In a press conference during race week, he asked a question to Ken on how he was doing and as always, Kenny talked about enjoying his 3 daughters and family and friends. He had adjusted to life and was very happy.  Afterwards, the two men met and shook hands and after each did a little small talk, they walked away. As with most men, time and age soften old wounds, mellow out spirits, and pain is better left in the past.

To Bob’s credit, he wrote an article on how he will miss Ken Stabler and that he was the most enjoyable quarterback to watch along with Joe Montana.

I hope that the Hall of Fame Voters will do the right thing and vote Kenny Stabler into the Hall of Fame; something they have failed to do for the last 25 years. His adoring fans in Oakland and Alabama; and especially his family and friends; deserve no less.

“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”

hi-res-158821787-michael-crabtree-of-the-san-francisco-49ers-looks-on_crop_north (1)

“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.

     

“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”

soul patrolf

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.

atkinson4

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.