With the announcement of Oakland Raiders star pass rusher Khalil Mack’s hold out, some began to worry if there was a possibility the Raiders may eventually lose Mack after this season. I love social media and it already has many comments on the subject. Some are tweeting Mack is done with the Raiders and others are saying he won’t be there week 1. As we always do, let’s be realistic about this situation.
I said after the Super Bowl that if I was Khalil Mack, I would not play another play without a long term deal. If Mack plays the last year of his contract and gets hurt, he will lose money, and maybe a lot of it.
Some said that they want Mack to just show up and play because he is making a good salary now but that would be ridiculous. At 27 years old, this will be Mack’s biggest contract signing of his career, so he needs to cash in on it big time.
Last year the Rams all world DT Aaron Donald held out until the day before the season started wanting a new contract. Rams fans/writers were losing their minds saying he ruined his season and he was done in Los Angeles. After a few weeks Donald was back to form terrorizing offenses while being double teamed most of the year. I do agree that it remains to be seen if the Rams burned a bridge with him but the hopes there is that they can work out a long term deal.
Le’Veon Bell didn’t show up for Pittsburgh until September 1st and after a sluggish start, began to dominate in week 4 becoming maybe the best all around RB in the NFL. After the season ended, ridiculous rumors started popping up that the Raiders were in the lead to get Bell. I reminded a national writer and several local writers that this was nonsense. For a year Pittsburgh said that they were going to franchise Bell and that was that. Well, that is exactly what happened.
You have to think these things through and not just throw things on the wall to get a rise out of people. Thus when you hear rumors, read the people you trust and do your own homework and see that most rumors are nothing to worry about.
The Reggie McKenzie Factor:
Just like with Derek Carr, Reggie McKenzie isn’t the type to want to wait until the last second to sign a player. They want to sign Mack quickly before his final year begins. Both sides are reasonable, want to have a relationship, and feel good about getting it done. Remember that Derek Carr signed on June 22nd of last year so there is no need to panic. I would not overreact to all of the nasty nipping and fighting that may occur during these types of negotiations. When a deal is done, most everything is forgiven no matter how nasty the negotiations.
Last year in a nice interview with NBC Bay Area, Mack stated that he knows this is a business. He also said he wanted to be a Raider for life and that it’s a no-brainer for him to stay with Oakland for the rest of his career. Mack has shown himself to be honest and level headed. Nothing has changed and I see Mack signing something long term most likely sooner than later.
Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald are playing a cat and mouse game to see who signs first, so the other player can get an idea of what to ask for. As for head coach Jon Gruden, he just wants him on the field again. Even in a couple of press conferences this week, Gruden said that what the Raiders do in contracts is private, but he said they would like to have Mack back signed as quickly as possible and he’s hopeful they can reach an agreement. He also commented that part of coming back as a coach was to coach for Mack.
Should Raider fans be worried right now? No. If I was Mack I’d hold out until the season started if needed, and then I’d tell the Raiders the time to talk ended and I’m opting out for free agency at the end of the season. Of course during the season I’d still be negotiating and trying to sign a deal.
I personally think Mack will sign in late June or even July. I don’t think it could play out until August but who knows. Either way I’d be shocked and stunned if he kept holding out. It’s the same thing I told fans back when Derek Carr signed and people got worried. If Khalil doesn’t have a contract after the season starts then I’d worry, but even then I wouldn’t lose my mind.
The Raiders are not going to be pushovers and just cave in to his demands but as long as he’s not hurt, Mack is holding all of the aces. With him there are still some big questions on defense for the Raiders but without him there are HUGE issues. The Raiders are not going to let him go because they need him big time. This is not Jr. High School loyalty folks, this is the NFL and it’s business. In the end I see Mack playing for the Raiders for a long, long time and I’d worry more about other things in life like what you are having for dinner and who will win the World Cup.
There are many other players that didn’t make the list but these are stories that I found to be quite disturbing. Some of you will remember these names, but some stories I’ve never heard of. Let’s get into the sad darkness of these individuals.
#7 Jovan Belcher: (Kansas City 2009-12)
Jovan Belcher at best was a long shot to make the NFL. He was not drafted and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Kansas City Chiefs. In time he made the team and even started. His acts of kindness were of legend and he was adored by fans and players alike. He met and began living with his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins. She was only 20 and eventually she got pregnant by him
As time went on Jovan eventually lost his starting job as the Chiefs middle linebacker. After several concussions and threats by the Chiefs coaching staff that his days were numbered if his play didn’t improve, Jovan changed and the pressure was getting to him. He drank heavily, and popped pain pills due to the injuries he had sustained because he didn’t want to miss any playing time. Many friends said he was forgetful, moody, and very much not himself. After his death it was found that he had CTE due to the numerous concussions he suffered. The Chiefs refused to comment on his health.
As with some pro athletes, Jovan had another girlfriend on the side. After their baby was born, the fighting increased between Kasandra and Jovan. One day after a huge fight, Jovan took a .40 caliber hand gun and shot Kasandra 9 times, killing her. He kissed her forehead and said he was sorry. His baby was in the house and his mother who was staying with them called 911.
He then drove to the Chiefs practice facility and was seen by head coach Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli along with other staff members. Even after talking with them, Belcher got on his knees, made the sign of the cross on his chest and said he had to go. He then shot himself in the head in front of everyone. Friends to this day are shocked that he did this.
#6 Darren Sharper: (Packers 1997-2004; Vikings 2005-08; Saints 2009-10)
NFL players and sexual assault allegations are far from strangers, but Darren Sharper took it to a new level. The 5 time pro-bowler and Super Bowl winner with the Saints, was enjoying success as an analyst on the NFL Network. On the party trail he was known as a smooth talker who definitely liked to play at night.
What people didn’t know is that Sharper and 2 of his friends were serial rapists. They would use various drugs including GHB (the date rape drug that scrambles your memory) to drug and sexually assault over 16 women in 4 states. In one binge, they sexually assaulted 4 women in 24 hours.
Another time Sharper admitted to meeting a man and 2 women at a club and when they went back to his hotel, he drugged all 3 and sexually assaulted the 2 women. Thankfully many went to the hospital immediately and through the use of rape kits and interviews, Sharper and his friends were arrested. Even with the first couple of allegations, Sharper got off the charges. When he was finally convicted, he did a plea bargain to only do 9 years in jail. The judge was so outraged at the sentence she changed it to 20 years in Federal prison. The judge and the DA also scolded the police departments and the justice system for it’s protection of Sharper citing his celebrity and fame from being a pro football player as being the reason.
#5 Jim Dunaway: (Bills 1963-71; Dolphins 1972)
“Big” Jim Dunaway is one of the great Buffalo Bills players of all time. Dunaway played between 1963-1971 for Buffalo and ended his career in 1972 getting a Super Bowl ring with the perfect Miami Dolphins team. He was ranked as the 28th best Bill of all time by a local Buffalo publication. He was a 4 time AFL all-star, 2 time AFL Champion, and many for a time thought he should be in the pro football hall of fame. Alas his story reads somewhat like another Buffalo great, OJ Simpson.
After a nasty divorce and long legal battle in 1995, his ex-wife Nonnie got ½ of his NFL pension, 800 acres of land on their dairy farm, and $1800/month spousal support. Jim was outraged and felt he was screwed. In time it was found out that Jim had a woman on the side that he spent several thousands of dollars on to keep happy. In 3 years he spent over $81k on her, and the judge wasn’t pleased. Dunaway tried to hide his money and also filed bankruptcy while appealing the decision. It dragged out and it got ugly. One day Dunaway said that he went to his old house to get some clothes. He stated that he and his ex-wife were cordial and supportive. Later that day, Nonnie Dunaway was found in their half filled pool dead. After an autopsy it was found out that she did drown, but only after someone had crushed her skull before throwing her into the pool. The grand jury for some insane reason didn’t think there was enough circumstantial evidence to get a conviction so they did not even pursue going after Dunaway. The police had no other suspects.
His distraught kids were outraged. They stated publicly their father had killed their mom and filed a civil lawsuit against Jim. In 2002 the Jury found in favor of the kids and he was ordered to pay over $579k in damages. Jim was upset at his children for not believing him but they relented profusely. Most that were close to the case stated that they felt Jim got away with murder. He is now 76 years old.
#4 Rae Carruth: (Carolina Panthers 1997-99)
Rae Carruth grew up fast and made many mistakes in life. Even as a young adult his pension for selfish behavior was the norm. He was a star at Colorado and during his sophomore season his Sacramento girlfriend had his son. Carruth had nothing to do with the son until his girlfriend filed for child support. After talking with Carruth, she agreed to take ½ of the child support due to her as long as Carruth became a more responsible father. He agreed but failed to do it.
Carruth, like many athletes was no stranger to the dating world. He casually dated Cherica Adams and eventually she became pregnant. That was unacceptable to the narcissistic Carruth who demanded she get an abortion. He told others that he didn’t want to pay any more child support. She refused to end the pregnancy.
He paid $50,000 for a friend of his to kill Adams on a dark road. While she followed Carruth after going to the movies, Adams noticed he stopped. A car came up beside her and shot at her multiple times. Carruth coldly drove off with the deed done. The problem was Adams was not dead. Below is the actual 911 call of her harrowing experience after being shot. She soon would lapse into a coma and die a month later giving birth to her son.
Shockingly Carruth was given bail and told if the baby or Cherica died, he had to turn himself in. When Cherica died a month later, a manhunt ensued. He was found hiding in a trunk of a car with $3900, chocolate, and urine in bottles.
Their son, Chancellor Adams, was born with cerebral palsy due to the lack of oxygen. Thinking that Carruth would come off bad in his trial, his lawyers never let him take the stand. He arrogantly said he did nothing wrong even though his assailants turned against him and exposed their plot. Carruth was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and other chargers but was not convicted of first degree murder which would have probably given him the death penalty. Carruth is scheduled to leave prison on October 22, 2018. Shockingly he has threatened to sue for custody of his son who was physically damaged due to a lack of oxygen because of the shooting.
#3 OJ Simpson:
This one is too well known to get too deep into. OJ lived a secret life while being loved by all. He was an abusive tyrant that most of the country felt got away with murder. He and Rae Carruth have some serious issues. Simpson was released from prison earlier this year after serving a 9 year sentence in Nevada for unrelated crimes. I’m sure he will look for Nicole and Ronald’s killer on some golf course somewhere.
#2 Robert Rozier: (St. Louis Cardinals 1979; Hamilton Tiger-Cats 1980; Saskatchewan Roughriders 1980; Oakland Raiders 1980 for 2 wks)
Robert Rozier was born in Alaska, and moved to California. He played High School ball during the glory days of the Rancho Cordova dynasty in Sacramento California where they were considered a national power.
Rozier was drafted in the 9th round and showed potential after a quality career at California Berkeley playing defensive end. The promise was wasted when it was found out he was also a heavy drug user. After several run in’s with the law, the Cardinals dumped Rozier after 6 games. Rozier played in Canada and had a cup of coffee with the Raiders before being released, never being able to conquer his demons.
Feeling lost, he began doing petty crimes and joined an African American cult based in Miami called the Temple of Love. After befriending the leader Yahweh ben Yahweh, he changed his name to Neariah Israel.
There was one problem in joining this group. To join the “brotherhood” you had to kill a “white devil” and bring back a body part to prove you did it. Rozier admitted to killing 7 white people people to please his leader. After being arrested on Halloween of 1986, he agreed to turn on his leader and became a witness for the government. Even being a witness after a plea bargain, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison for his murderous spree.
After serving 10 years, Rozier was placed in the witness protection program. Due to the third strike law, he was sentenced to 25 years to life after writing 29 bad checks. He’s now serving his time in a California prison.
#1 Randall Woodfield: (Green Bay Packers 1974);
The I-5 killer. Randall had severe problems even at an early age. He was a good high school and college football player but he often would get into trouble for petty crimes including flashing and indecent exposure. The Packer’s felt he had potential and they drafted him, but he continued to have questionable behavior. With more trouble with the law due to his crimes, Woodfield was cut and placed on the practice squad. He played for the semi-pro team Manitowoc Chiefs where borderline players trying to make the Packers team often played.
The Packers put up with a lot but eventually they could not handle his many issues. After more arrests with flashing women, he was sent home by the Packers who refused to have anything more to do with him after this.
Woodfield went back home in Portland, Oregon and he started doing severe crimes. He made women perform sex acts by knife point and also robbed them. He eventually was caught and was given a 10 year prison sentence, but his crime spree was just starting. After he got out of jail, a classmate of his was brutally murdered and even though the police felt he did it, Woodfield was never charged due to a lack of physical evidence.
In the beginning he was dubbed the “I-5 Bandit” and his reign of terror was felt in California, Oregon and Washington along the I-5 corridor. The crimes worsened. When he was finally caught, he was linked to over 44 murders, and 60 sexual assaults from 1979-81. He is now doing life in prison and even today he is one of the first people they look to in many unsolved cold cases in California, Washington and Oregon. Most in law enforcement think the numbers may be higher.
The stories are very disturbing and scary and shows many hidden secrets in the darker side of pro football players.
In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.
With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.
With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night. All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.
I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.
When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich. He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.
Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.
Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:
Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.
If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.
Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules? Now you understand OUR excitement. As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room. The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”
A Leader to the End:
The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way. He was a leader on the field and off. Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away. Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.
“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”
The Closest Team in the NFL:
Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were. Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.
We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s. I visited them recently.
Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.
“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us. Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”
After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”
Day 1 of the NFL Draft is Here! Or as we call it guys day in.
Go ahead and have some fun with it because this draft is going to be very interesting. Let’s be real; experts, insiders, fans, ex players and even the teams themselves don’t know what players are going to be chosen. It’s guesswork for everyone so I’m not curing cancer here. Let’s just use common sense and historic facts and look into the 2016 NFL Draft day 1.
The Trade Impact In the First Round:
First off I’m a huge talent over need guy. Let’s say for instance you need a safety but the only ones that are there are 2nd or third round talents; I pass. If you look at the Raiders history they’ve ruined drafts picking for needs.
Even with the rules allowing WR to roam free and the QB to barely be touched, the QB position in the NFL is at it’s worst in NFL history. Passing and Receiving records are falling to average players at best who are benefiting from the new rules. I can see the likes of Dan Marino, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice saying, “give me a bucket!”
Here is a good article by quality ESPN Writer Bill Barnwell on Drafting Qb’s:
I’m not a big fan of these 2 trades but I understand them.
Let’s look outside the box and stop just regurgitating what the “experts” are saying. Let’s think for ourselves and see what might be the mindset of teams in this years draft.
Raiders Trading Up:
The pre NFL draft is fun. Many sites try to stir the pot with mock drafts and scenarios and NFL combine #’s to keep people interested all year round. It is fun to do but let’s be real; 90% of this stuff never happens.
One of those scenarios is the annual can the Raiders trade up or down in the draft game. In 56 years please give me the list of all of the trades the Raiders have done to move up or down in the draft. Ron Wolf was the architect of many of the Raiders great drafts and he taught Reggie McKenzie all he knew at Green Bay.
Will the Raiders trade up? No one knows. But if you look at history it says the Raiders will do nothing and draft #14. When you trade up you are also in the mindset that you are 1 player away from being a top team. They Raiders still have holes to fill.
The Raiders RB Reality of 2015:
The average fan almost always looks at offense but in reality you can’t win without a good to great defense. Should the Raiders get a RB? Yes. In the later rounds. But tell me last year how important the RB’s were in the championship game and in the Super Bowl? The Patriots were literally getting RB’s off the street; and the other 3 teams mostly used backups who didn’t exactly play like Walter Payton. What all 4 teams DID have were the 4 best DL’s in the NFL. New England had more sacks without blitzing than any other team in the NFL. Look at the history of the NFL; for the most part Defensive lines and defenses win championships; not RB’s.
The Raiders struggles last year began when Minnesota played a cover 2 defense and took away the long ball. The Raiders medium passing game is bad and they never adjusted to other teams that did it as well. That’s not on the RB’s.
San Diego Chargers Pick Will Control the Draft:
Everyone has Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil as the Chargers pick but let’s hold on. The Chargers need to win now, and QB Philip Rivers is not getting any younger. The Chargers also paid a lot of money; some guaranteed; for tackles Joe Barksdale and King Dunlap. They also arent’ getting off cheap on their guards either. They could move one of their tackles to guard but now you are spending a ton of money on an OL when the defense is one of the worst in the NFL.
While the Raiders have a history of not trading up or down in the NFL draft, the Chargers have a lot of history. In recent year’s and in the past. (Rivers and Ladanian Tomlinson to name two). Chargers GM Tom Telesco is a wheeler and dealer for sure; for better or worse.
The Miami Dolphins are in big need of a franchise RB and rumors are swirling out of Miami that a trade with the Chargers isn’t out of the question. The Chargers have a kin to Notre Dame picks and they like OL Ronnie Stanley. They could trade down, get an extra pick or two and still get Stanley who other teams aren’t as high on.
If they do pick there, a defensive player like CB Jalen Ramsey or DL’s Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner going to the Chargers would not shock me.
Ezekiell Elliott RB Ohio St.:
Jerry Jones loves his badboys. I warned everyone that Randy Gregory DL out of Nebraska was an athlete playing football and of course Dallas took him in the 2nd round last year. In 12 games last year Gregory had 11 tackles and 0 sacks. He also tested positive for a drug of some kind (he was positive for pot in college) and he’s now suspended for the first four games. DeMarcus Lawrence had 8 sacks last year and he came into his own; he also has been suspended for 4 games for substance abuse. Add Greg Hardy’s departure and the DL for Dallas is just ugly. So they’ll go DL right?
Jerry Jones has always been an offensive guy and I see them taking Ezekiel Elliott, RB out of Ohio St. Jones likes offense and he loves running backs so I see this going down.
Interesting Oakland Raiders Scenarios:
Reggie Ragland MLB Alabama:
Reports are leaking that he has an elarged aorta that needs yearly monitoring. They hypersensitive NFL; some teams reportedly have him off their board now. The only MLB that can start right away in this draft in my opinion is Alabama MLB Reggie Ragland. As I’ve said before with the likes of Rolando McClain and others, these aren’t Bear Bryants free wheeling LB’s. Nick Saban runs a controlled and sophisticated zone and Bama LB’s do not have to cover much man to man so you really don’t know how good they are against the pass.
In reality though this would be the safe pick and the one I think the Raiders are leaning to right now. Will his heart condition change this.
Myles Jack LB UCLA:
Myles Jack value is dropping quickly. Mike Mayock; who isn’t much for personality but who I like; has an interesting scenario where Myles Jack falls all the way to 14 and the Raiders take him. Even though I like Mike let’s be real; 3 days ago he said I can’t believe anyone in the top 10 won’t pick Jack but now in his Mock yesterday he has him falling to 14.
Why? Jack lost himself a lot of money in an “I’m an open book” millennial moment, when a few days ago he told reporters that his knee’s condition is degenerative and that in the future he may or may not need micro-fracture surgery. His exact quote was that no one knows the future but to play 3 years in this league would be above average. I could see his agent slapping his forehead when he heard that saying, “DOH!”. When the player is saying stuff like that then you move on……..Quickly.
Sheldon Rankins DL Louisville:
I like Rankins a lot and he’s going in the top 15 in the draft. I see him going to the Dolphins or the Saints who need help big time at DL. If not he’d be a great get for the Raiders to give them a much needed QB push from the DT position and could immediately upgrade their defense to possibly being a top 5-10 unit.
Shaq Lawson DL Clemson:
At the beginning I just couldn’t believe people downplaying him. He’s slowly climbed up the ladder and he may be a top 10 pick. In some mock drafts they have him going to Buffalo after the Raiders so it’s a crap shoot. If he’s here, how can you pass up on a play maker like Lawson? If he and Ragland are here wow; what a fun waiting time that will be. I like Lawson and think you just can’t pass him up. Talent over need.
Robert Nkemdiche DE Mississippi:
There is always a draft lovechild that fans glop on to and this year it is Nkemdiche. Gholston, Clowney, Gregory; the list is a long one. He had a great game against Alabama and that’s his calling card; plus a lot of hype. They forget that in 3 years he only had 7 sacks and that in his last 7 games at Ole Miss he averaged 2 tackles a game. He was extremely inconsistent. I may be wrong but I warned people about all galaxy Jadeveon Clowney and how he’d tank and I’m warning others about Robert. To think he’s now going to be a 8-12 sack per year guy in the NFL? I say no way.
William Jackson III CB, Houston:
The University of Houston had a great resurgence last year; just not in the passing defense scene. They were ranked the 122th rated pass defense in college football.
If you were listening to ESPN radio’s mock drafts yesterday, one of the people choosing picked CB William Jackson III out of Houston for the Raiders pick. I swallowed my gum too. Don’t laugh; this is the hot name being thrown around by ESPN and their followers and if they blow off Ragland due to health issues, this may be the pick. It would also be a little attempt at vindication for Reggie.
He had a monster bowl game against Florida St. and looked good in pre draft/NFL combine workouts. Many of the experts really don’t watch all the games so these big televised bowls and senior bowls are big deals to them. In reality he’s another free lancer who is a work out warrior and looks physically impressive. In tackling he’s somewhat soft and not one to like contact. I think this would be a bad pick and he’s a 2nd round project in my book. I warned you on draft day about DJ Hayden and I’m warning you again.
Chris Jones DL Mississippi St.:
Another pick on the ESPN show was Chris Jones. If Shaq Lawson is there and the Raiders take Chris Jones then it’s a huge mistake. Jones is a solid player but he’s had issues with conditioning in the past and he’s not a great pass rusher; he’s more of a run stopper. The Raiders have a ton of run stoppers; they need pass rushers. I think Jones is a good player but the Raiders need Shaq Lawson, not Chris Jones.
Karl Joseph S West Virgina:
He is still not recovered from his ACL tear and he won’t be 100% probably for a part of the season. He is a thumper with a lot of explosiveness. He was projected as a 1st or 2nd rounder but he’s been climbing. He’s the best safety in a draft without super star safeties. This isn’t a value pick; I like Joseph but I think you can get a good safety in the second or 3rd round at better value.
Leonard Floyd LB Georgia:
When you watched a Georgia game last year Floyd flies off the page. He has a lot of football talent and just isn’t an athlete. I wrote about him a few months ago and I like him. The problem is, Florida papers are talking about how Tampa Bay is gushing about him and how much they love him. Many other teams also quietly like him. It’s hard to think he’ll be there at #14, but if he is, they will take him.
Remember that the draft isn’t a gift bag; 31 other teams are in this so you have to adapt to their choices. Keep in mind also that some teams are smart and some aren’t. Not every pick is a good one.
One tidbit that is going around the Bay Area though is that the 49ers LOVE Mackenzie Alexander the CB out of Clemson. The 49ers trading down isn’t out of the question now that they are in full rebuilding mode. Getting a DL and Alexander would be pretty amazing for them. I too love Alexander as a player.
Who ever the Raiders pick the hopes are that it’s a smart pick and not a crazy reach that filled the ghosts of drafts past. Some Raider fans will like any pick; some will hate any pick; but the even keel fans will look at the player and break down the need of the team and the skill set that they bring. As Reggie McKenzie said a few weeks ago, “we’ve done nothing yet. We haven’t won a thing and have work to do”. That is a good attitude to have entering this years draft.
In 2012 over 5.2 million NFL fans voted in the NFL.com tournament picking the greatest NFL team in history. The winner was the 1976 Oakland Raiders. Little was made of the vote in the media, so I will expand on it.
In my mind it’s hard to pick just one. The Bill Walsh 49ers, the Tom Landry Cowboys, Vince Lombardi’s machines in Green Bay, the great dynasty in Pittsburgh & Miami and so many others. It did make me happy though that fans from all over the country showed respect to a team that is often overlooked for its’ greatness, ESPECIALLY on the east coast. Some east coast media people know little of what happens west of the Mississippi.
Most young fans today seem to only really know things that happen in their own era but usually the smartest people are those that know a lot about history. It’s important for us all to appreciate history, especially in sports. The funniest post I saw lately was a young guy that said he knew a lot about the Raiders and that he had been a long suffering Oakland fan since 2007. Why can’t life have a “slap someone in the back of the head” button?
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens?:
I got into a battle with a Baltimore Raven fan last year who argued that the 2000 Ravens were the greatest team in history. They aren’t even in my top ten. Here is a team that didn’t even win their division and they lost 3 games in a row during the middle of the year. During those three losses, they only scored 15 points in 12 quarters.
The 1970’s teams were so much better than today because of several reasons. They didn’t have to deal with high salaries, guaranteed money or the salary cap. That’s why they were loaded with talent. Many backups could start on other teams.
Many teams had backup quarterbacks that were as good as many of the starters on bad teams. Ken Stabler was a backup until Daryle Lamonica got hurt. Earl Morrall was a backup until HOF QB Bob Greise broke his ankle in week 5, and all Morrall did was lead the Dolphins to the only unbeaten season in NFL history. I don’t see ANY NFL backup today; or most of the starters to be honest; doing anywhere near that any time soon.
Why the 1976 Raiders?:
The 1976 Raiders had 11; YES ELEVEN; future hall of fame players and front office people on it. Add Cliff Branch and Jack Tatum who should both be in it and that’s 13. Name a team in todays’ NFL that has 11 Hall of Famers. In the 1970’s there were many teams with 7-10 future HOF players.
With the passing of Kenny Stabler, many fans, media and ex players began to finally really appreciate just how great this Raiders team was. I’ve been lucky on the last few radio interviews that I’ve done to have followed nationally syndicated sports people who knew their stuff and who ended up saying the same things I was saying in regards to this amazing era of the 1970’s and it’s greatness.
Almost all NFL historians agree that the 1970’s was the greatest era of modern professional football. In that decade the Raiders won more games than any other team. They had the best quarterback, the best offensive line, and the best defensive backfield. Add amazing hall of famers and a defense that could get to the quarterback, and you had an all-time great team.
The 1976 Oakland Raiders are considered to have the greatest offensive line of all time. The line of Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Dave Dalby, George Buehler, and John Vella, was probably the most physical of all time as well. At 6’ 5”, Gene Upshaw talked trash and intimidated from the minute he walked on the field until the game was over. Gene Upshaw is still the only player in NFL history to play in 3 Super Bowls in 3 different decades with the same team. Sporting News ranked Gene Upshaw as the 62nd greatest NFL player of all time.
Art Shell was a quiet giant but a physical specimen at 6’ 5” who decimated defenders. Sporting News voted Shell the 55th greatest football player of all time. Yes they were that good.
Dave Dalby was one of the more beloved Raiders of all time, as well as one of the more unsung ones. He was a rock at Center following the great career of Jim Otto. At 6’ 3”, he was considered the smallest Raider offensive linemen. He never missed a game in 14 years and was voted on the UCLA all century team. He tragically died @ the age of 51 after struggling to adjust to life after football. There are still Christian websites that have stories about how kind and supportive he was to so many people.
George Buehler was a rock at guard for the Raiders. He was another unsung player who shined in the post season. His domination of Vikings defensive tackle Doug Southerland in the Super Bowl is a part of NFL lore.
John Vella was quiet and easy going but had a volatile temper when angered which fit right into the Raiders physical play.
The Soul Patrol:
There is no cooler group of NFL players than the Soul Patrol. I’ve written about them often and I’ve included one of my articles on them below which now is one of the most popular articles on the internet about them.
“Dr. Death” Skip Thomas; The Assassin Jack Tatum; George “Butch” Atkinson and Willie Brown were the greatest of all time. “The 5 yard chuck rule was actually created because of them”, said Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton. “It was almost unfair to try and get off the line with these guys”. In the 1970’s DB’s could pretty much do what they wanted to a wide receiver as long as the ball wasn’t in the air. That’s why people need to give WR of the 1970’s much more credit. The pinball numbers of today doesn’t mean that these WR are great. If you were good against the Soul Patrol then you were great.
The Greatest 2 Minute QB of All Time:
John Madden said that if he had to pick one QB to do one last minute drive he’d pick Ken Stabler. Joe Montana said he emulated his game after him. The Holy Roller, the Sea of Hands, the Ghost to the Post; the game was never over if Ken Stabler was on the field.
I still propose that ALL Hall of Fame voters votes be made public. It’s really a shame to not have Ken enjoy his special day due to petty biases. It’s time to start calling out writers because of their ridiculous biases; but that’s for another day.
Stabler was one of a kind. He wouldn’t see the trainers as long as players were in the locker room; he constantly took blame when his team failed, and spread the credit when they won. He was a great leader, friend and man. He partied like a rock star, but always showed up on game day. He was pure Raider.
When you think of the 1976 Oakland Raiders, you think of Stabler throwing to Casper or Fred Biletnikoff or Cliff Branch. You see Stabler tossing passes to his running backs or hitting Mike Siani in the end zone. But in reality the Raiders were also a power running, physical team. They were consistently a top 10 rushing team in the 1970’s and occasionally was the best running team. In the Playoffs they decimated the Steal Curtain for 157 rushing yards in the AFC Championship game and had an amazing 237 yards against the Purple People Eaters of the Vikings in the Super Bowl.
Mark Van Eeghen was a do it all Fullback. He was the replacement for Marv Hubbard. Mark could block, run, and catch the ball. He rushed for 1012 yards in a 14 game season.
Clarence Davis was the speed half back of the group. Even though he didn’t have great hands, he managed to catch 27 passes and dominated in the post season, especially the Super Bowl. His miracle catch in the Sea Of Hands game is eternally etched in the minds of all football fans.
The Raiders were one of the first teams to use situational players. Running Back Pete Banaszak was their short yardage back and he usually was a leader for the Raiders in rushing touchdowns.
With solid RB’s and a great OL with tight ends that could block, the Raiders ground game was second to none.
Speed & Precision:
Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikoff may be the greatest WR tandom of all time. In each end zone a “speed kills” sign was always seen in Oakland. As Ken Stabler once said, “Cliff could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”. He was track star fast up until the day he retired. In many of the biggest games, Branch caught key passes. He was an amazing part of the “throw deep” mentality of the Raiders. They could score from any where at any time.
Fred Biletnikoff had the greatest hands of all time. If it was near him, he’d catch it. He was a ballerina on the football field with perfect route running skills. He could position his body perfectly to make sure he had the best chance to catch a ball. He was a true artist on the football field. Add quality backup Mike Siani who could start for many teams; and you had one heck of a WR core.
Then there was HOF Tight End Dave Casper and short yardage & goal line TE Warren Bankston in the mix. They also had the greatest punter of all time in HOF Ray Guy.
Along with the Soul Patrol, you had some of the toughest and craziest players of all time. Some called Oakland the Island of Misfit Toys. Wildman John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk from the University of Mars. Prankster and stud LB Phil Villapiano. The Mad Stork Ted Hendricks who was as crazy as all of them. The Raiders defense straight up dominated in the post season wreaking havoc whenever a quarterback went back to pass.
Coaching & Front Office:
Al Davis was one of the greatest owners of all time. He was a rebel that hated anything that wasn’t silver & black. He took a chance on a linebacker coach named John Madden. A HOF coach who had 3 simple rules; be on time, pay attention, and play like hell when I tell you. Helping call the shots for Al Davis was Hall of Fame player personnel director Ron Wolf; maybe the greatest player evaluator in the modern era.
To top it off you have the Oakland Coliseum; “The House Of Thrills” that was as loud as any stadium in history with some of the most loyal and rowdy fans which created pure magic. And the icing on the cake was Bill King; NFL Films Steve Sabol’s favorite announcer; the greatest radio sports broadcaster of all time, waxing poetically. How he isn’t in at least 2 HOF’s is a miscarriage of sports justice.
So there you have it. A trip down memory lane. What a fun and amazing history. One of the greatest teams of all time……I’m sorry; THE greatest team of all time. Pillaging just for fun.
Friday it was released that several former Oakland Raiders had agreed to have their brains studied upon their death. They did this through the encouragement of Ken’s longtime partner, Kim Ross-Bush. They wanted to follow him in helping to further the study of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the hopes of helping future players. Still today, Ken still is the leader of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Oakland Raiders.
The Stabler Family Tells Their Story:
Kim Ross-Bush, the partner of Ken Stabler for over 16 years; tells the story of how Ken deteriorated over time. His daughter Marissa also talks about the changes in her father. ESPN’s Outside the Lines is a great show and I really enjoyed the piece it did a while back on Ken and his struggles with CTE.
You are already seeing players starting to retire at earlier ages in fear of the long term damage football may have on them.
In a groundbreaking move, the Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate tackling in practices. Instead they use tackling dummies, bags, and even use tackling robots. Coaches from around the country are limiting contact in College football. What’s interesting is the Ivy league now says their tackling techniques are much better and more fundamentally sound and the list of injuries have dropped dramatically.
I remember in 2009 being asked to do a house call to check up on a patient who was really struggling with his sleep equipment and his quality of sleep. I immediately remembered the name. I’m a huge history guy and I did a check and found out it was the former NFL player that I thought it was.
When I walked into their house his wife was as kind as could be. She offered me a piece of cake and coffee and I loved it. Her husband was a little shocked I knew so much about him and it obviously made him feel good. When I left his wife walked me out. At the door she gave me a bottle of wine and was near tears. “Thank you so much; you made him smile and that hasn’t happened much. Please come visit again soon”. I told her I would be by next week.
A week later I showed up and it was like a light turned off. He sat in a somewhat dark room looking out a window; something he did for hours sometimes. He was rude, irritable and he couldn’t remember a thing we discussed. I laughed at the start because I thought he was teasing me but he wasn’t. He talked about his headaches and his sleep being so intermittent that he would be exhausted all the time. It was hinted he knew he was damaged and he didn’t want to know the truth. CTE was barely known publicly in 2009.
His wife explained this was their life. A tornado of emotions with little joy and hope at times. I tried calling them once but their number had changed & was unlisted, so I never heard from them again and found out they moved. Even today the picture of him sitting in a darkened room alone can bring me to tears.
Owners Still Don’t Get It:
Jerry Jones was quoted last week that he was not convinced there was a link between CTE and concussions. I’m sure many owners have their doubts especially when it may cost them money to take care of the problem. Jerry Jones needs to read research and stop acting like a fool. Another “my opinion is greater than facts” guy. Money doesn’t make you smart. It’s the same callousness the NFL showed during the 2009 concussion hearings at Congress.
In the 2014 settlement against the NFL, in a rare action, the Judge was so appalled at the NFL’s offer that he overturned it. The NFL said to trust their math. Most of what the NFL has done, they were made to do.
What Has the NFL Done to Help With CTE’s:
Many say I’m too hard on the NFL. They bring up the 88 plan championed by CTE legend Gay Culverhouse, former President of Tampa Bay. It’s true; it gives $130,000 a year to players that qualify but read the fine print because I did; the one disorder it DOESN’T cover? CTE.
The Alumni Association is also working with corporations to set up retirement places catered to NFL players. In the medical field the dirty secret is that many feel this is going to be a huge money maker in the future with so many NFL players having to deal with brain issues. Soccer players are now having issues with CTE. Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain as well.
The owners have given money for research and also changed the rules protecting players more. It has changed the game drastically allowing for huge numbers by quarterbacks and wide receivers but it had to be done.
The NFL also has adopted a much stricter concussion protocol but it’s already seen failures. Rams QB Case Keenum hit his head on the turf against Baltimore last year and staggered off the field. After talking to the trainer, he was shockingly let back in the game to finish it. Afterwards he was diagnosed with a concussion. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to his credit admitted they made a mistake. Damage done though.
I remember watching film of the 1976 Raiders year in review. In week 9 the Raiders played at Chicago. The astroturf there was like cement especially when it was cold. Ken Stabler got a concussion and wobbled off the field. Eventually he came back into the game leading the Raiders to victory. You wonder how many times since he was a kid did that happen to Ken.
Breakthrough in CTE Testing?
The problem with CTE is that you can’t diagnose it while the player is alive. When UCLA lead researcher Dr. Julian Bailes said they had a test that could diagnose CTE in living people, many questioned his findings. The problem with anything in medicine is greed. If this is true, they stand to make millions. Some say that within 3-5 years it will be able to be done. The controversy continues but when they can test players, it can give them a better option into getting out of the game or staying in it.
Should Kid’s Play Football:
One of the key factors with CTE is the duration you take hits. Usually the longer you play, the worse it is. Ken Stabler; like many NFL athletes; played as a kid. You have to limit the length, and the severity of the damage. Some think teaching good fundamental tackling is the answer but it’s not. When you hit the ground or get hit; good tackle or not; your head is going to jar. Its’ like having a minor car accident several times a day.
I think that kids should not play organized tackle football until they are 13 years old. I also believe that at the most, teams need to have only 1 contact day of practice per week; or 90 minutes.
The State of Texas that brought you “Friday Night Lights” and built a 60 million dollar stadium in the city of Allen, is surprisingly the leader in protecting players. In 2013, the University Interscholastic League in Texas; the group that makes the rules for high school football; voted to limit contact in practices to 90 minutes a week. Some said this would ruin Texas football but it hasn’t changed their dominance in any way.
Between 2005 and 2014, 92 high school football players died. Some by direct contact, and others by things associated with football. What’s shocking though is that almost ALL states have NO medical regulations mandating high school football teams to have ANY trained medical staff on the field at any time. Some parents have sued school districts for having their kids lying on a field waiting long periods of time for qualified people to help their kids. That HAS to change. They don’t have to have an ambulance on staff, or a doctor or EMT’s or professional trainers. Epic fail. This has to change.
I remember in football crazy Napa, California where I grew up, (who ESPN voted had the #2 high school stadium in the country 6 years ago) they always had an ambulance in one of the end zones at Memorial Stadium and EMT professionals at the games. It helped save one of my friends who actually broke his neck during a game. He wasn’t paralyzed but he fractured his neck and the quality care on the field saved him. I hope they still have that same support there now.
The sad part is, we need to have a sure way of diagnosing players while they are alive, and we need to know how better to protect them. Even if helmets evolved, the jarring of the brain from the hits and hitting the ground are still going to cause damage so it’s a difficult thing to fix.
What also is scary, is that ALS; or Lou Gehrigs disease has also been linked to long term head trauma seen in sports like football. University of Alabama player Kevin Turner just passed away at the age of 46; of ALS. He played 8 years in the NFL.
CTE is the scary ghost hiding in the closet that players and their families fear. Fans and the media need to get involved. Some didn’t support the cheerleaders fight to get minimum wage. Many fans didn’t support referees wanting better training and to be full time employees. The NFL said both were too expensive. Add the lack of support to retired players by some as well. In my mind it’s disrespecting the game and those that are associated with it by not respecting everyone that was in it.
All fans and media people associated with the NFL who really care about this wonderful game and the people in it need to act. Some in the NFL media won’t because they feel backlash from their networks. We need the NFL to know the lack of support is unacceptable. The 88 plan needs to include CTE. Support research and retired players rights. Show compassion and kindness instead of saying, “well if they don’t want to die early then don’t play”. The players gave their all; now we need to give ours.
The NFL has shown they will NOT do the right thing unless they are made to. It’s time that fans now become the voices of the voiceless. Ken Stabler and all of the players that suffered in silence; along with their families that experienced it; deserve our support. No more Dave Duerson stories. A man that texted family to let them know he wanted his brain studied after he shot himself in the chest. He didn’t want others to go through the torment he did. No more retired players holding their heads in pain or looking out windows in darkened rooms wondering in sadness what was happening to them. We can’t expect the NFL to do the right thing to these fathers, son’s, grandfathers and brothers, if we don’t. The NFL has shown it will listen but we have to speak.
This article is for the fans of the AFL especially the AFC West. If you are a fan of these great teams, some of these players may be household names to you. It’s so important that the history of the game is respected, and these great players are not forgotten. This article is in honor of them, and the fans that watched the AFL.
San Diego Chargers:
Many think the Chargers uniforms of the 1960’s and 70’s are the greatest ever made and it’s hard to argue with that. I love the powder blue. What also can’t be argued is their dominating win in the AFL Championship game in 1963 sealing their argument as one of the great teams of the AFL era. Their innovative passing game was nixed for a power running game, and it worked to perfection as the Chargers beat the Boston Patriots 51-10.
Sid Gillman may be the greatest football coach of all time. He is the only coach in history that is in both the NFL and College football Hall of Fame. His coaching tree is the greatest of all time bar none. Bill Walsh, Al Davis, Chuck Knoll, Chuck Knox, Dick Vermeil, Don Coryell, Joe Gibbs, John Madden, Tom Flores, George Seifert, Dennis Green, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and many others fall under his umbrella of greatness.
The vertical passing game of the Raiders was taken straight from him. Al Davis called him the Einstein of the NFL and he is the father of the modern passing game. There will never be another Sid Gillman. As John Madden recently said, “what some teams are just discovering, Sid Gillman was doing in the 60’s”.
San Diego’s version of Fred Biletnikoff was the great Gary Garrison. Lance Alworth gets all of the publicity but in reality the Chargers had another fine Wide Receiver. His nickname was the ghost. Sid Gillman literally called him an artist in regards to his amazing route running skills. One sports writer said it was like watching a figure skater on a football field; his routes were so precise.
He is 5th and 4th all time on the Chargers reception and yards list respectively. He has more receiving yards than Kellen Winslow and Wes Chandler. He averaged an amazing 18.6 yards a catch which is second all time for San Diego pass catchers with over 120 catches.
Paul Lowe & Keith Lincoln:
With Paul Lowe and Keith Lincoln in the backfield, San Diego had one of the greatest 1-2 punches in pro football history. They helped lead the Chargers to their only championship in 1963. Lowe is the 2nd all time leader in rushing yards for the Chargers. He was the 1965 UPI AFL MVP, 2 times AFL All Star, and 2 times All AFL team. He was also voted onto the ALL time AFL team, 2 times comeback player of the year, and he’s the all-time AFL leader in average yards per carry at 4.9. And he still holds the NFL record for 6 straight 100 yard games with 14 or fewer carries.
And oh by the way they had Keith Lincoln. He went to high school in Monrovia California and went to Washington St. Originally he was a QB, and he was so good that he got two awesome nicknames; the Monrovia Meteor and the Moose of the Palouse. He was a 5 time AFL All-Star, 2 time All AFL player, and is in the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.
Paul Lowe can still be seen today at the Chargers games. He is a season ticket holder and a fan favorite.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs have had an amazing history of talented teams with some of the greatest players to ever play football. Buchanon, Dawson, Taylor, Lanier, Culp, Thomas, Holmes; the list goes on and on. When eclectic head coach Hank Stram allowed NFL films to record him during the Super Bowl, he became the first NFL coach to wear a microphone. Stram was innovative and brought in the triple stack defense to hide his linebackers. When he had several WR’s injured against the Raiders powerful pass rush and great DB’s; he used the T formation and ran 60 times for over 300 yards leading KC to a stunning 24-10 victory over Oakland. In that game, Len Dawson completed 3 passes for 16 yards. In the AFL days they lead the AFL in playoff appearances tied with the Raiders. Hank Stram was as great as the players he coached and boy was he fun.
If you would allow me an exception, I wanted to add a player that didn’t play in the AFL days, but someone who isn’t remembered enough. Just the mention of this players name can still bring a smile and a tear to some ex-players, coaches and fans eyes. He was headed for greatness.
His acts of generosity and kindness are still of legend. So are his acts on the football field. A Raider beat writer once said, “There is fast and then there is Joe Delaney fast”. He was a game breaking type of player who could catch the ball and run like the wind. With a strike shortened season and an eye injury, he only played 1 ½ years but he was amazing. He had 196 yards rushing against Houston and ran for 1121 yards his rookie year while getting the Rookie of the Year Award and making the Pro Bowl.
He once ran 75 yards for a touchdown but it was called back. Two plays later he ran for an 82 yard touchdown. Sadly, while trying to save 3 boys that were drowning, Delaney never got out of the water and died. He could not swim but he could not sit by and watch them die and do nothing. Only 1 of the boys made it. Joe received the US Presidential Citizens Medal from President Reagan and should always be remembered as being a real man, and a person that the NFL and their fans can be proud of.
If you are a big fan of the AFL or a Chiefs fan, you are saying how come Ed’s on this list? Well outside of KC many of today’s fans are clueless to how great of a player Podolak was. His occasional wildness off the field after his playing days gets some publicity at times but in reality Chiefs Running Back Ed Podolak was one heck of a football player. With his hooked bar helmet, he looked like a red bull chasing after people. He could catch, run, return kicks, and block. He was an all purpose back that could do it all.
He is the 5th all-time Chiefs RB in regards to rushing yards, and the 10th leading pass catcher of all time. He was also a quality return man that made many clutch kick returns. His wars against the Raiders and their bulldozer RB Marv Hubbard were must see tv and some of the most physical games ever played.
Nicknamed Thunderfoot, Jerrel Wilson was flat out one of the greatest punters of all time. Often overshadowed in the all time punter conversation due to the greatness of Ray Guy, his booming and towering punts were a thing of beauty. Ray Guy and Wilson transformed the punting game into an offensive weapon in regards to controlling field position.
He was a 3 time pro bowler and on the all AFL team, and in one year avg. 46.1 yards per punt. He also did it in the clutch. To punt when your team isn’t very good or if nothing is at stake is one thing but to do in when it counts is another. His greatness should not be forgotten.
For a 25 year period, the Raiders winning % was far and away better than any professional sports team in the U.S. In their first 20 Monday night football games they were 18-1-1. In the greatest decade of the NFL; the 1970’s; they had the most wins. In the NFL.com fan poll of the greatest teams ever a few years ago, the 1976 Oakland Raiders were voted the greatest team of all time by over 5.5 million NFL fans.
In QB Daryle Lamonica’s first 45 games as a Raider (after a trade from Buffalo) the Raiders were an unreal 40-4-1. His successor; Ken Stabler; was 56-13 in his first 69 games.
For 3 decades 2 teams were almost always on top of the television ratings charts in the NFL. The Cowboys and the Raiders. The 2 teams people loved to hate. For a time the Cowboys were America’s team and the Raiders were the renegades of the NFL with talent to back it up. Those days seem light years away. They moved to Los Angeles which slowly eroded their tough blue collar Oakland persona, and the violence at games along with the small crowds, eroded their mystique. Their style of play changed and they’ve never been the same. It’s sad because few teams in the NFL boast a higher level of talent in their great history. No team in history was more crazy, wild, talented, and colorful as the Oakland Raiders.
(below is the article on the 1976 Raiders chosen as the greatest NFL team of all time)
(please support and follow the AFL Godfather on twitter @NFLMAVERICK I got this video from his public page but I’d really appreciate if you’d support him. He has great stuff from the past! Thank you!)
“The greatest player I ever coached was Warren Wells. I never saw anyone that gifted and that fast”.
Former Raiders Head Coach John Madden
On December 6, 1970, Warren Wells made an unreal catch on the last field play of the game to beat the Jets 14-13. His catch against 2 Jet defenders would make Houdini applaud. Wells was that good.
This is still one of Ronnie Lott’s favorite all-time players. If you talk to any player of the 1960’s, the one player that always amazed them was Warren Wells. For a 3 ½ year period, he struck terror in the eyes of all teams. He unfortunately was one of only 2 NFL players who were drafted and made to go to the Vietnam war in 1965.
He was as fast as lightning and just as gifted. Before the NFL changed the statistic criteria, Warren Wells was the all time leader in yards per catch at an inhuman 23.3 yards a reception. In one year he caught 47 balls for an incredible 27 yards per reception. He and Daryle Lamonica; The Mad Bomber; were the originators of Al Davis’ feared vertical game.
Due to off the field issues and an ankle injury, Wells career was cut short. He straightened up his life after doing prison time during his younger days, and last year was honored by lighting the Al Davis torch at one of the Raiders home games.
He was the anchor of the famous “11 Angry Men” Oakland Raiders defense and was a key player of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Tom Keating was one of the best defensive linemen in AFL history. He was a 2 time AFL all star and on the all time AFL 2nd team member. He played so hard that a story was written about him when the Raiders played the Packers in Super Bowl II. He was a part of the famous 1967 Raiders defense that caused a record 667 yards in losses on 67 sacks. They remain one of the greatest and most unheralded defenses of all time.
He was talented and tough. Off the field he was a fan favorite and very happy go lucky. He was a bay area guy and lived and died here. Many feel that if he didn’t have such bad knees that he was a hall of famer for sure.
There are many that feel Dave Grayson is a Hall of Famer. Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970. He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys. Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon. Tom Landry felt he was too small and not physical enough so he was let got and Hank Stram gave him a shot and he stuck.
Al Davis Traded for CB Dave Grayson in 1965 (he traded him for future actor Fred “The Hammer” Williamson) from the Chiefs and then traded for Willie Brown from Denver in 1967. This allowed the Raiders to play the physical bump and run style that has been a trademark of the team for years.
When NFL and former Cowboys personnel guru Gil Brandt was asked who were the 4 best cornerbacks in Dallas history his first 3 were not a shock. Mel Renfro, Herb Adderly & Deion Sanders. “I also include Dave Grayson. He didn’t play with the Cowboys but he’s so good I’m including him.”
A little known fact that may buy you a drink someday if you are a Denver fan is that many of the AFL teams didn’t have much money to start with. The Broncos first uniforms were actually mustard yellow and brown. Why was that you say? The reason they were that color is that the Broncos wanted to save money so they bought the used uniforms off of the University of Wyoming football team and used them for a year. It saved them thousands of dollars. Wyoming were upgrading their uniforms so they were available. They then got a designer to make a new uniform the following season.
One of the many crazy and memorable stories of the AFL is the one about Bronco great Frank Tribucka. Tribucka was the father of Notre Dame and NBA player Kelly Tribucka. Frank was a Notre Dame legend. At 33 years old he had played for several teams in the NFL, Canada, and AFL and he came to the expansion Broncos to be a coach after retiring. During the last pre-season game they asked him to play to sell a few tickets. He then started the next week as the Broncos QB and played for the next 3 years.
In his first year he threw for 34 interceptions (still a Denver Bronco’s record) but also became the first QB in NFL or AFL history to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season. Against the Bills he threw for over 447 yards in a game; a Bronco record that stood for over 38 years. Frank had a great personality and was very popular and will always be a part of the AFL lore.
Goose was as tough as nails. In a day and age where the game was so physical, he played in an amazing 61 straight games for the Broncos. He is third all time in the AFL for interceptions with 43 and has the AFL record for most interceptions in a game with 4. Gonsoulin is also still 2nd all time in Denver Broncos history in interceptions only 1 behind leader Steve Foley. He was a 6 time AFL all star and was voted on the AFL’s all time 2nd team.
In his first 6 years with Denver, he had an amazing 43 interceptions, 542 return yards with 2 brought back for touchdowns. A fun loving, true great of the AFL era.
Rich “Tombstone” Jackson:
Another guy that doesn’t get his due is Rich Tombstone Jackson. He was the first real great pass rusher in Denver history. He was very physical and Lyle Alzado of all people called him the toughest man he ever met. Just another of the all time great players that never got his due. He was way before his time and mastered the head slap and many other moves to the dismay of the NFL.
He was a 2x AFL All Star, 2x AFL All Pro and voted second team on the all time AFL team. As with many players of his day before modern knee surgeries, he tore his knee and had to retire early from football. Many believe he was the best pass rusher of that era and that without injury he was heading into the NFL Hall of Fame. While Deacon Jones got all of the publicity, Jackson quietly tormented opponents. It’s sad he’s never mentioned more.
With so many people lacking any knowledge of the past in our social media mentality of today, it’s important for all of us to remember the great players of yesteryear. These are players from the AFC West but obviously the AFL had amazing teams and athletes from New York and Buffalo to San Diego. My father talked to me often about the greatness of the AFL. From the Titans and Texans, to the Bills and Raiders, AFL lore has so many amazing players and stories. I hope that we never forget the greatness of the AFL and more and more groups are created to discuss such amazing memories that we enjoyed with our parents and grandparents.