Category Archives: Rich Tombstone Jackson

“Over 5.2 Million NFL Fans Vote The 1976 Oakland Raiders the Best Team Of All Time”

davis madden

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.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d827fc2d9/article/1976-raiders-edge-2000-ravens-for-title-of-greatest-team-ever

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.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/13842/best-raiders-team-ever-1976

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.

Offensive Line:

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.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

“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.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-passing-of-legendary-raider-ken-stabler-shocks-a-nation/

Ground and Pound:

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.

The Defense:

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.

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“Forgotten AFL Greats of the AFC West”

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 1960

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

Sid Gillman:

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”.

Gary Garrison:

gary_garrison_1968_10_20 (2)

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:

chiefs paint

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.

Joe Delaney:

“I’ve played against the best–O.J. SimpsonGale SayersWalter Payton and (Delaney) ranks right up there with them…He is great with a capital G.”

Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea, Houston Oilers

He was just good people.

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.

Ed Podolak:

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.

Jerrel Wilson:

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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.

Oakland Raiders:

raiders 4

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)

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/over-5-2-million-nfl-fans-vote-the-1976-oakland-raiders-the-best-team-of-all-time/

Warren Wells:

(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.

http://www.raiders.com/media-vault/videos/Warren-Wells-Lights-Torch-in-Honor-of-Al-Davis/ffd9a538-97ff-4c2a-8785-29e2e4c64820

Tom Keating:

keating tom

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.

Dave Grayson:

dave graysonryreyr

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.”

Denver Broncos:

denver broncos uniform 1960
Houston Oilers v.s. Denver Broncos
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Boston Patriots v.s. Denver Broncos

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.

Frank Tribucka:

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 Gonsoulin:

Austin William Goose Gonsoulin
goose gonsoulin

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.