Tag Archives: charlie sumner

“FROM KEN STABLER TO CHARLIE SUMNER; A YEAR OF LOSS FOR THE OAKLAND RAIDERS & REMEMBERING THEM DURING THE HOLIDAYS”

 

ken stabler gene upshaw
Gene Upshaw showing some love to Ken Stabler

Pastor: I promise James, in time the pain will lessen and it will get easier.

Me: With all due respect Pastor, that is crap. The pain never gets better. Time just makes it a little easier to deal with.

If you want to know how important history is, just look at the half time ceremony when the Packers put Brett Favre’s name in their ring of honor at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night. An 81 year old 5 time Champion Bart Starr worked hard for 3 months during extremely poor health just to make the trip to welcome Brett Favre on his special night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium; including Brett Favre’s; when Bart Starr walked up and hugged him. The emotions linked generations of fans who stood up proudly as one.  Brett Favre said, “No offense to anyone, but I was so happy to see Bart Starr and in a way the night was also for him. I was more excited seeing him smiling and happy than what I was there for”.

The Christmas holidays are my favorite time of year. People are nicer and there is much more of a kind spirit of good will floating around. Unfortunately all of us have lost people that we love and it can also be a time of great internal pain and longing. I get that because our family has known a lot of tragedy. This year has been grinding and hard. It’s also been that way for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have lost many that were linked to their greatness.

I could see it in his eyes. Upon the passing of the great Ken Stabler, George Atkinson seemed inconsolable.   “It seems that every month we lose someone close to the Raiders. There are fewer of us and it’s very difficult to hear of the passing of Kenny.”

My dad once said that getting older isn’t the hard part. He said the hard part is watching family members that were once strong and vital getting old and passing away. It’s also hard to see athletes who you grew up watching, doing the same.

I think one of the nicest things ever said to me was after I wrote an article for a paid Philadelphia Eagles site. I wrote about a couple of the Eagles who had passed. One Philly fan thanked me for the article and said, “You are the keeper of their memory. You made me remember how great of players these were and how they touched the community. I’ll now never forget them and I was touched like they were my own. Thank you.”

History is a huge deal in our family. It’s always been instilled in us by my parents and relatives, to keep people’s memories alive. We should never forget people and appreciate their talents and their input in people’s lives. Our society has become much more shallow than in the past, with us being obsessed with youthful looks, being cool and in, and keeping in the know with the latest. We forget so easily. The word great is handed out like Halloween candy and our memory is short.   For me, I will never be that way and for those that read me, they will always see a sense of appreciation of those from the past along with their families.

The Raiders have lost some key people from their past this year. Let us remember them.

art powellOakland Raider great WR Art Powell

Art Powell:

Wide Receiver Art Powell was one of the first and great stars of the AFL.   He was big and fast and was known for some amazing catches. He was a 4 time AFL all star and was voted onto the all time AFL team. He amazingly had 81 touchdown passes during a time when defensive backs could do whatever they wanted to WR.

People forget that it was his character that shined the most. Powell, along with teammates Bo Roberson, Clem Daniels and Fred Williamson, refused to play in an exhibition game against his old team the New York Jets because of segregated seating in Mobile Alabama’s Ladd Stadium.

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Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis and Executive Assistant Al LoCasale

Al LoCasale:

“I first started working for the Raiders in 1985. I complained about a bad call in the press box and one of the NFL officials heard me. He angrily went up to Al LoCasale to complain about me. Mr. LoCasale got angry and ripped the stadium credentials from his shirt. It was then that I knew I was a Raider and what loyalty meant. He backed me just because I was a Raider.”

Former Raider Executive Amy Trask.

He was called a pitbull, a hitman, a thug, and many other things that I can’t write. For 3 decades Al LoCasale was the Executive Assistant and loyal heavy for Mr. Al Davis.   If Mr. Davis felt someone wronged the Raiders, LoCasale was the one you had to answer to. He was gruff and had a Napoleonic mentality about him. He demanded respect, loyalty and excellence.   He loved the Raiders and Al Davis.   He was the main figure that helped NFL films capture the Raiders great moments and he insisted on as many Raider players being mentioned as possible. He respected everyone; from the star players to the practice players.   You can’t say Oakland Raiders without saying Al LoCaSale.

dick romanski raider equipment manager
Oakland Raider equipment manager Dick Romanski

Dick Romanski, Equipment Manager:

The Raiders have only had 2 equipment managers in their history.   Dick Romanski and his son Bob.

Dick was an army buddy of Al Davis and a good athlete. He actually coached on Davis military teams. He had been with the Raiders for over 50 years until his son took over. There are stories that Dick was the one that came up with the shield logo of the Raiders.

Dick also was important because he was the one that introduced stickum to the Raiders. He said he got the idea from hitters in major league baseball.

Beloved by players and executives alike, even after retiring he would show up to help on Raider home games. One of the staples of the Raiders lore.

 

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Oakland Raiders Defensive Coordinator Charlie Sumner having a fun moment with Ken Stabler

Charlie Sumner:

“Charlie took me out of the game and I was pissed. I came off the field screaming at him. He put in backup Jack Squirek and told him to “not drop” the pass. I was out of my mind. Then I saw Squirek intercept Joe Theisman’s pass and score. I picked Charlie up and was going crazy. I had immense joy and almost killed him in the process. What a great coach.”

Raiders MLB Matt Millen

Some Raider players thanked him at their Hall of Fame speeches. Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive coach in the history of the Oakland Raiders and it’s not close. He was the defensive coordinator for 2 Super Bowl wins. He was also a coach that helped create the famous Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh and he was the one that created the great defenses of the Patriots in the mid to late 70’s that almost lead them to a Super Bowl. The Raider offenses got all the credit but if you look at the Super Bowl wins, it was the defenses that dominated.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/the-passing-of-an-oakland-raiders-legend-defensive-icon-charlie-sumner-dies-tom-flores-comments/

 

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Oakland Raider great Fullback Marv Hubbard

Marv Hubbard:

“Some players like to be physical but no one was as tough as Marv.   I’ve never seen a player that would go out of their way to hit people. He also demanded to play special teams because he liked the collisions.”

John Madden

Take it to the cupboard Hubbard was one of the catch phrases of the 1970’s for the Oakland Raiders. In both end zones posters with that saying was the norm. He was all pro 3 times and helped lead the Raiders to 4 consecutive Western Division Championships. He ranks 4th all time in yards per carry as a fullback (4.8 yards) and is 13th overall in NFL history.

Hubbard was a fan favorite and lived in Northern California. He got into music and released 2 albums. He was a scratch golfer and was an entrepreneur and CEO of his own company and he was often seen around town driving his beloved muscle cars which he would restore. Like most Raiders, he lived life to the fullest.

Ken Stabler:

The death of Ken Stabler sent a shockwave around the country and to be honest the world. I remember writing about Ken’s passing and the article was read by people in over 26 countries. I received many messages from people who said they don’t really like the Raiders but that they loved Ken Stabler. I’ve written a lot about Ken and you can check it out here along with Ken’s family website where you can donate to his XOXO Foundation.

http://kenstabler.com/

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

How to Deal With Loss:

First off there is no formula. The key is to talk to people you respect and love and let the pain out.   Cry, scream or get mad. Pain like that is like poison and if you don’t get rid of it, it can eat you alive.

The holidays can be really hard so keep busy. Kid’s and young people always help when they are around due to their great personalities and wonder around the holidays. Remember that there will be times that the pain will come over you in waves and you just need to let yourself get rid of it. If you are a person of faith, rely on it often.   Personally, without my faith I would have not come through things very well.

The most important thing is to remember that the people that are gone would be heartbroken to see you in pain. This poem is a great one to remember that:

“Remember me with smiles and laughter because that’s how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears and sorrow, then don’t remember me at all.”

May all of the friends and families of these great people; as well as the fans of the Raiders; find a healing peace and joy this Christmas season.   I pray that they will never be lost in history and that their memories will be passed on to the children of NFL and Raider fans everywhere. And as long as I have breath, I will never let people forget them either.

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“The Passing of an Oakland Raider’s Legend; Defensive Icon Charlie Sumner Dies; Tom Flores Comments”

jack-squirek

“They handed us our asses on a tray and the tray was bent.”

Washington Quarterback Joe Theisman after Super Bowl XVIII loss to the Raiders 38-9.

 

Official Statement of the Oakland Raiders on the passing of Charlie Sumner.

“The Raiders are deeply saddened by the news of Charlie Sumner’s passing. Charlie was an esteemed part of the Raider family and was instrumental in some of the Silver and Black’s greatest triumphs. Our deepest sympathies are with Charlie’s Family at this time”.

“I remember Matt Millen going ballistic yelling at Charlie not to take him out because they couldn’t handle him. Two minutes later I look over and Matt is hoisting up Charlie screaming with joy.”

Raider Coach Tom Flores

 

Here is a great video showing Matt Millen lifting Charlie Sumner.  NFL films also doing a quick tribute to the Raiders Super Bowl team

http://www.raiders.com/news/article-1/Raiders-Statement-on-Passing-of-Charlie-Sumner/095ae53c-c10a-4650-b740-2469f29e35a4

 

“Charlie had a great overview of the whole picture.   He worked on drills and techniques, but his overall input on game day was what I thought was most impressive.  He was unique in that he could find a weakness in an offense and attack it.  He gave players the opportunity to succeed and the hopes were that they’d get it done.  Players loved to play for him and they knew they’d always be supported and prepared.”

Raiders Coach Tom Flores

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Howie Long and Ted Hendricks thanked him in their Hall of Fame acceptance speeches. Raider coaches and players swore by him, and the NFL hated to go against him. Al Davis and Ron Wolf smiled whenever they talked about him.

Another icon in the family of the Oakland Raiders is gone with the passing this weekend of the great Charlie Sumner at the age of 84. His son Colin announced that he had passed away in Maui due to complications from Gall Bladder surgery.  He was a player and a coach who like Ron Wolf always wanted to stay in the background.

In my sports writing, I always try to honor and respect those successful people that many of us may not know.   I think for the most part, Oakland Raider fans do too. I LOVED getting dozens of direct messages on twitter from young Raider fans thanking me for telling them about Ron Wolf. Wolf is now in the hall of fame. I hope that I can do that for Charlie Sumner as well.

The word great is thrown around way too much these days. In regards to true greatness, the Mt. Rushmore of Oakland Raiders leadership was one of the greatest in the history of the game.   You had John Madden; the ultimate motivator and players coach. You had Charlie Sumner, a genius in game management and game preparation. There was Ron Wolf, who was probably the greatest evaluator of talent in the history of the NFL. Then you had Al Davis, the amazing leader who demanded excellence and loyalty, and is in the top 5 most important figures in NFL history.  Three hall of famers and another with hall of fame talent.

Al Davis and Ron Wolf said it constantly in regards to their defensive philosophy; the quarterback must go down and go down hard. Charlie Sumner was more than happy to accommodate them.

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The offensive players in most Super Bowls get all of the attention but in reality if you look at the Raiders 3 Super Bowl wins, their defenses dominated and harassed some great offensive teams and quarterbacks. For two of those Super Bowls; and for many years; the leader of the defense was the great Charlie Sumner.

Sumner started his coaching career when Al Davis came to Oakland in 1963.   He began as the defensive backs coach.   He then went to Pittsburgh and was one of the coaches that helped start the Steel Curtain era. He was fast becoming a hot commodity in coaching and the lowly New England Patriots called him to run their defense.

Within 2 years the Patriots defense greatly improved and they had their first non losing season in 8 years. Within 3 years of Sumner arriving, the Patriots were in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and they lost a controversial game in Oakland against the Raiders. Mike Haynes who became a star with New England, has given a lot of credit to Charlie Sumner helping him to become a good player. The Patriots were big and physical.

He returned to Oakland and he continued to show a cerebral approach off the field, and a physical one on it. He helped lead an amazing run in 1980 that lead to a Super Bowl win; the first Super Bowl title for any Wild Card team.

At times the Raiders offense struggled that year and the defense kept them in the games that they did. It was during a high scoring era with the San Diego Chargers “Air Coryell” attack leading the way with an electric and explosive offense. The Raiders found ways to win though.

In the playoffs the Raiders stunned the NFL by beating the upstart Cleveland Browns “Cardiac Kids” in a frigid game 14-12. The game was saved by an amazing interception by Mike Davis. “River City” Sam Rutigliano was the Cleveland Browns coach and he was known for taking risks. Sumner had anticipated this and had the defensive backfield play up; ready for the pass; just in case the Browns decided to throw the ball.

The next week the Raiders stunned the NFL again by beating the heavily favored San Diego Chargers 34-27 in San Diego, in what is probably the Chargers greatest team in their proud history. The Raiders seemed destined to win early. On their first drive Jim Plunkett threw a probable interception that bounced off a Chargers players hands and right into the hands of Raiders tight end Raymond Chester who happily coasted to a 65 yard touchdown. The Raiders defense held the mighty Chargers to only 3 fourth quarter points for a 34-27 win.

In the Super Bowl against Philadelphia, the Raiders again were an underdog by 4 points against a very physical Eagles team that had dominated the Raiders and quarterback Jim Plunkett earlier in the year with a 10-7 victory in the city of brotherly love.

In the Super Bowl, the offense was good but the defense was better. Sumner began mixing occasional blitzes and putting pressure on Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski. The Raiders pass rush made Ron Jaworski rush many throws and the vaunted Eagles running game with Wilbert Montgomery was stifled to an amazing 69 total yards as a team.

Rod Martin had the greatest defensive game in the history of the Super Bowl with 3 amazing interceptions. Charlie Sumner’s defense was so dominating, the Raiders won 27-10 with Plunkett only completing 13 passes in 21 attempts. Two touchdowns to Cliff Branch sealed the win.

Charlie Sumner’s shining moment was in Super Bowl XVIII. The Raiders were playing the highest scoring offense in the history of the NFL up to that time in Washington. The Raiders had lost to them @ RFK Stadium in week 5 by a score of 37-35 in a classic thriller.

Washington was first listed as an amazing 10 point favorite and many said the Super Bowl was actually played the week before. They had beaten Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers @ RFK to win the NFC title game. Most felt they would handle the Raiders fairly easily and if they did, they would be the GREATEST team in football history.

Charlie Sumner changed up his tactics in the Super Bowl and went after quarterback Joe Theisman. The Raiders would get an amazing 6 sacks during the game, including 3 in the fourth quarter. Washington’s brilliant rushing attack with Joe Washington and John Riggins running behind the famous “hogs” was grounded and held to 2.8 yards per rush.  No one ever dominated Washington’s offensive line the way the Raiders did.

Al Davis hated to blitz but Sumner brought the very rare cornerback blitz as a constant weapon.  He had surprised teams in the post season with it.   Davis had one rule; if it works and you win, then I’ll stay out of it.  He did.

Late in the first half of the Super Bowl, Washington called time out.   They had the ball deep in their own territory. To the amazement of an unhappy and very angry Matt Millen, Charlie Sumner replaced him with backup linebacker Jack Squirek who was good against the pass. Sumner remembered in week 5 that Joe Theisman ran a screen to Joe Washington in the same part of the field late in the half. It went for a long pass play that lead to a late touchdown.

Sumner told Squirek that he was sure that they would run a screen and he told him to shadow running back Joe Washington who was the best pass catching running back in the NFL. Then he grabbed him and said, “Don’t drop the interception”. In true Super Bowl lore, it happened exactly the way Sumner said it would. Theisman lofted a pass to Washington and Squirek jumped in front of the pass and scored a touchdown to put the Raiders up 21-3 at halftime. Matt Millen lost it and grabbed Charlie Sumner and lifted him up in the air screaming with happiness.

Amazingly the Raiders held the greatest offense in history at that time to ZERO points in the final 24 minutes of the game for a 38-9 demolition of the supposed GREATEST team in NFL history.

Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive mind to ever lead the Oakland Raiders. His defenses were designed to rush the quarterback and stop the run which is a huge key to any team that wants to win the Super Bowl. He was a big part of the success of the Oakland Raiders dynasty and will always hold a rightful place as a key player in the greatness of the Oakland Raiders.