a person, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
My father once said that the hardest part about aging is watching people around you; including family, friends, athletes and celebrities; slowly pass away as the years go by. As NFL fans it’s also hard for us to watch the iconic fans of our youth slowly leave us with the passing of time. Another great one has left us in Ron “The General” Rickard. “Raider Ron” was a Hall of Fame fan, and so much more.
We all have a story, and Ron’s was one of fun, determination, struggle, pain and joy. That’s why fans from all over the country have been saddened by his death at the tender age of 54 due to liver failure. He had been battling for over 6 years. He was hoping for a liver transplant but it wasn’t to be. He had contracted Hepatitis C which eventually damaged his liver. Sadly the liver that he long waited for came 12 hours after his passing.
Ron was a cherished member of the exclusive NFL Pro Football Ultimate Fan Association and his brothers and sisters from this group are hurting from his passing.
“Raider Ron’s” story is an amazing one. What made Ron’s story amazing is that he went to 246 straight games for the Raiders; HOME and AWAY! He even got to go to the game in Wembley to keep the streak alive after winning the “One Nation, Your Story” contest.
After his 200th game his friends that he competed with (mostly as a leader) at The Bad Boys of BBQ threw him a tailgate party in his honor. “Kingsford” Kirk Bronsord, the leader of the Bad Boys of BBQ stated in an article from the Raiders website, “I’m proud and honored to be able to say that this is a great friend of mine. He has done something that few people get to do. That’s 12 ½ years of never missing a game”.
Ron said of the streak, “one year I told my wife, you know, I want to go to every game and do it just one time. So I did it and everything went pretty smooth so I did it again the next year.”
After his 246th game in 2014, the Raiders honored him, and Lincoln Kennedy interviewed Ron on the field. He was thrilled to be able to light the Al Davis memorial torch.
Ron’s story doesn’t end there by a long shot. He began to create friendships with Raider fans from all over the country. He also created great friendships with fans of other teams. From Tampa Bay, to San Diego to anywhere there was an NFL stadium, people grew to love Rickard. That love was shown when at times fans would help him financially including getting him tickets and other items to keep the streak alive.
Fast friend and a person I enjoyed talking to; Ron’s Fellow Hall of Fame icon Tim Young; (The Famous Tampa Bay Fan known as “The Captain”) said he once came to a game in Oakland knowing no one. “I walked into the parking lot and I told Ron I was looking for a tailgate to adopt me. Ron quickly took me in and added me to the fold. A long friendship ensued”. (I will be featuring Tim’s story during the season hopefully with an amazing podcast!)
Friendship was important to Ron and people reciprocated that feeling. Ron said in an interview, “70 or 80 people; many of them Raider fans; have even offered to serve as living donors for me”.
Tim said that Ron grew up in Kentucky. He came to California and started a car wash which he later sold.
Ron’s personality was refreshing. Friends described him as blunt and to the point but also compassionate and caring. He had a goofy, fun side and even when he went through hardships he always had a smile to give to whoever needed it.
“He was very smart” Tim exclaimed, “but he never was arrogant and he never name dropped. He was extremely kind and humble. He showed great sportsmanship. Ron and his wife couldn’t have kids but he adored them. He mentored many people showing them the ropes of life, of being a good fan and of being a good person. He did so much for so many”.
Ron and his lovely wife Janet were true soulmates with years of devotion. He was loyal, appreciative, kind and strong. He was given a rotten hand, but he smiled and fought hard with all he had to the end. Ron enjoyed being a Raider fan but most of all he enjoyed just being. He inspired and touched so many, and he put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces.
The Commodores have a song called Heroes and here are some of the lyrics:
Heroes make the sun rise in the mornin’ Heroes make the moon shine bright at night Heroes make our lives a little stronger All our fears go away when he’s around
Whoa, heroes make our lives a little stronger If you look you’ll surely see they’re you and me
I am lucky in life. I had heroes. My mom and dad; my grandparents; uncles and aunts and great friends. Ron was a hero too. Heroes are not some of the popular dysfunctional celebrities who are famous for being famous. They are not boy band members or coaches that make risky play calls. Heroes are every day people living through the ups and downs of life. Heroes are soldiers fighting for our freedom. Heroes are teachers and janitors and wait staff.
A hero loves their family, shows kindness and love to others, and they don’t look down on people. And during their darkest hour they still think of those around them and how they can make things better for them. They are our partners, parents and grandparents who fight a disease with dignity and grace. They are those that give of themselves with no care or desire to worry about what they get in return. They are the ones that inspire others to do good with little to no fanfare. They are us. Ron was one of those heroes. The simplest of things.
The best way to honor Ron is to be that hero. To be the one that leads and encourages and inspires. Live with ethics and grace and be inspired by right and wrong. Be kind when others aren’t, and be level headed and open minded when anger fills the air. In a country that has lost it’s way with violence, anger and a lack of compromise, be a hero like Ron. In this way his legacy will live on. A good General mentors and inspires even after they are gone.
So in remembrance of Ron and in support of his amazing wife Janet, I would love for fans from all over the country to donate to help them financially during this tragic time. Healthcare costs have drained them (sadly) and if everyone donated just a little, they could reach their modest goal quickly.
I would also encourage those to go to his memorial this Saturday. Here is a website with the information, and an RSVP. A celebration tailgate party will include food, drink, music and dancing. I’m sure stories of Ron will be a plenty.
I have and always will support good fans from all of the NFL teams in their causes, hardships and triumphs. We are not gang members. We are people who are part of one team; the human race; who just want a chance to live a good, fun life in peace. Just like Ron, support one another and let’s never forget to live life to the fullest while never taking ourselves too seriously. And as Ron “The General” Rickard taught people; wear your colors proud, but wear your heart prouder.
In the first blockbuster trade of this year’s NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the #1 pick. In exchange for the top pick, the Titans get the Ram’s 1stpick which is #15; 2 second rounder’s (43 & 45) and a third round selection (76th). The Titans will also get the Ram’s first and third round picks in next year’s draft. The Titans now have 6 of the first 76 draft picks. The Rams get Tennessee’s 4thand 6thround picks next year.
This is why I don’t like trading up.
Why This Move Was Made & Will Backfire:
If you look at most of the teams that have traded up for a player, it almost always benefits the team that gave up the top pick. You give so much for a player and then in reality if they don’t pan out the near future of your team is ruined.
As I’ve said many times, you have to have patience. When most of the Oakland Raider fans wanted Reggie McKenzie’s head the first 2 years he worked, I said that this was a 4 to 5 year plan. Many fans; and for years Al Davis; over estimated how good this team was when it lacked talent. McKenzie cleaned house and built a team on solid drafts and a good signing here and there.
The Rams are making the mistake a lot of teams do. It’s the same mistake Minnesota made in 2013 when they traded up and used New England’s first round pick to get WR Cordarrale Patterson. The Vikings thought they were better than they were and felt they were a player away from being really good. They gave up 4 picks that turned into 3 starters for the Patriots Super Bowl Team for a good return man that is now 5th on their depth chart at WR. Even though Sammy Watkins is a good player, the Bills made the same mistake trading picks to move up to get him when they had several holes to fill.
I think this is a bad move by the Rams. Maybe I’ll be wrong and Carson Wentz or Jarod Goff will be super stars. Most scouts though think they are projects and their upside isn’t as great as others think. But in my mind I’m not giving up so many picks unless John Elway is there. If Wentz or Goff doesn’t pan out, this move will ruin the Rams for at least 2-3 years if not more. It’s a gutsy move but I think a desperate one for a team that is trying to make a splash after moving.
Mock Drafts Change Like The Wind:
What happens every year is that team’s desires change as time goes on; that’s why so many drop and move up in mock drafts over time. Athleticism and the NFL combines shock teams. It’s like they are enamored with athleticism. It’s kind of like the pretty cheerleader in high school. You finally get a chance to date her and then over time you realize she is high maintenance, stuck up and boring. You eventually move on. That’s what happens with NFL teams and players in the draft before they are selected. Athleticism is great but football talent is greater. Get football talent with athleticism and you have a super star.
Let’s now look at how this trade changes the fortunes of some teams.
Wow; what a great trade for them. They have holes to fill and now, with good drafting, they can literally rebuild their team in 2 drafts. It was a great move for a team that is on the rise.
San Francisco 49ers:
This almost assures that Colin Kaepernick is staying in San Francisco. With the Rams and Cleveland almost assuredly taking quarterbacks, this trade hurts. The 49ers really seemed to like Cal Bears QB Jared Goff and it looked like he was going to fall into their laps. Somewhere in Ann Arbor Michigan there is a middle aged college football coach wearing khakis and a blue hat who is smiling ear to ear.
This trade does one thing; it means the 49ers are almost for sure going to take a DL in the first round. The Ravens will take Ohio St. DLJoey Bosaor Oregon DLDeForest Bucknerwith the #6 pick I’m pretty sure, and then the player that is left over will go to SF.
This move is good and bad for Denver. Colin Kaepernick is almost for sure not leaving San Francisco. But if you look at the draft it also allows the Broncos to probably be able to pick Memphis QB Paxton Lynch at #15. I’m not a huge fan of Lynch’s but some really like him. There are rumors of trades with Buffalo for Tyrod Taylor but he’s limited as a QB in my opinion.
Look for Nick Foles (gulp); to possibly be wearing Orange next year in Denver. If they don’t plan on drafting Lynch then it’s almost for sure. The QB position has never been worse in the NFL. Look for Denver’s defense to again have to carry the load for this team.
San Diego Chargers:
The Chargers catch a huge break. Or did they? Most see monster LTLaremy Tunsilout of Mississippi now falling into their laps greatly helping out their offensive line. In most drafts some of the safest picks are OL and this is a great get for them. The Jags and the Cowboys are in front of them and no way are they taking a left tackle. To gain a great pick without doing anything is not bad.
The problem is the Chargers already have two pretty good starting Tackles in Joe Barksdale & King Dunlap. They also signed Chris Hairston for depth. Many feel the Chargers need a center big time but no center warrants that high of a pick. I see the Chargers going defense either with CB Jalen Ramsey, DL Joey Bosa or DL DeForest Buckner. While most online have Tunsil moving to SD, I see them going defense.
Kansas City Chiefs:
This probably won’t affect the Chiefs much. There are a lot of edge rushers in this draft and that’s something that they need. Tamba Hali is going to be 33 and Justin Houston’s injuries are a worry. I see them getting a solid player in this year’s DL heavy ensemble. Kevin Dodd?
Yes Raider Fans; let’s look at what this does to your Raiders.
I said it last year that the 2016 NFL draft is going to be a crap shoot and extremely exciting; maybe the most fun ever watching a draft. No one really knows what teams are going to do and what their evaluations of players are.
As I wrote in my article yesterday, I think right now the Raiders will takeReggie Ragland, MLB out of Alabama for their first pick. He is by far the best MLB in the draft but it’s slim pickings out there for inside linebackers. Some think there isnt’ even a second round MLB that warrants to be picked there. It’s a safe pick.
Three guys that are greatly climbing up the ladder that I spoke about a while back are Clemson DLShaq Lawson, Michigan St. OLJack Conklin, and OLBLeonard Floyd@ Georgia.
I wrote about these guys before and most ripped on me having them so high but now many mock drafts have these guys climbing big time. I have no idea why Kevin Dodd is ahead of Lawson in some peoples’ minds. Lawson was double teamed most of last year and Dodd was helped by that. Dodd also had only one good year at Clemson. I take Lawson all day. There were some games that Lawson played where he was obviously the best football player on the field.
Jack Conklinis a mean physical lineman. Good at pass protecting but great in run blocking. He needs work protecting the QB but I think he can be solid for a long time. Some of the major writers have him going to the Raiders and I think that’s kind of silly with their recent signings.
Sports Illustrated is obsessed with giving the Raiders another wide receiver in the first round but I think there is no way that happens.
The guy that I like a lot is Leonard Floyd. He’s a machine out there who makes plays. The problem with Floyd is he looks like Lawrence Taylor one game and then Rip Taylor the next. He needs maturity and focus.
I admit; Georgia was a dysfunctional wild-west show at times but if you give this guy discipline and he matures, wow. If the Raiders picked him I would not be upset. You can still try to fill in the MLB position later in the draft or with cap casualties that always are cut during training camp, because this guy just jumps off of the page. You know how I love pass rushers and seeing him blitzing behind Mack? Worse things could happen.
I love Clemson CBMackensie Alexandertoo. I think he’s the best DB in this draft. Teams were so intimidated with his skills that they just stopped throwing at him. He gave up 11 passes all year last year and no touchdowns. He has a toughness and swagger that reminds me of George Atkinson. He’s very strong and physical. Scouts don’t like that he’s a legit 5’ 10” but I still like him a lot. If he’s chosen I think it’s great.
If you have Alexander now you haveDavid Amerson,Sean Smithand Alexander as your top 3 cornerbacks, andReggie Nelson,Nate AllenandTJ Carrieas your safeties. Not exactly the Soul Patrol but it is pretty good.
Guys Falling For The Raiders Pick:
The two guys that are falling are Notre Dame OLRonnie Stanleyand Alabama DLAShawn Robinson. There are worries about Stanley’s passion for football and his work ethic. He has not shown much strength at times as well during pre-draft workouts. AShawn Robinson works hard and is a really good player but some say he’s not totally into football as a long term thing. Early retirements are occurring more and more in the NFL and it’s a risk that worries teams.
Ohio St. OLTaylor Decker; (who I originally had Conklin ahead of) was considered a for sure top 15 pick but now he’s not even in the first round in some people’s eyes.
Ohio St. CBEli Appleis raw and is also dropping on some boards. I am not a huge fan of his. I like Alexander a lot better. Again athleticism and the cookie cutter size for each position is popular in the NFL but I want football players.
Many people were also trying to promote Ohio St. OLBDarron Leebut I think that is a bad #1 pick. If you are going to get an MLB later in the draft I’d rather pick Floyd over Lee. Lee’s an athlete playing football. He has literally only played LB for 2 years of his life and he has a lot to learn. He’s also a smallish LB and not a real physically strong one at that.
I see two people on my social media timeline that are promoting Ole Miss DLRobert Nkemdicheabout 5-10 times a day. In reality he only has 7 sacks in 3 years, and in his last 7 games last year he had only 2 tackles a game. You tube videos and reading experts opinions is great, but if you really want to know how good players are you have to watch them play.
I pass big time on Robert and I see in some mock drafts he’s not even in the first round anymore. ESPN’s Todd McShay even got off his bandwagon and dropped him out of the first round. (Finally!) Remember when I warned you about Jets Vernon Gholston in 2008 and Jadeveon Clowney being busts and some of you didn’t listen? Listen to Brother Jim.
I can’t see Ohio St. RB Ezekiel Elliot passing by the Eagles, Bears or the Giants without being chosen.
There you have it; so get the food ready; call in sick to work; the kids are at school; open up a cold one or a glass of wine and take the day to enjoy the NFL Draft. We’ve had a draft party for 16 years and it’s something I look forward to every year.
After Tyler Summitt was fired as head coach of the Louisiana Tech women’s basketball team for an affair that he had with a player, the anger and outrage in the media was epic. Looking back though, they sure didn’t act that way when he got hired. With rumors of a possible pregnancy also looming, there is much pain to go around.
When Summitt was hired by Athletic Director Tommy McClelland, he called the hire a home run. The media came to Ruston in droves wanting to know more about the golden child of icon Pat Summitt. Many praised his maturity, drive and character. Those same people are now shredding him to bits.
I remember a few nasty comments directed at me when Tyler was hired. I posted on social media one statement; LOL what a joke.
Mechelle Voepel of ESPN W has been very outspoken about the present situation; and rightfully so; but she sure wasn’t that outraged when he was originally hired. Here is an interview with her and west coast writer Michelle Smith when Tyler Summitt was hired.
Let’s be real; the baby boomer’s love to spoil their kids. With some parents it’s almost a competition. But in reality it’s created a very self-absorbed generation who is used to their parents paving the way.
Tyler was hired because his last name was Summitt, but when he was hired, only a handful of reporters were outraged. Name another 23 year old on the planet that is going to get a head basketball coaching job at a major college university. Gordon Ramsey will become a vegetarian before that happens again. Most reporters said all the politically correct things that they could.
It reminds me of the great speech that actor Ralph Fiennes gave in the movie “Quiz Show”. Even though it was not part of the actual statement from Charles Van Doren who was implicated in the scandal, it is a telling sign of what our society at times has become.
“I’ve been acting a role, maybe all my life, of thinking that I’ve done more, accomplished more, and produced more than I have. I have had all the breaks. I have stood on the shoulders of life, and I’ve never gotten down into the dirt to build, to erect a foundation of my own. I have flown too high on borrowed wings. Everything came too easy.”
Ralph Fiennes playing Charles Van Doren in “Quiz Show”
A Slap in the Face for Those That Deserve Jobs:
When Tyler was hired I literally was in shock. What a slap in the face it was to all of the assistant coaches who wait years for their big break. I’m sure many around the country shook their heads when Tyler Summitt waltzed into this job.
Below is the resume of ex associate head coach for Tennessee’s women’s basketball Kyra Elzy. After 20 years of being in the college game she has never even been offered a head coaching spot. Now she is finally being rumored to possibly be hired as head coach of UCF. She’s been in the game almost as long as Tyler has been alive.
Tennessee Lady Vols
Associate Head Coach (2015-Present)
Assistant Coach (2012-15)
Associate Head Coach (2010-12)
Assistant Coach (2008-10)
Assistant Coach (2004-08)
Assistant Coach (2002-04)
Administrative Assistant (2001-02)
Collegiate Playing Experience
1997 & 1998 NCAA Champs
1998, 1999, 2000 & 2001 SEC Champs
1998, 1999 & 2000 SEC Tourney Champs
Elzy also has been lauded for her recruiting skills which are huge at the college level. She’s helped keep Tennessee’s program afloat after Pat Summitt retired. How in the world can she not get a job but 23 year old Tyler can be the head coach of the Lady Techsters? Sheer madness. I watched about 5 interviews back when he was hired and when they started bringing up all the notes he took and how he followed his mom, I looked as confused as Jessica Simpson at a spelling bee. Who were they kidding?
Our Weirdness Towards Cheating:
Cheating among college basketball coaches is not new. LSU head coach Pokey Chatman had a bizarre situation when one of her ex players; and present assistants; threw her under the bus and said they were in a relationship. Supposedly even after she did that, they were still close. The details were never really discussed. Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino had sex in a restaurant after hours and then paid for the woman to have an abortion so his wife wouldn’t find out. She then tried to blackmail him into giving her millions. Newly retired Wisconsin Men’s coach Bo Ryan’s supposed mistress is on the attack. He mysteriously resigned. That’s just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are more stories. Heck, here in California our Governor (yes we can be dumb) had a baby from one of his hired help and his wife Maria Shriver within a month of each other.
Of course we give ALL of those people a pass; but a dumb 25 year old who is in over his head is the devil. Give me a break.
I see a lot of self-righteous grandstanding out there in the media about this story, but let’s be real. Cheating is now a part of many peoples lifestyle. There are sites now for married people that want to cheat anonymously with millions of people on it. Celeb’s & athletes cheat all the time but hey they are famous so it’s all good to some. Over half of American married people have cheated. We are lauding a great NBA basketball player right now who is retiring and his sexual escapades are of legend. Glass houses.
Many US presidents had someone on the side, and only God knows about the Senate and the House. It’s as wrong as could be but we’ve created this mess. Having morals is uncool to some, especially the younger you are. If you want a hit tv show nowadays you need 3 things; Sexy people, sex, and violence. The Waltons’ isn’t playing anymore. In fact the worse a character is the more we like them. From Breaking Bad to Tony Soprano; we eat it up like it’s got the antidote.
The Deeper Pain:
Forget about sports for a minute. Again, there have been rumors that the girl Tyler had an affair with is pregnant. I’m not going to say her name or get into the details but I feel beyond sad for Tylers wife. To realize that the whole world knows about your husband cheating is pretty rough. Add the fact that they may financially and emotionally now have to take care of a kid that he may have fathered because he cheated, and this is a bad dream for this girl. The immature comments of one of the girls on the team who was first suspected to be the person he cheated with; along with players parents getting more & more into the drama while talking to the media; leads to even more pain. And don’t get me started on all the fools that have unprotected sex. If that was the case for Tyler and this girl, then you can’t get any dumber.
I feel bad for Tennessee fans. They love Pat Summitt like UCLA loves John Wooden. Tyler was the golden boy and fans already had hopes that he would someday coach the Lady Volunteers. I also feel bad for Louisiana Tech fans. They’ve had some lean years and this will set them back again emotionally. The pain of this disgrace happening to a once proud program has hurt a lot of people. Recruit signings have been put on hold.
I don’t feel bad for the administration and AD Tommy McClelland of Louisiana Tech though. What a stupid hire. If I was in charge heads would straight up roll. LTU needs to clean house and start anew in my opinion.
And of course we all ache for Pat Summitt. Inflicted at a relatively young age with an insidious condition that many are saying is hard to watch progress. The pain that she must feel after she spent so many years creating a program based on toughness, discipline, and character is hard to think about. She deserved better than this. I’m sure Tyler feels terrible for the pain his selfish act is causing to the one person that always put light into his eyes.
My Hopes for Tyler:
If I was Tyler’s friend I would say that your resignation was weak. I’d do another pressor or even a Youtube video turning off the comments section; and tell him to be much more contrite. I’d also tell him to go back to the drawing board. I would take a year off and then go to a Division 2 or 3 school and start over. I would make accountability my goal. I also would get out of the woman’s game and coach men. In reality it’s going to be awful hard for him to ever get this opportunity again but it will be a chance for him to get his life back together. Financially he’s set for life. He was the sole heir and Pat chose the option for her pension that gives Tyler 14,000 a year for the rest of his life. He also got her cars and her house that was put up for sale.
He screwed up big time. If an ordinary person cheats it’s bad enough. If a son of an icon cheats the pitch forks and torches will follow and it’s out in the open for all to see. Like most sons he adores his mom, and now he’s brought a shame that has stained their name. My hopes are that he humbly takes time to take responsibility and mature in a way he hasn’t yet. He needs to man up and fix this. And maybe someday; after he has paid his dues; he will stand on his own two feet and no longer fly on borrowed wings.
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.
I love the people of Alabama, Oakland, Southern California and all over the world that support me so kindly! People from over 40 nations have read my articles. Their positive encouragement and support is beyond measure and I’m eternally loyal to you all. You are an inspiration and I am very appreciative and grateful!
I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Fowler and Drew DeArmond. Please support them and listen to them live online.
Here is my interview with the amazing Host Ryan Fowler on 99.1 The Game on why Ken Stabler did NOT get into the NFL Hall of Fame until now.
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The capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.
The last 2 weeks I read 14 articles from 2015 on Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie. They were from professional writers to homer Raider bloggers to ESPN and NFL.com. Only ONE said keep Reggie McKenzie as a GM. Oh how the seasons have changed.
The Ron Wolf Effect:
When most fans and many writers wanted Reggie McKenzie fired, I said to give him time. I ripped on his poor moves as well but I also trust success. The reason I said don’t fire Reggie was NOT because of Reggie McKenzie. It was because of Ron Wolf. Ron Wolf taught and mentored Reggie when he was at Green Bay.
When I wrote an article on the greatest Raider of all time, ¾ of the fans that read it didn’t even know who Ron Wolf was. I remember my dad raving about him when I was a kid and beyond. Wolf was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Tim Brown. Wolf continues to be excited about McKenzie as a GM.
On a frigid day right before Christmas in 1967, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Joe Kuharich was asked about the angry boo’s in the stands after a tough loss. “I pay little attention to the 60,000 assistants in the stands each Sunday. If you listen to the fans, eventually you’ll be sitting with them”.
Reggie didn’t listen to fans and the media when they ripped him and he’s not listening to them now when they are praising him. If you read your own press clippings you’ll start to believe them. He smartly always limited his interaction with everyone just like Ron Wolf did. Something most coaches and athletes should do more.
The Changing Atmosphere Surrounding Him:
We all do it; we are emotional about something and then we write or post something on social media that we later regret. Either it was too harsh or nasty. We didn’t really feel that way but it was just a knee jerk reaction out of disappointment or anger.
It’s funny to see many of the “strongest” we’ll say detractors of Reggie McKenzie now turning the other way. People wonder why most “experts”, “insiders”, mock draft gurus, NFL draft gurus, (and many fans and social media masters for that matter); rarely talk about their past predictions unless it’s the ones they got right. It’s because they don’t want the accountability and they are often wrong. You hear them on radio talk shows, online, and social media. They are often wrong but never in doubt. Again, it’s ok to be wrong sometimes but if you are wrong most of the time; then use your inside voice.
I say this because many of his early detractors forgot that Reggie McKenzie had to fix a train wreck and he’s done pretty well so far. I said it years ago when McKenzie was hired and fans were telling me how good the Raiders were. No they were wrong; this wasn’t a good team for a long time. No,they didn’t have a lot of talent. No, giving these draft picks time was not going to make them good. The Raiders were a mess and I said this would be a 4-5 year process; that’s how bad this organization was and I think the Raiders are right on schedule.
The Al Davis Effect; Reggie Fixes the Mess:
The teams of the 1970’s especially were loaded. In the greatest era of the NFL, the players didn’t make much money. Many had outside ventures. The teams could spend as much money as they wanted and many teams had backups that could start for other teams. Running a team was easier.
With a financial mess, Reggie McKenzie had a very difficult job. In the new era of the NFL, there is the salary cap, partially guaranteed contracts and some players are making a lot of money. Reggie McKenzie had to fix the bad situation the Raiders were in and rebuild. You then have to fight the media and the fans that have no patience. In today’s internet age, patience is waiting for lunch time when it’s 10 a.m. in the morning.
Mr. Davis was overpaying underachieving players, and he drafted very poorly. Al Davis became obsessed with NFL combine numbers and size; especially 40 times; and it destroyed the Raiders. Their list of bad draft picks; ESPECIALLY most of their Defensive Back Picks with the fast 40 times; are of legend. When you don’t watch game films and pass up on the Calvin Johnsons’, Adrian Peterson’s and Aaron Rodgers, you are failing.
McKenzie was not in denial though. He didn’t have Al Davis’ new mentality. Mr. Davis was in denial like some of the fans were every year; “we are really good and we just need 1-2 key players.” In reality for a long time the Raiders were NOT really good and they needed to rebuild. It was like building a house but denying you have a bad foundation. You were constantly adding floors or making over a room to make it look better when in reality it didn’t change a thing. Reggie McKenzie got that you have to destroy the foundation and build a new one. Let’s look at how he has done that in Oakland.
Reggie McKenzie’s Draft History:
Just like his signings, overall his drafts have improved with time. The DJ Hayden pick made no sense especially when DT Star Lotulelei had fallen in their lap. Hayden was another athlete playing football. Some of the “experts” had Hayden as the best CB in the draft. I watched Houston play a few times and was shocked. What were they watching? To see Lotulelei starting for the Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl was painful. McKenzie improved with time though and he’s picked up their QB and other key members along the way.
The 2014 draft was the start of the rejuvenating of the Raiders. Five of the draft choices ended up being starters who mostly excelled. Last year’s draft shows a lot of promise as well. It’s a far cry from where the Raiders were in his first 2 years and it’s the core of their success.
Some fans are now going the other way making McKenzie out to be a genius but as I always say, let’s deal with the facts. The bad signings McKenzie has made are in abundance. Matt Schaub, Matt Flynn, LaMarr Woodley, Curtis Lofton, Nate Allen, Shawntae Spencer, Andre Hardy, Antonio Smith, Tarell Brown, Maurice Jones-Drew, Roy Helu Jr., Carlos Rogers, Pat Lee, Mike Brisiel, Kevin Boothe, Ron Bartell, Colin Miller, and Dave Tollefson were just some of the epic fails the Raiders had in free agency.
Even with a couple of good pick-ups, his first 2 years of free agency was a nightmare for Reggie McKenzie. Fast forwarding to 2014 the Raiders had an ok free agent class with more misses than hits. The big miss was Lamar Woodley who much was expected of. Donald Penn though was a key contributor with this class.
In 2015 the Raiders overall did a good job in free agency. Dan Williams and Rodney Hudson were great additions and Lee Smith was a bulldozer as a run blocking tight end that also caught some passes. Malcolm Smith had his first year as a starter go fairly well. He tailed off late in the year especially against the run.
On the bad side, Roy Helu Jr. was never used properly and was a waste of a signing. Curtis Lofton struggled mightily against the pass and Trent Richardson didn’t last long. A lot was given to Nate Allen but he struggled tackling all year; and that was when he wasn’t injured.
The 2016 free agent class is already a very good one and there still are signings that are ahead. This has already been the Raiders best free agent signing period; at least on paper; that they have had since Reggie was hired. The longer Reggie has the job, the better he gets.
How Reggie McKenzie Grew Into a Good GM:
McKenzie is humble; and as a good leader you take the blame and admit your mistakes. Many in sports; and life for that matter; don’t do that. When you admit a mistake you can fix it. His signing of players which are salary cap friendly and dropping them if they don’t work out is often greatly overlooked.
A huge mistake Reggie fixed was that in the early part of his career he would wait way too long to sign players. He would say they weren’t going to be hasty in their signings but sometimes the Raiders got stuck with slim pickings in free agency because they were just too slow to sign players.
He also improved his draft. After talking to Ron Wolf, he went back to getting football players. The defensive line has always been the second most important part of your team behind a QB and they’ve spent lots of money and energy into the DL. The Quarterback must go down, and go down hard was Ron Wolf & Al Davis’ motto.
What’s Next For Reggie and the Raiders:
As Reggie said last month, there is still much work for the Raiders to do and they haven’t won anything yet. The Raiders don’t have the DL or the pass rush to win at a high level in the NFL yet, but the off season is still young. Bruce Irvin has 14 sacks in the last 3 years and Mario Edwards is not a great pass rusher; and that’s if he comes back at all. Aldon Smith is out for most of the year too. It doesn’t matter who your DB’s are if you don’t have a pass rush. I now have trust that McKenzie will not be in denial and the draft will yield another quality DL. I would love to see either AShawn Robinson or Shaq Lawson drafted in the first round. Mock drafts are all over the place so as always, they don’t know what players the teams are going to draft and neither do we. If you get either one of these players, now you have something special. Both have great work ethics and are hard workers.
The Raiders also need a safety and other bits and pieces. They are not done in free agency yet and the NFL draft is also ahead. The salary cap limits how good you can be; that’s the design; to create parity. So the drafts are a key to success.
Overall though as time passes, Reggie McKenzie has improved every year he has been a GM. Reggie McKenzie is definitely old school and as long as he doesn’t change and he keeps being humble and open minded, he will be fine. Not everything works out so admitting mistakes and learning from them are huge keys to his success. The nightmare of 13 straight non-winning seasons may finally be over and success seems to now be a probability and not just a hope.
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.