The Oakland Raiders lost another link to their storied past when AFL historian Todd Tobias announced on Twitter that Raider great defensive back Dave Grayson had passed away at the age of 78. No cause of death was given at this time.
Dave played for Oakland between 1965-1970. He played for the Dallas Texans/Chiefs before that, and was originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. Grayson was an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oregon.
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.”
Dave Grayson went undrafted because at 5’ 10” and 185 pounds, he was dubbed too small by many NFL experts including Cowboys coach Tom Landry after the Cowboys briefly signed him and then let him go. Gil Brandt liked him a lot and told the upstart AFL team the Dallas Texans (eventually the Kansas City Chiefs) to give him a shot. Grayson was a key cog in the KC return game and at defensive back. Grayson was fast and a ball hawk, something the Chiefs coaches loved.
Grayson held the AFL record for the longest interception return for a touchdown at 99 yards against the New York Titans in 1961. Dave made many other key plays for the Chiefs including his famous interception off of Houston QB George Blanda in the Texans epic double overtime win in the 1962 AFL Championship game.
For the Raiders he was a great player both in the regular season and in the post season. He ended up with 48 total interceptions with an amazing 933 return yards after his interceptions. His best year was in 1968 where he had 10 interceptions and 1 fumble recovery. He was also a quality top 10 kick return man as well.
Other career highlights:
-48 career interceptions with an amazing 19.4 yard return average
-25.4 kick off return average
-6 time AFL all-star
-4 time First team All Pro
-2 time AFL Champion
-Voted on the AFL all time team
-Career interception leader in the AFL
The Greatest Defense Nobody Knows About:
Dave was a part of the amazing Oakland defense called the 11 angry men. This defense is one of the greatest of all time that never gets their due.
In the amazing 1967 season, the Raiders had an astounding 67 sacks & 30 interceptions. Teams averaged 3 turnovers a game against the Raiders. This was also only in a 14 game season. The record for sacks is held by the 1984 Chicago Bears at 72, and with almost a 5 sacks per game average, it’s pretty safe to say that the Raiders would have eclipsed that record fairly easily in 16 games.
Even with only 14 games, the Raiders STILL hold the record for causing the most yards lost while an opponent passes. This record is now 50 years old.
Another record that stands is that the Raiders lead the league in sacks for 3 straight years. Another 5 decade old record. Oakland also has the all time record for leading the league in sacks at 5. That’s how great they were. The offense always gets the publicity but even in their Super Bowl wins and in the 1960’s, getting pressure on the QB was paramount to the Raiders success. Offense puts butts in the seats and gets all of the publicity, but defense wins championships.
(Below are the all time stats for sacks by a team; many records are held by the Oakland Raiders)
With the likes of Ken Davidson and Tom Keating leading the way the Raiders had a huge and ferocious defense. The names of the past are a who’s who of Raider lore. Two more underrated DB’s in Rodger Bird, Kent McCloughan and Warren Powers were teamed up with Howie Williams, Dave Grayson and Willie Brown.
Dan Conners played MLB while Bill Laskey & Gus Otto shored the outside positions. Dan Birdwell and Ike Lassiter, Carleton Oats and Art Thoms; so many proud names of the past that helped the Raiders to unreal records in the 1960’s. From 1967-69 the Raiders were a ridiculous 37-4-1, the best record in football.
Hall of Fame:
I’ve written at length about the biases of the NFL Hall of Fame and why some are not in the hall. There are many that should be in the hall of fame (i.e. Cliff Branch) and I’ve written about them below. I’m glad that more people are agreeing with me.
One of the great biases with NFL historians, is their turning their noses up at the AFL saying how it was no where near as good as the NFL. In the beginning days I totally agree. As time went on though, that myth was changed when the Jets beat the heavily favored Colts in Super Bowl 3. More than a few people feel the Raiders and the Chiefs of the 1960’s had more talent and speed than the aging Green Bay Packers but they were overwhelmed in the Super Bowls against a mythical team with the greatest football coach of all time and an aura and mental toughness and a refusal to make mistakes.
It’s a shame that only 3 all time AFL defensive players are in the NFL HOF. There are others that deserve it and I think Dave Grayson is one of them. With his speed and ball hawking skills, he made big plays at big times and he’s never received the credit he deserved, much like the great Raider defenses of the day.
I hope that others will join me in giving appreciation for this great Chief and Raider player. Another forgotten icon of the AFL and NFL who should never be forgotten.