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“Oakland Raiders great Phil Villapiano; A Hall of Fame Man, Living a Hall of Fame Life”

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Phil & his daughter Andrea

(I humbly thank Andrea Villapiano Kelly for allowing me to use some of her private photos that I’m able to share with you)

Please follow Phil’s Facebook Page; get him into the NFL Hall of Fame!  Show that Raider loyalty!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/ 

Follow them on Twitter:     https://twitter.com/VillapianOK

 

A Hall of Famer in my world.

Friends used to ask who do you want on a podcast or even to just have a beer with.  The 4 people remain the same.  Ken Stabler, Bill King, John Madden, and Phil Villapiano. Today I’m writing about one of the most popular Raider players of all time, and one of my dad’s favorites in Phil Villapiano.   “Foo” was a Raider from the start.

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Phil during his days at Bowling Green; team MVP and defensive player of the year

From Day One:

When Phil Villapiano was drafted, most teams had him going in the 3rd or 4th round. The Raiders drafted him in the 2nd round out of Bowling Green which was a surprise to some. Many teams had Villapiano listed at only 210 pounds, being too small to play linebacker.   Back then there was no NFL combines or official weigh ins, so most teams would share information with each other to save money and time.  The Raiders refused to share information.

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Phil with his sons Phil & Michael

What the Raiders knew about Villapiano was that he was legitimately 225 pounds. He was an instinctive player who loved to hit. His speed laterally was excellent and a big part of his game. He could play every down and had great feel in pass coverage.   In the same draft Oakland selected Jack Tatum, Clarence Davis, and backup tight end Bob Moore. With Tatum and Villapiano, they had 2 hard hitters to go with another that loved contact in George Atkinson. The Raiders added Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas in the following draft and their back 7 was as physical and skilled as any in the history of the game.

The Raiders offenses were awesome but most forget that in 3 Super Bowl wins the Raiders only gave up 33 points and had three great QB’s in Fran Tarkenton, Ron Jaworski & Joe Theismann running for their lives most of the time.  In fact all 4 teams in last years AFC and NFC Championship games were in the top 5 scoring defenses in the entire NFL.  It isn’t sexy but defense still wins championships.

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Dave Rowe, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Ken Stabler

Phil’s Coming Out Party:

In week 3 of the 1971 season, rookie Villapiano was thrown into the fire and he had to start due to injuries at linebacker. Phil had an amazing game on national television against the Browns in front of 84,000 screaming Cleveland fans. To the dismay of every fan outside of Oakland, Howard Cosell raved about Phil during the Raiders 34-20 win, making him a household name over night and announce another weapon for the hated Oakland Raiders.

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Phil Speaking after he was elected to the College Senior Bowl Hall of Fame

A Key Member of the Raiders Defense:

Phil soon became a mainstay in the Raiders physical style of play.  He could cover all parts of the field, and his violent play was just what the Raiders wanted.   In front of the famous “Soul Patrol” and behind an aggressive and relentless defensive line, Monte Johnson, Ted Hendricks, Willie Hall, and Villapiano manned one of the more underrated LB crews and defenses in the NFL. Al Davis and Ron Wolf’s motto for their defense was one thing; the QB must go down, and go down hard. Raider fans loved seeing Villapiano slowly and methodically hitting his arm pad on the line of scrimmage letting opponents know that he was coming and he was going to hit somebody.

(A video showing the brutality of the Raiders defense and Phil Villapiano’s team “activities”)

The renegade Raiders were by far the king of bay area sports and they capped off their success in 1976 with a dominating performance in Super Bowl 11 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. There were some sweaty palms at the start of the game though. The Raiders took the opening kickoff and went down the field but kicker Errol Mann missed a 29 yard field goal. Later in the 1st, Viking great Fred McNeil blocked a Ray Guy punt for Guy’s first blocked punt in his career.   Minnesota recovered it on the Raiders 3 yard line and Raider fans began to worry. On third down, Villapiano forced a fumble from RB Brent McClanahan which fellow LB Willie Hall recovered and the Raiders went on a long drive for a short FG. Phil’s key play changed the momentum of the game.

(Phil is even clutch during a fun time at the 2009 Biletnikoff Celebrity Golf Tournament)

The Wild Days In Oakland:

Along with their amazing winning ways, Oakland also lead the league in having fun. The Raiders off the field craziness was unequalled, with Phil Villapiano being the unofficial ring leader of all of the antics. The stories of the Raiders training camp days in Santa Rosa are of legend. So many fans enjoyed spending time with players at North Bay hotspots and one of their favorites to party with was Villapiano and Ken Stabler.

(Phil’s interview on his foundation to save the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy)

He would set up activities and games to break the monotony of training camp.   And as many players have said, cheating was not only encouraged but a necessity. Players drank with fans, outcasts, and anyone else that was considered part of the Raider family. Hells Angels and the Black Panthers would befriend some Raiders, and even a few shady figures would emerge. While most celebrities loved glamorous teams like the Cowboys, actors like James Garner became friends with the Raiders of the 70’s along with owner Al Davis.

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Phil Loves his golf especially charity events

From paying a woman to run naked across the practice field, to setting a small fire to stop the monotony of training camp, the pranks were wild and Phil was usually the instigator. Phil once even helped put on a wedding at one of the restaurants with some of the Raiders helping with the direction and officiating of the nuptials. After passing the hat around they helped the couple go on a honeymoon. Of course the wedding was bogus, and to this day no one knew if the couple ever found out they really weren’t married.

Phil & the Raiders Legacy:

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Phil is all smiles giving the #1 sign late in the game of the Raiders 1st Super Bowl win against the Vikings

I fought with some old time NFL fans and writers last year who tried to downplay how good the Raiders were. We all know how I love facts so I was loaded for bear. Daryle Lamonica was 38-4-1 in his first 43 starts for Oakland.   Ken Stabler was 50-11-1 in his first 62 starts and the Raiders were 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night football games. No offense, but if Derek Carr and the Raiders had those stats today, with the fervor of social media, they would be erecting statues for them.

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Raiders Greats; Phil Villapiano and Jim Otto

The Facts About The Raiders & the 1970’s:

The Raiders won more games than any other team in the NFL in the 1970’s, the greatest decade in NFL history.   During the 1970-75 dynasty of the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders were 4-2 against the mighty Dolphins including 2-1 in the playoffs. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s, the Raiders were the only team with success owning a 6-5 record. They were 2-3 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs but one of those wins was the Immaculate Reception, and another was the 16-10 loss in Pittsburgh, where “somehow” outside the hash-marks the field had become completely frozen after the Steelers groundskeepers allegedly watered it down in the frigid cold of a Pennsylvania winter day. One of the few players Pittsburgh Hall of Famer Mel Blount struggled with was Cliff Branch. Al Davis got in an argument, yelling at Pete Rozelle before the game on the field saying how this now limited Cliff Branch’s speed. And they say the Raiders cheated!

In an online contest created by the NFL on their website, the 1976 Raiders were voted the greatest team in NFL history by over 5.2 million fans.

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

Phil was a big part of all this success. In fact most felt the Raiders were better in 1977 but Phil and OL John Vella had season ending injuries.  The beat up Raiders were never healthy for the rest of the decade.   Eventually he was traded to Buffalo not long after he made comments that the Raiders needed to stay in Oakland. He said that he never felt those comments got Al Davis mad, but Phil is a nicer guy than I am and I’m not so sure.

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Phil making sure Steelers great Franco Harris goes nowhere.

Phil is Just as Good Off the Field:

First off, congratulations to Phil who just won the Jersey Shore’s greatest Sports Personality in the last 50 years! We hope that this is not the last HOF he gets into.  Again, please go to his Facebook page to support his Hall of Fame run.

http://shoresportsnetwork.com/phil-villapiano/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1878470965816620/

When I first worked for the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation in honor of my cousin Celestina, I was so happy to see Phil Villapiano being such a huge contributor for them. Phil has lent himself to many charities and he is beloved by fans and organizations alike. Phil is in various Hall of Fames and his other charities include saving the Jersey Shore after hurricane Sandy and MDA & ALS.

http://www.niashf.org/inductees/phil-villapiano/

The story of Phil giving his Super Bowl ring to inspire a man in a wheel chair is amazing and continues to spread online.

http://www.nj.com/sports/index.ssf/2017/02/one_raiders_star_walked_the_walk_with_the_gift_of.html

He also has bravely offered his brain to CTE research as well. Players like Jim Plunkett and George Atkinson have discussed the issue and the struggles they are having, and Phil also has done several interviews on the effects that football has had on his body.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2016/04/21/raiders-great-phil-villapiano-pledges-brain-to-research/

Phil recently has joined his voice with other former NFL players to support flag football instead of tackle football for kids under the age of 14.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/18/health/nfl-no-tackle-football-kids/index.html

Jim’s Jamz:

Phil joins the ranks of so many special Raider players. Their love of life, football and their fellow man is both inspiring and endearing. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey and raised in Asbury Park, Phil has left his mark on many hearts around the country. He has seen pain and tragedy but through it all he lives life with joy and a smile. Graduating from Bowling Green and making a name on the national scene in Oakland, he is more than a college icon, former NFL Rookie of the Year, 2 time all NFL player, or 5 time all AFC player. A lot more.

I was once asked on a podcast why the Raiders players relationship with the fans was so special because they said they just didn’t understand it.  I said, “Most people look at the players as celebrity athletes. It’s their team. Even though I was too little to understand anything, in Oakland the Raiders were not celebrities but they were considered family. The players were underpaid so many worked, played and were socially active with the fans.   They also genuinely enjoyed and cared for each other, and the players were a part of the community. From Al Davis who the NFL and most owners hated; to the great Bill King who the networks and the Warriors took off of tv for looking like the Devil; neither they, the players or the fans really fit in anywhere.  Except in Oakland”.

“They worked hard and played hard and loved their families. They were outcasts and throw aways that made sense to no one. The players were always too old, wild, or too slow or not big enough.  Al Davis would see their heart and take them in.  Then you put them all together with an East Bay attitude under an overcast, grey sky in Oakland on a crisp fall day, and together they all made sense. They won and they dominated.  The pride; the winning; the diversity in race and religion; it was the best relationship in sports.  No stadium was louder, no bond stronger”.

From New Jersey to California, Phil has never lost who he was and who was there for the ride. His loyalty and love for fans and family is contagious. And anyone that could put a smile on my mom and dad’s face has my loyalty.

(The Amazing run of the Raiders; The Rebels of Oakland)

They say never meet your heroes, and when I first started my medical business in the bay area, I was able to meet some A-List athletes and celebrities that I admired.  Most were ok, but a couple turned out to be arrogant, self absorbed and just plain strange and it hurt.  Raider fans are lucky because for the most part they are never disappointed.  Meet Lester Hayes or Jim Otto or Phil Villapiano, and they will have you leaving with a smile.  Phil is a fan favorite due to his whit, love of life, and passionate heart.  He’s never really received the credit he deserved on the field, but let’s be real, many Raiders haven’t.  People forget the east coast media dominated sports at the time.  I’m sorry but waiting this long for Cliff Branch, Lester Hayes, Jack Tatum and Phil Villapiano is unacceptable and I’ve told the NFL writers as such.  (Don’t get me started on Ken Stabler). Phil is already in our HOF and I hope Phil truly knows just how special he is to the bay area.

So if you are having a rough day, open your favorite adult beverage and go on youtube and enjoy the Super Bowl and championship games all over again. Check out Phil’s interviews that will leave you inspired and always laughing. Reminisce about the players and friends and family that you shared these amazing times with. Remember loved ones that are no longer with us that you shared so much with and who started your journey as a Raider fan.  The Sea of Hands; The Holy Roller; the Ghost to the Post; the Heidi Game; and all that winning. For me, every time I watch these videos and see the feelings of joy in the fans and the players, it’s as exciting as the Klondike, flying over the Atlantic, or the story of the White Whale.

How innocent were those days….how rich we are to have known them.

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“The Raiders Improve to 7-9; Evaluating Derek Carr & the Offense & Moving Forward”

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Derek Carr Warming Up on the Sidelines

 

You could sum up the Raiders offense this year by saying it was a tale of two season. There were many highs and some lows.  Let’s look at straight forward answers as to the positives of the season and what actually went wrong.

Overall Personnel:

The Raiders spent a lot of money and personnel on the offensive side of the ball. No team in the NFL did more for their offense than the Raiders did.

Some fans seem to want track stars at every wide receiver position, Adrian Peterson at Running back, and every offensive linemen being all pro’s.   This is the salary cap era and you need to be real. Let’s look at the positions and see where the Raiders look good, and where there needs to be improvement.

Running Back:

I like the Raiders running backs. Latavius Murray is solid as a starter but he gets too many carries.   Jamize Olawale has talent but he’s not getting the ball enough, just like Marcel Reece.

It took the Raiders 17 weeks to realize they had Roy Helu Jr. on the team.   I’m shocked he wasn’t used more in the passing game this year.

This can be a solid group but the ball needs to be spread out more. They have the talent but you can’t see it if you don’t use it. The Raiders coaches did a poor job of using the players that they had.

Wide Recievers:

I think Tom Brady was using YMCA players at times this season. The thing is they still are the #2 seed in the playoffs.   If your QB needs a great OL, amazing RB’s and awesome WR’s, then he’s really not that good. NO ONE HAS THAT!

That being said I like the Raiders WR core. Cooper had the dropsies at times but he has a great future and Mike Crabtree is as reliable and as solid a WR as their is. He’s been the best addition in free agency that the Raiders had this year.

I’m not a Seth Roberts fan; he’s made some good catches but Andre Holmes is more talented and needs regular playing time. If they don’t think he can do it, then drop him and get a better #3 in free agency. You can get another player with speed that can stretch the field more.

Tight Ends:

Next year, I think the Raiders can have a top 5 core at tight end. Lee Smith is flat out the best blocking TE in the NFL and he even caught some passes this year. Mychal Rivera needs more touches and Clive Walford is going to be a good one. Unless the Raiders find a way to get the tight ends the ball though, it’s a waste.

 Why did the Offense Struggle In the Second Half?:

You can literally point to one game that changed the direction of the offense. That was the home game against the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings have a good team and even with injuries, they have a good defense.   Their coaches had 2 goals; take the long pass away, and rush Carr. They did both. They started playing their safeties back, taking away the long ball and the Raiders struggled. Teams started doing the same thing.

Another thing is teams started to blitz more. In the Kansas City game in Oakland, the Chiefs blitzed almost every play in the fourth quarter and it rattled Derek Carr. He ended up throwing 3 int’s in that quarter and that wasn’t a coincidence.

If you look at the changes teams made against the Raiders, in Derek Carr’s first 8 games of the season he had 19 TD’s and 4 interceptions. In the last 8 games he had 13 TD’s and 9 interceptions.

How do You Fix The Offense:

The Raiders stats in the mid range passing game is one of the worst in the NFL. They have to get the tight ends more involved. There needs to be near 10 passes a game to them. Not to get too technical but when the Raiders played a two tight end set, the seam pass was very successful and was there all day. With Amari Cooper going deep it occupies the safety. Have one tight end go straight up the field and there is a lot of space. The Raiders tight ends had several good pass catches using that play. The Raiders tight ends are solid and they have to be a weapon next year. If the Raiders continue to throw either deep or very short, nothing is going to change.   It will also make the run game predictable and hurt that.

Evaluating Derek Carr:

I didn’t think Derek Carr would be as polarizing as he has been. When fans ask me about him I always tell them that if people say he sucks, don’t listen to them, and if people are checking to see who will introduce him at his hall of fame speech, then don’t listen to them either.

The Good:

First off for those that either want him benched or dumped, you’ve got to be kidding. Have you seen the quality; or lack of; in the quarterback position in the NFL? Who is going to replace him? (And if you say Matt McGloin, it’s good to hear from the McGloin Family). Half of the teams in the NFL are begging to find a QB and there are teams like Buffalo that is one QB away from being a playoff team. In the 1970’s and most of the 80’s, even bad teams had good to fair quarterbacks.   Now most teams don’t have a good QB.

Derek Carr has a lot of good qualities that will make him a solid quarterback for a long time. He has a strong arm, can be accurate on the run, and is a solid leader. When he has great time he’s very accurate and productive.  His teammates appreciate and believe in him and that is a big thing to look at as well. He’s even keeled and doesn’t lose his mind if things don’t go well.

The Bad:

I like Derek Carr but he has weaknesses for sure. His biggest one is his poor play when he’s under a pass rush.   In the first part of the year he was barely touched and he flourished; the second half the pass rush rattled him some.

Tom Brady, Ben Roethlesberger, Ken Stabler, Joe Montana, etc….. These are just some of the guys that can get sacked 6 times in a game but they will still do well and their teams usually win. That’s not Derek Carr.

He’s now 1-12 as a starter when he’s sacked 3 times or more in a game.   He tends to rush his throws and throws high when he’s he’s under a pass rush.  His timing is way off and he struggles.

Some tried to say, “look at his stats against the blitz”. Well they dropped in the second half of the season plus they are very misleading. WHAT IF THE BLITZ IS PICKED UP! Then the QB gets credit for it when in reality it was the OL and RB’s that protected him that should get the credit. (see why stats can be misleading).

His 4th quarter quarterback rating is 31st in the NFL (only the Rams Nick Foles is worse) and he has more 4th quarter int’s than any qb in the NFL this year.  He needs to make better decisions late in games.

His Numbers:

Fans of his LOVE to bring up his numbers but let’s face it, these new rules have made passing the ball much easier than in the past.

Kirk Cousins threw for more passing yards than any other Washington QB in history. Does anyone in their right mind think Kirk Cousins is a good QB. Is he better than Joe Theisman, Sammy Baugh, Doug Williams, and Sonny Jurgensen? Cousins also has more passing yards than Carr. Do you want Cousins over Carr? Of course not.  And remember than in their second year, Dan Marino lead the Dolphins to a Super Bowl, and Tom Brady won a Super Bowl leading the Patriots.

Below are the NFL records for passing yards in a season. This is the 14 greatest seasons in NFL history.   Notice anything? Twelve of these seasons have happened in the last 4 years when the rules changed protecting Wide Receivers. What is a penalty now was normal play 5 years ago. They’ve also been setting records the last 4 years for the # of defensive back penalties called. Anyone think Matthew Stafford is one of the greatest QB’s of all time?

NFL Passing Yards in a Season:

1. Peyton Manning (37) 5,477 2013 DEN
2. Drew Brees (32) 5,476 2011 NOR
3. Tom Brady (34) 5,235 2011 NWE
4. Drew Brees (33) 5,177 2012 NOR
5. Drew Brees (34) 5,162 2013 NOR
6. Dan Marino+ (22) 5,084 1984 MIA
7. Drew Brees (29) 5,069 2008 NOR
8. Matthew Stafford (23) 5,038 2011 DET
9. Matthew Stafford (24) 4,967 2012 DET
10. Drew Brees (35) 4,952 2014 NOR
Ben Roethlisberger (32) 4,952 2014 PIT
12. Eli Manning (30) 4,933 2011 NYG
13. Tony Romo (32) 4,903 2012 DAL
14. Drew Brees (36) 4,870 2015 NOR

In conclusion Derek Carr is going to be a solid NFL qb for a long time but he does have issues. The Raiders protecting him is vital. They are going to have to have a great OL to keep him protected.

Bill Musgrave:

The Raiders were never thinking of having any coaching changes; that was just social media hype; but next year is a key year for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The Raiders lack of adjustments to teams taking away the long ball was glaring.   They have to use the tight ends in the offense and use the other RB’s much more often. What good is it to draft a talented tight end in Clive Walford and sign the best third down running back in Roy Helu Jr. if you aren’t going to use them?  Next year is the year the Raiders offense needs to get to the next level.