In a night that went as perfect as a last minute Ken Stabler drive, Ken Michael Stabler took his rightful place in the NFL pro football hall of fame. For one last time, Ken Stabler lead everyone on a magical ride that will never be forgotten.
With decades of Raider tradition all around mixed in with a little Southern warmth from the state of Alabama, Canton looked more like Oakland, Ca than the sleepy town that wakes up for a week every year before the NFL season starts.
With several Raiders by their sides and HOF WR Fred Biletnikoff giving support, Ken Stabler’s grandsons unveiled the HOF bust of their beloved grandfather. In one action, all of the emotions that have built up from decades of frustration, anticipation, sadness and hope was released. Tears flowed, and closure began to fill the air slowly like a soft mist on a hot night. All the years of waiting; all the unjust votes and comments came out in a healing moment that hopefully now brings closure to an amazing career by an amazing man.
I have many good friends from around the country who ask me, why was there so much emotion and love for Ken Stabler. I think the answer is easy.
When the Snake saw a fan he didn’t care what color you were. He didn’t care if you were famous or rich. He truly appreciated the adoration that was given him. I think Ken always knew how important he was to the City of Oakland, Alabama and the bay area. That’s why he was so kind to so many. He never judged; never lashed out; he was always good to those that supported him, and shrugged off those that hurt him. Many saw a little of themselves in Ken. Sometimes misunderstood, often doubted, and occasionally misjudged. Ken was an every man and in reality so many people related to the things he went through.
Ken was real. He made mistakes; he failed at times; he was ripped in the media at times; but he ALWAYS dusted himself off and kept coming. He never quit and the harder someone pushed, the harder he pushed back. The Raiders and Ken Stabler smashed people in the mouth and never gave up. That’s why when most teams would have quit, the Raiders usually won due to the never give up attitude of the Snake. Ken was a lot like the fans that supported him. He was a lot like the City of Oakland and the East Bay; always fighting, never quitting.
Why Younger Fans Should Be Excited:
Some younger Raider fans seem to be in a fog at the great adoration for Ken and this amazing era. Let’s face it, we live in a society where history to some is what pokemon go character you caught last night. If it’s old, society seems to not care about it.
If you are a younger fan, look at the extreme excitement that is seen in social media today for the upcoming season. The Raiders were 7-9 last year and some are nearly losing their minds with excitement. Nothing wrong with that especially with all the improvements, but put it into perspective.
Think about going 56-13 in Ken’s first 69 starts. Think of going 18-1-1 on Monday night football. Think of having the highest winning % of ANY professional team in the U.S. of ANY sport for a 25 year stretch. Think of 3 Super Bowls in 7 years and 5 straight AFC Championship games. For almost 3 decades the Raiders and the Cowboys were consistently on top of the NFL ratings for most watched teams on television. Oh and don’t forget having more wins in the greatest NFL decade of all time, the 1970’s. Could you imagine what Ken and the Raiders offense could do with today’s rules? Now you understand OUR excitement. As Raider great Tim Brown said Friday, “When Ken walked into our locker room you saw everyone change. It was like royalty had just come into the room. The Raiders of that time were just that good; people adored him.”
A Leader to the End:
The reason this meant so much to so many is because Ken really was the Raiders leader in every way. He was a leader on the field and off. Players felt he was invincible and looked to him when things got rough. Even after his death he inspired. Raiders greats like George Atkinson, Art Thoms, and George Buehler followed in Ken’s footsteps and decided to donate their brains to the study of CTE and give them to the Concussion Legacy Foundation after they passed away. Truly unselfish acts inspired by the Snake’s selflessness and the encouragement of his partner Kim Bush.
“When you see your teammate deteriorate a lot through the end of his life, to see him go out like that, it brings us together,” Thoms said in a Mercury News article. George Atkinson has complained often of his memory issues. “Ken meant so much to us and we felt we needed to do this.”
The Closest Team in the NFL:
Many of the retired Raider players talked about how close they were to each other. Many stated how no team was as tight as they were. Even after retiring, they would meet for dinner often and even if players were out of state, they would fly back to join their fellow teammates. It was important to them to stay in touch with an incredible time that gave them so much enjoyment.
We have many older patients and one is Mr. & Mrs. C who live deep in the wine country (I wont give their name for health privacy reasons.) They used to be a Raiders season ticket holders in the 60’s and 70’s. I visited them recently.
Mrs. C is the classic sweet nurturing elderly woman who still feels a good meal will solve any problem. Mr. C was a successful businessman who’s health is failing. I go to their house so he doesn’t have to go into the office. I also know they enjoy my visits. Mr. C usually holds court with a scotch in his hand while I get my usual pay for a house call. A cold beer with a roast beef or turkey sandwich or the occasional German Chocolate cake and cold glass of milk.
“You know something James, those times were so special and those guys meant the damn world to us. Players like Tom Keating and Art Thoms; Tony Cline, Warren Wells, Charlie Smith, Raymond Chester. Tatum and Atkinson, Skip and Willie. Otto, Beuhler and Dalby; Upshaw and Shell; Sistrunk and Kinlaw; Rod Martin and Vilipiano. Sumner, Wolf, and Al Locasale. So many great men that gave their all to win. And Kenny was everyone’s favorite. No group of players and fans were closer. The minute you forget this son, you won’t be worth a damn as a writer, or as a fan.”
After a pregnant pause, Mr. C showed a moment of rare emotion. Pointing his finger at me he said softly while winking, “Ken in the Hall of Fame? This one means something son; this one means something.”
Friday it was released that several former Oakland Raiders had agreed to have their brains studied upon their death. They did this through the encouragement of Ken’s longtime partner, Kim Ross-Bush. They wanted to follow him in helping to further the study of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in the hopes of helping future players. Still today, Ken still is the leader of the dynasty that was the 1970’s Oakland Raiders.
The Stabler Family Tells Their Story:
Kim Ross-Bush, the partner of Ken Stabler for over 16 years; tells the story of how Ken deteriorated over time. His daughter Marissa also talks about the changes in her father. ESPN’s Outside the Lines is a great show and I really enjoyed the piece it did a while back on Ken and his struggles with CTE.
You are already seeing players starting to retire at earlier ages in fear of the long term damage football may have on them.
In a groundbreaking move, the Ivy League coaches voted to eliminate tackling in practices. Instead they use tackling dummies, bags, and even use tackling robots. Coaches from around the country are limiting contact in College football. What’s interesting is the Ivy league now says their tackling techniques are much better and more fundamentally sound and the list of injuries have dropped dramatically.
I remember in 2009 being asked to do a house call to check up on a patient who was really struggling with his sleep equipment and his quality of sleep. I immediately remembered the name. I’m a huge history guy and I did a check and found out it was the former NFL player that I thought it was.
When I walked into their house his wife was as kind as could be. She offered me a piece of cake and coffee and I loved it. Her husband was a little shocked I knew so much about him and it obviously made him feel good. When I left his wife walked me out. At the door she gave me a bottle of wine and was near tears. “Thank you so much; you made him smile and that hasn’t happened much. Please come visit again soon”. I told her I would be by next week.
A week later I showed up and it was like a light turned off. He sat in a somewhat dark room looking out a window; something he did for hours sometimes. He was rude, irritable and he couldn’t remember a thing we discussed. I laughed at the start because I thought he was teasing me but he wasn’t. He talked about his headaches and his sleep being so intermittent that he would be exhausted all the time. It was hinted he knew he was damaged and he didn’t want to know the truth. CTE was barely known publicly in 2009.
His wife explained this was their life. A tornado of emotions with little joy and hope at times. I tried calling them once but their number had changed & was unlisted, so I never heard from them again and found out they moved. Even today the picture of him sitting in a darkened room alone can bring me to tears.
Owners Still Don’t Get It:
Jerry Jones was quoted last week that he was not convinced there was a link between CTE and concussions. I’m sure many owners have their doubts especially when it may cost them money to take care of the problem. Jerry Jones needs to read research and stop acting like a fool. Another “my opinion is greater than facts” guy. Money doesn’t make you smart. It’s the same callousness the NFL showed during the 2009 concussion hearings at Congress.
In the 2014 settlement against the NFL, in a rare action, the Judge was so appalled at the NFL’s offer that he overturned it. The NFL said to trust their math. Most of what the NFL has done, they were made to do.
What Has the NFL Done to Help With CTE’s:
Many say I’m too hard on the NFL. They bring up the 88 plan championed by CTE legend Gay Culverhouse, former President of Tampa Bay. It’s true; it gives $130,000 a year to players that qualify but read the fine print because I did; the one disorder it DOESN’T cover? CTE.
The Alumni Association is also working with corporations to set up retirement places catered to NFL players. In the medical field the dirty secret is that many feel this is going to be a huge money maker in the future with so many NFL players having to deal with brain issues. Soccer players are now having issues with CTE. Brandi Chastain has agreed to donate her brain as well.
The owners have given money for research and also changed the rules protecting players more. It has changed the game drastically allowing for huge numbers by quarterbacks and wide receivers but it had to be done.
The NFL also has adopted a much stricter concussion protocol but it’s already seen failures. Rams QB Case Keenum hit his head on the turf against Baltimore last year and staggered off the field. After talking to the trainer, he was shockingly let back in the game to finish it. Afterwards he was diagnosed with a concussion. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to his credit admitted they made a mistake. Damage done though.
I remember watching film of the 1976 Raiders year in review. In week 9 the Raiders played at Chicago. The astroturf there was like cement especially when it was cold. Ken Stabler got a concussion and wobbled off the field. Eventually he came back into the game leading the Raiders to victory. You wonder how many times since he was a kid did that happen to Ken.
Breakthrough in CTE Testing?
The problem with CTE is that you can’t diagnose it while the player is alive. When UCLA lead researcher Dr. Julian Bailes said they had a test that could diagnose CTE in living people, many questioned his findings. The problem with anything in medicine is greed. If this is true, they stand to make millions. Some say that within 3-5 years it will be able to be done. The controversy continues but when they can test players, it can give them a better option into getting out of the game or staying in it.
Should Kid’s Play Football:
One of the key factors with CTE is the duration you take hits. Usually the longer you play, the worse it is. Ken Stabler; like many NFL athletes; played as a kid. You have to limit the length, and the severity of the damage. Some think teaching good fundamental tackling is the answer but it’s not. When you hit the ground or get hit; good tackle or not; your head is going to jar. Its’ like having a minor car accident several times a day.
I think that kids should not play organized tackle football until they are 13 years old. I also believe that at the most, teams need to have only 1 contact day of practice per week; or 90 minutes.
The State of Texas that brought you “Friday Night Lights” and built a 60 million dollar stadium in the city of Allen, is surprisingly the leader in protecting players. In 2013, the University Interscholastic League in Texas; the group that makes the rules for high school football; voted to limit contact in practices to 90 minutes a week. Some said this would ruin Texas football but it hasn’t changed their dominance in any way.
Between 2005 and 2014, 92 high school football players died. Some by direct contact, and others by things associated with football. What’s shocking though is that almost ALL states have NO medical regulations mandating high school football teams to have ANY trained medical staff on the field at any time. Some parents have sued school districts for having their kids lying on a field waiting long periods of time for qualified people to help their kids. That HAS to change. They don’t have to have an ambulance on staff, or a doctor or EMT’s or professional trainers. Epic fail. This has to change.
I remember in football crazy Napa, California where I grew up, (who ESPN voted had the #2 high school stadium in the country 6 years ago) they always had an ambulance in one of the end zones at Memorial Stadium and EMT professionals at the games. It helped save one of my friends who actually broke his neck during a game. He wasn’t paralyzed but he fractured his neck and the quality care on the field saved him. I hope they still have that same support there now.
The sad part is, we need to have a sure way of diagnosing players while they are alive, and we need to know how better to protect them. Even if helmets evolved, the jarring of the brain from the hits and hitting the ground are still going to cause damage so it’s a difficult thing to fix.
What also is scary, is that ALS; or Lou Gehrigs disease has also been linked to long term head trauma seen in sports like football. University of Alabama player Kevin Turner just passed away at the age of 46; of ALS. He played 8 years in the NFL.
CTE is the scary ghost hiding in the closet that players and their families fear. Fans and the media need to get involved. Some didn’t support the cheerleaders fight to get minimum wage. Many fans didn’t support referees wanting better training and to be full time employees. The NFL said both were too expensive. Add the lack of support to retired players by some as well. In my mind it’s disrespecting the game and those that are associated with it by not respecting everyone that was in it.
All fans and media people associated with the NFL who really care about this wonderful game and the people in it need to act. Some in the NFL media won’t because they feel backlash from their networks. We need the NFL to know the lack of support is unacceptable. The 88 plan needs to include CTE. Support research and retired players rights. Show compassion and kindness instead of saying, “well if they don’t want to die early then don’t play”. The players gave their all; now we need to give ours.
The NFL has shown they will NOT do the right thing unless they are made to. It’s time that fans now become the voices of the voiceless. Ken Stabler and all of the players that suffered in silence; along with their families that experienced it; deserve our support. No more Dave Duerson stories. A man that texted family to let them know he wanted his brain studied after he shot himself in the chest. He didn’t want others to go through the torment he did. No more retired players holding their heads in pain or looking out windows in darkened rooms wondering in sadness what was happening to them. We can’t expect the NFL to do the right thing to these fathers, son’s, grandfathers and brothers, if we don’t. The NFL has shown it will listen but we have to speak.
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.
Yesterday we looked at Bill King, Tom Flores, and the Raiders offensive players that might or might not be placed in the Hall of Fame. Today we will look at players on the defensive end who have been overlooked.
I was really happy to see so many eyes opened on social media yesterday and so many discussions on some of the players I put in my article. It’s great and fun to discuss and many put some very intelligent thoughts into their responses.
I’ve tried to do my part of showing people about grudges and biases that writers and voters to the HOF may have had on some players who could possibly be inducted. I never really understood totally just how vicious and deep some biases were, especially with east coast writers. It was eye opening.
For the last year and a half I’ve researched the stories of Raider players that might get into the hall and seen how clueless or how vengeful writers are to some of them; especially Raiders. Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum went through hell with them, and others have been black listed and will never see the HOF even though they deserve it.
Let’s also remember too, if a west coast team plays at night, usually east coast writers won’t even see them play. They read about the game or look at highlights. They are in bed sleeping. They won’t admit that but let’s be real.
Without further ado, let’s look into some of these players credentials and make the argument for or against their inductions.
When Chris Berman and Chris Collinsworth were talking about players that should be in the HOF a couple of years ago, they both said one guy; Jack Tatum. And Chris Collinsworth looked like he saw the Headless Horseman while saying it.
The running joke in the NFL in the 1970’s for NFL fans was that when you looked in your closet at night you don’t look for the boogeyman; you look for Jack Tatum. Just like Dick Butkus, Jack Tatum revolutionized his position. He was 225 pounds of educated, tough muscle from Woody Hayes University, Ohio St. He never said much on the field; said less off of it; but wow did he change football and every safety want’s to be him.
“Jack was my guy”, said a proud Ronnie Lott. “Everything I did I tried to copy from him. He was the man”.
NFL Bad Boy Conrad Dobler was amazed at Tatum. “Jack hit people so hard. It was like when he hit them they would not be hurt but they would be buried”. Running mate and trash talker of the Soul Patrol George Atkinson said, “Even I could not believe the force he hit people with. It sounded like a car wreck when he hit someone. His angles and his timing were perfect. No one wanted to come over the middle because it was like being hit by a truck. I’ve never seen anything like it”.
Tatum could take on Tackles and stop the run, or eliminate a WR so that they would never want to catch a ball over the middle again. He was so tough that if he was on the other side of the field and knew he wouldn’t make the play, he would go after anyone in his area just to hit them. Iconic Dolphins WR Paul Warfield once said, “if you didn’t have your head on a swivel against the Raiders, you would not finish the game. They were that scary.”
In his famous hit in the Super Bowl against the Vikings, people could not believe Sammy White caught the ball. Viking great Fran Tarkenton explained the play. “I was watching this helmet fly by me. For a split second I literally thought Sammy’s head was in it. I never heard a harder hit. How he caught that is beyond me”.
Sadly in a meaningless exhibition game he hit Patriots WR Darryl Stingley in a very legal hit. In fact the NFL and even the Patriots coaching staff went over the film dozens of times and admitted Tatum did nothing wrong. Stingley was paralyzed and his family was very angry at Tatum. Tatum said he tried to reach out to the family but they refused him. John Madden actually visited Stingley instead and said Jack never got over it. The east coast media; especially Boston; shredded Tatum in the papers for years and vowed he’d never be in the HOF. He sadly died at the age of 61.
Deserves to be in the HOF: YES YES YES
Will be Voted into HOF: No
Lyle Alzado roamed the field like a volcano ready to erupt. His Raider teammates called him “Three Mile Lyle” after the explosion of the nuclear plant Three Mile Island. No one knew when he’d blow up.
He grew up with an abusive father. Once when a sibling was getting beaten, Lyle at the age of 15 protected them and hit his father and broke his jaw. Lyle’s father called the police and pressed charges; assault. He was arrested. The scars on his soul were deep and unexpressed.
His life was one big tornado. In an amazing career, this great pass rusher ended with 97 sacks. Lyle is a hall of famer through and through but there is a saying if you work for or work with the NFL; Protect the Shield.
Just like with police and politicians, they feel you keep your mouth closed and Lyle didn’t. While he was dying of brain cancer and losing over 100 pounds, he did interviews talking about his immense use of steroids. Players hated him for it because it tarnished them; the NFL hated him for it because it embarrassed them. A year after his death, the NFL started testing for steroids, many say due to the backlash of Lyle’s speaking out.
He sadly died at the age of 43. Many said he was always looking for happiness and peace, but never really found it. I hope he finally has.
Deserves to be in the HOF: For Sure
Will He be Voted into HOF: No
I remember talking to an east coast writer and asking him what he thought about Rod Martin maybe going into the hall of fame. His answer? “Who is Rod Martin”. See what I’m telling you?
Don’t get me started on how clueless some Americans are in our history. Sports is included. Why sports fans don’t educate their kids on the history of their teams is beyond me. We should have more of an appreciation of the foundation of a team and not just live life like we’re 15 year old girls. For the most part as a nation we are clueless if it happened before 1990. (Rant over).
Rod Martin had a long and illustrious career as linebacker of the Oakland Raiders. He had the greatest defensive Super Bowl of all time with 3 interceptions against the Eagles. People also forget he played a key role in the Washington win in the Super Bowl too with many key plays including stopping John Riggins on a 3rd and 4th and short, once near the goal line. He also batted down key passes and picked up a fumble.
He was AFC defensive player of the year one time and a pro bowler twice. He was a mainstay for the Raiders and in the biggest games he played his best. One of the forgotten Raiders who should be better remembered.
Deserves to be in the HOF: Yes
Will be Voted into HOF: No
He once overdosed when he was with Kansas City being taken to the hospital while his coach gave him chest compressions on the way to the hospital. Raider staff members had to sleep in front of his hotel room to make sure he wouldn’t leave at night and party. Fans saw him as a big ton of fun, but at times players saw him as a big pain. A nice guy off of drugs, but a whirlwind while on them.
Matt Millen wrote in his book at what a pain John was at times. He used drugs often. Qaaludes, Valium, pot, cocaine, pain killers, alcohol. Nothing was off limits when the Tooz was around. His partying was of legend. The night before the Raiders played the Eagles in the Super Bowl he said he would patrol Bourbon Street to make sure Raider players were in at a decent hour. He ended up partying until 3 a.m. and was fined $1000. Disciplined Dick Vermeil told the national media, “if that were an Eagle, his ass would be on a plane home by now”.
In the 1970’s the strong man competitions on ABC were extremely popular. Most trained over 6 months for the events. Just to pass time, Matuszak entered into one competition; without a day of training. Most of the competitors kind of laughed at such arrogance. After the smoke cleared, he placed in the top 10 at 9th. “He’s super human”, said one competitor. “I really never saw anything like him”.
Once when the Tooz was arrested, Ken Stabler had to bail him out. When he got to the Police Station Stabler said, “Drunk, cowboy hat, cowboy boots and no clothes. Yep, that’s my roomie; I’d know him anywhere”.
On the field John was a great player one minute, and a disappearing act the next. He was a good guy when sober and he played well, but it was hard to get him when he wasn’t high off the field. He was an inconsistent but solid player. No telling how good this 6′ 8″ giant could have been. Sadly at the age of 38 he died of an accidental overdose of pain killers. A small amount of cocaine was found in his system. Sadly 2 years later one of his sisters Dawn passed away suddenly. Their family went through a lot of pain.
For many he will forever be fondly known as Sloth in the movies Goonies. The stories of his kindness are of legend. It took 4-5 hours to put on his makeup. The kids in the movie adored the Tooz and they constantly played pranks on him. He never said a word and just laughed. He said once, “How can you get mad at kids who are just having the time of their lives”. One of the kids said, “I saw him play football on television and he looked so mean. But with us he was just our Giant friend; he was Sloth to us”. He had several acting accomplishments including a memorable scene in North Dallas Forty. He was well liked by a lot of people on the sets who still talk of him fondly.
Deserves to be in the HOF: No
Will be Voted into HOF: No
When Hayes came out of college, many said he wasn’t very smart. What the Raiders found out is that he had a stuttering problem. Now Hayes will speak to anyone that will listen while showing a great personality.
Hayes was a pro bowler 5 times; all pro once; AFC player of the year once; single season record for interceptions in a year (13), and named to the prestigious all decade team for 1980.
It’s not even worth talking about; just like Branch and Tatum, of course Lester should be in. I feel embarrassed to even defend it. Eventually he will be but again, it’s a joke for him to wait so long.
Pastor: I promise James, in time the pain will lessen and it will get easier.
Me: With all due respect Pastor, that is crap. The pain never gets better. Time just makes it a little easier to deal with.
If you want to know how important history is, just look at the half time ceremony when the Packers put Brett Favre’s name in their ring of honor at Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night. An 81 year old 5 time Champion Bart Starr worked hard for 3 months during extremely poor health just to make the trip to welcome Brett Favre on his special night. There wasn’t a dry eye in the stadium; including Brett Favre’s; when Bart Starr walked up and hugged him. The emotions linked generations of fans who stood up proudly as one. Brett Favre said, “No offense to anyone, but I was so happy to see Bart Starr and in a way the night was also for him. I was more excited seeing him smiling and happy than what I was there for”.
The Christmas holidays are my favorite time of year. People are nicer and there is much more of a kind spirit of good will floating around. Unfortunately all of us have lost people that we love and it can also be a time of great internal pain and longing. I get that because our family has known a lot of tragedy. This year has been grinding and hard. It’s also been that way for the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders have lost many that were linked to their greatness.
I could see it in his eyes. Upon the passing of the great Ken Stabler, George Atkinson seemed inconsolable. “It seems that every month we lose someone close to the Raiders. There are fewer of us and it’s very difficult to hear of the passing of Kenny.”
My dad once said that getting older isn’t the hard part. He said the hard part is watching family members that were once strong and vital getting old and passing away. It’s also hard to see athletes who you grew up watching, doing the same.
I think one of the nicest things ever said to me was after I wrote an article for a paid Philadelphia Eagles site. I wrote about a couple of the Eagles who had passed. One Philly fan thanked me for the article and said, “You are the keeper of their memory. You made me remember how great of players these were and how they touched the community. I’ll now never forget them and I was touched like they were my own. Thank you.”
History is a huge deal in our family. It’s always been instilled in us by my parents and relatives, to keep people’s memories alive. We should never forget people and appreciate their talents and their input in people’s lives. Our society has become much more shallow than in the past, with us being obsessed with youthful looks, being cool and in, and keeping in the know with the latest. We forget so easily. The word great is handed out like Halloween candy and our memory is short. For me, I will never be that way and for those that read me, they will always see a sense of appreciation of those from the past along with their families.
The Raiders have lost some key people from their past this year. Let us remember them.
Wide Receiver Art Powell was one of the first and great stars of the AFL. He was big and fast and was known for some amazing catches. He was a 4 time AFL all star and was voted onto the all time AFL team. He amazingly had 81 touchdown passes during a time when defensive backs could do whatever they wanted to WR.
People forget that it was his character that shined the most. Powell, along with teammates Bo Roberson, Clem Daniels and Fred Williamson, refused to play in an exhibition game against his old team the New York Jets because of segregated seating in Mobile Alabama’s Ladd Stadium.
“I first started working for the Raiders in 1985. I complained about a bad call in the press box and one of the NFL officials heard me. He angrily went up to Al LoCasale to complain about me. Mr. LoCasale got angry and ripped the stadium credentials from his shirt. It was then that I knew I was a Raider and what loyalty meant. He backed me just because I was a Raider.”
Former Raider Executive Amy Trask.
He was called a pitbull, a hitman, a thug, and many other things that I can’t write. For 3 decades Al LoCasale was the Executive Assistant and loyal heavy for Mr. Al Davis. If Mr. Davis felt someone wronged the Raiders, LoCasale was the one you had to answer to. He was gruff and had a Napoleonic mentality about him. He demanded respect, loyalty and excellence. He loved the Raiders and Al Davis. He was the main figure that helped NFL films capture the Raiders great moments and he insisted on as many Raider players being mentioned as possible. He respected everyone; from the star players to the practice players. You can’t say Oakland Raiders without saying Al LoCaSale.
Dick Romanski, Equipment Manager:
The Raiders have only had 2 equipment managers in their history. Dick Romanski and his son Bob.
Dick was an army buddy of Al Davis and a good athlete. He actually coached on Davis military teams. He had been with the Raiders for over 50 years until his son took over. There are stories that Dick was the one that came up with the shield logo of the Raiders.
Dick also was important because he was the one that introduced stickum to the Raiders. He said he got the idea from hitters in major league baseball.
Beloved by players and executives alike, even after retiring he would show up to help on Raider home games. One of the staples of the Raiders lore.
“Charlie took me out of the game and I was pissed. I came off the field screaming at him. He put in backup Jack Squirek and told him to “not drop” the pass. I was out of my mind. Then I saw Squirek intercept Joe Theisman’s pass and score. I picked Charlie up and was going crazy. I had immense joy and almost killed him in the process. What a great coach.”
Raiders MLB Matt Millen
Some Raider players thanked him at their Hall of Fame speeches. Charlie Sumner was the greatest defensive coach in the history of the Oakland Raiders and it’s not close. He was the defensive coordinator for 2 Super Bowl wins. He was also a coach that helped create the famous Steel Curtain in Pittsburgh and he was the one that created the great defenses of the Patriots in the mid to late 70’s that almost lead them to a Super Bowl. The Raider offenses got all the credit but if you look at the Super Bowl wins, it was the defenses that dominated.
“Some players like to be physical but no one was as tough as Marv. I’ve never seen a player that would go out of their way to hit people. He also demanded to play special teams because he liked the collisions.”
Take it to the cupboard Hubbard was one of the catch phrases of the 1970’s for the Oakland Raiders. In both end zones posters with that saying was the norm. He was all pro 3 times and helped lead the Raiders to 4 consecutive Western Division Championships. He ranks 4th all time in yards per carry as a fullback (4.8 yards) and is 13th overall in NFL history.
Hubbard was a fan favorite and lived in Northern California. He got into music and released 2 albums. He was a scratch golfer and was an entrepreneur and CEO of his own company and he was often seen around town driving his beloved muscle cars which he would restore. Like most Raiders, he lived life to the fullest.
The death of Ken Stabler sent a shockwave around the country and to be honest the world. I remember writing about Ken’s passing and the article was read by people in over 26 countries. I received many messages from people who said they don’t really like the Raiders but that they loved Ken Stabler. I’ve written a lot about Ken and you can check it out here along with Ken’s family website where you can donate to his XOXO Foundation.
First off there is no formula. The key is to talk to people you respect and love and let the pain out. Cry, scream or get mad. Pain like that is like poison and if you don’t get rid of it, it can eat you alive.
The holidays can be really hard so keep busy. Kid’s and young people always help when they are around due to their great personalities and wonder around the holidays. Remember that there will be times that the pain will come over you in waves and you just need to let yourself get rid of it. If you are a person of faith, rely on it often. Personally, without my faith I would have not come through things very well.
The most important thing is to remember that the people that are gone would be heartbroken to see you in pain. This poem is a great one to remember that:
“Remember me with smiles and laughter because that’s how I will remember you. If you can only remember me with tears and sorrow, then don’t remember me at all.”
May all of the friends and families of these great people; as well as the fans of the Raiders; find a healing peace and joy this Christmas season. I pray that they will never be lost in history and that their memories will be passed on to the children of NFL and Raider fans everywhere. And as long as I have breath, I will never let people forget them either.
I promise you that this recipe will wow them. Remember that none of these ingredients are extra exotic, and if you don’t have one of them don’t worry. Improvise or omit and it will still taste fantastic. For me, I always use gloves in this case. Pick up some at your local drug store. I use them often for cooking.
Easy Lip Smacking Tandoori Chicken
2 pounds of chicken (I like using thighs but breasts & drumsticks are ok)
I cup Plain Yogurt
1 tsp coarse black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (1 tsp for hot)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1-2 tsp paprika (to taste)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
1 tbsp chili garlic sauce/thai chili garlic sauce or sriracha sauce (I like to add this)
1 tsp tumeric (I don’t make it without it but some don’t have it. Not life or death but I like it a lot. Try to wear gloves)
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the yogurt and lemon juice. Add the spices, minced garlic, ginger, and chili paste, and whisk until you have a smooth, thick marinade.
You can either use a glass or plastic container and put the marinade in it and add the chicken. Put the top onto the container. (I like to use gallon size plastic bags instead of a container.)
Let it sit for at least 2-4 hours but it can marinade for up to 24 hours. *some recipes say marinade for 2 hours at room temperature. DONT DO THAT. Always put it into the refrigerator.
Put tin foil into a baking pan or broiler pan, and then lay a rack over it. Put the chicken on the rack. (you might want to spray the rack with vegetable spray or coat it with oil to decrease sticking and make cleanup easy.)
Bake at 425 F for 30 minutes. Turn chicken over and bake for 10-15 more minutes. (If you like a good char then cook it 15 minutes). Turn off the oven. Let chicken rest in the oven for 15-20 minutes for chicken breasts, and 20-30 minutes for thighs and drumsticks.
Serve it on a platter with chopped up spring onions or cilantro on top. You can also serve it with sliced red onions, or wedges of lemon and/or lime. I love it served on a bed of couscous or in flat bread with grilled spring onions. Some say they like it in flat bread with a little bit of my hummus (recipe below) and spring onions. Use your imagination!!
Remember what Julia Child always said. If you don’t have every ingredient to a recipe, IMPROVISE. Don’t complain and not do it; do your best. If you don’t have fresh ginger maybe you have ground ginger. If you don’t have chili paste, use your favorite hot sauce. Again, it’s your recipe. Put your own flare into it.
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