Tag Archives: soul patrol

“Over 5.2 Million NFL Fans Vote The 1976 Oakland Raiders the Best Team Of All Time”

davis madden

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.

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d827fc2d9/article/1976-raiders-edge-2000-ravens-for-title-of-greatest-team-ever

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.

http://espn.go.com/blog/afcwest/post/_/id/13842/best-raiders-team-ever-1976

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.

Offensive Line:

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.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/the-greatest-defensive-backfield-of-all-time-the-oakland-raiders-soul-patrol/

“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.

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

Ground and Pound:

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.

The Defense:

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.

Advertisements

“The Greatest Defensive Backfield of all time! The Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol”

soul patrolf

There will never be a defensive backfield like the Oakland Raiders Soul Patrol of the 1970’s ever again.  They were the most intimidating and greatest group of all time.

The 70’s will always be remembered as the greatest era for the NFL.  It’s the era when there were many great teams and great quarterbacks.  Without a salary cap some backups on the great teams could start elsewhere.  Defenses could do as they please with little to no protection for QB’s and WR’s.  Television helped make the Superbowl become a must see event.  Teams like the Raiders, Steelers, Dolphins, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings made this a decade of excellence.  The Steel Curtain, the No Name Defense, Doomsday, and the Purple People Eaters are all revered names in NFL lore.  When the Steelers met the Raiders in the mid 70’s, there were no less than 22 hall of fame coaches, owners, and players on the field at one time.  That will never happen again.

“There was nothing like them”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton about the Soul Patrol in a KNBR radio interview.  “In 1979 the NFL created the 5 yard chuck rule because of Atkinson, Tatum, Brown, Thomas and the Raiders.  Wide Receivers could not get off the line of scrimmage against them.  Atkinson and Tatum and the rest of the gang were so physical and strong that I’d have to wait and hope my guys could get open before I got killed”.

The wide receivers of the 70’s never get their due because their numbers weren’t the pinball numbers of today.  In today’s NFL, if you exhale near a receiver it is a penalty.  In the 1970’s it was literally survival of the fittest.  They had to worry about the great physical play of the era and you could not be a wide receiver unless you could go over the middle. I’ve seen pass interference penalties in today’s game where a defensive back literally brushed by a player.  The rules are so comical now that records are being broken almost weekly.  The 70’s on the other hand was an extremely brutal and tough era, and the most talented and toughest defensive backfield of them all was the Soul Patrol in Oakland.

Oakland the King of Professional Sports:

The center of the sporting world in the 70’s was Oakland California.  In 1975 a team lead by superstar Rick Barry silenced all the east coast and their writers by sweeping the Washington Bullets for the NBA title after writers practically laughed at their chances.  The Oakland A’s dynasty had an amazing 3 straight World Series Championships beating national league royalty in the Dodgers, Reds, and NY Mets.  And then oh by the way, for a 25 year stretch the Raiders were the winningest team in all of US sports with several division titles, and 3 superbowl wins.  No city ever had so many titles in such a short time.

The Soul Patrol embodied what the Oakland Raiders were all about.  They were tough, borderline dirty, intimidating and extremely confident.  Each member played their role in a defense that still today is revered.

atkinson4

George Atkinson Jr.:  (“Butch” 6’ 0”; 180 lbs.)

There may have never been a tougher Raider than George Atkinson.  Listed as 6 feet 1 inch tall, many say it was more like 5’ 11” but no one had the guts to tell him that.

Atkinson was an intimidator that roamed the field like a lion ready to pounce.  He was the trash talker of the group often seen taunting and intimidating players that were much bigger than he was.  He once broke Russ Francis nose with a vicious forearm hit, and his hits against Lynn Swann of the Steelers are a part of NFL history.  He had blazing speed and in fact still holds the single game record for punt return yardage for the Raiders at 205 yards.

Atkinson took it very personally when someone tried to block him low.  He learned from Tatum to go after a Wide Receiver if they tried to hit their knees or ankles.  In some films you can actually see Raiders defensive backs going towards blockers to actually hit them after they tried to hit them low.  All time great Paul Warfield once said when you went over the middle against Oakland and didn’t account for Tatum and Atkinson, you would not be in the game long without being carried off the field.  Against the run, he could go through blockers and make amazingly hard tackles.  If you ran wide against the Raiders, their DB’s would make you pay.  Atkinson loved to make players pay.

willie brown

Willie Brown:  (6’ 1”; 195 lbs.)

Amazingly Hall of Famer Willie Brown was never drafted when he graduated from Grambling St.  He was signed by the Buffalo Bills who cut him and then he was picked up by the Denver Broncos.  He soon became an all star but was traded to the Raiders in 1967 where he played for the rest of his career.  Unlike the other 3 members of the soul patrol, Brown was fast, graceful and laid back.  He wasn’t a talker but a great defender who was a shut down corner. He had good size and played the run very well, but he was a master of the bump and run man to man game that the Raiders loved so much.  His famous interception in the Superbowl with the great announcer Bill King’s call of old man Willie is as famous as any highlight NFL films has.

skip thomas

Skip Thomas CB (Dr. Death; 6’ 1”; 205 lb.):

In a day when cornerbacks were just as important in attacking the run as they did the pass, Skip “Dr. Death” Thomas role was to make everyone that came near him remember that he hit them.  What is funny is he was nicknamed Dr. Death by Raiders great Bob Brown who said Skip Thomas looked like the cartoon character Dr. Death.

Skip Thomas was a vicious tackler who was the king of the clothesline tackle.  Many times his padded arm was seen knocking the ball out of wide receivers hands.  When he hit people, sometimes he would actually launch his whole body and his arm swung like a Russian sickle.  It was intimidating, violent and sent the message to not come his way.  He had a two year stretch of 6 interceptions per year.  Due to the great talent of Willie Brown, teams would try to pick on Skip Thomas and usually the results were not good.

People forget that in the Super Bowl, Minnesota moved their fine wide receiver Sammy White around so that Thomas mostly guarded him in the first half.  White didn’t  catch a pass in the first half and Thomas was on him like glue.  As the great Raiders announcer Bill King once said, “the Raiders have 3 safeties when Dr. Death was playing cornerback”.

Sadly and ironically he passed away too soon in 2011 also at the age of 61, but he will always be remembered for his talent, toughness and personality as one of the great members of the Soul Patrol.

jack tatum

Jack Tatum Safety (Assassin; 5’ 10”, 205 lb.):

If Atkinson was the voice of the Soul Patrol, Tatum was the heart.  Ronnie Lott called him his inspiration and the standard bearer for all NFL safeties.  John Clayton said there was never a harder hitting safety in the NFL.  Once during the Super Bowl break, the NFL Show with Cris Collinsworth and Chris Berman were discussing players that should be in the Hall of Fame, and to a man they all said the same name; Jack Tatum.

He may have been the most intimidating force in NFL history this side of Dick Butkus. John Madden said many times he was mentally saddled with the hit on Darryl Stingley which paralyzed Stingley for the rest of his life.  Many close to Tatum said he really never got over it up to his death in 2010 at the age of 61 due to complications from diabetes.

Earl Campbell said no one ever hit him harder than his touchdown run where he and Tatum hit head on.  Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton said he thought Tatum knocked Sammy White’s head off in the Superbowl hit that Tatum laid on him when the Raiders dominated the Minnesota Vikings.  Even his counterpart George Atkinson said once, “he hit a tough Denver TE Riley Odoms so hard it sounded like a gun shot.  Odoms was in agony and his eyes rolled back.  I thought he had killed him”.

I remember a story that Ahmad Rashad told.  He said that days before the Vikings were to play the Raiders in the Superbowl, Tatum had walked into a room where the Vikings were relaxing and playing cards.  Tatum walked into the room and into the closet and just stood there for a couple of minutes.  He then walked out of the closet and left.  Rashad said that not one Viking laughed or said a word until they saw Tatum walking out of the building.  Rashad said that it was a mind game of intimidation and he said it worked.  He said, “we laughed; we just made sure Tatum couldn’t hear us”.

Tatum was a linebacker playing safety.  He also was dominating against the run and would take on guards and tackles at any given notice.  Many game films show Tatum chasing blockers trying to hit them before the blockers would try to block him.  Tatum was vicious, fearless and ready to hit anyone.  He epitomized the great physical play of the day, and what the Raiders defense always tried to do; stop the run and make the quarterback go down, and go down hard. With a good pass rush, the Raiders defense was hard to beat as was seen in their dominance.  I would like to do an in depth article just on Jack alone in the future.

Jim’s Jamz:

With today’s rules there will never be hits and aggressive play like the Soul Patrol did.  Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers pretty much do as they please and the Soul Patrol would not be allowed to do what they did best; intimidate, make plays, and be legends.  In the most physical era, the Soul Patrol was like a pack of wolves ready to take down any sized prey.  They remain the greatest defensive backfield of all time.