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“Ron Wolf enters the Hall of Fame With Tim Brown; Wolf, The Greatest Raider of Them All”

ron wolf Tim brown

The Greatest Raider of them all.

Other than Al Davis, NO ONE ever made an impact on the Oakland Raiders like Ron Wolf did.

When you ask a Raider fan who is the greatest Raider of all time, you will get several different answers. Maybe you will hear Ken Stabler, Art Shell or Gene Upshaw. Some may say Tim Brown or Marcus Allen or any of the other all time Raider greats like Jim Otto. In reality though, the greatest Raider of them all is Ron Wolf. Some under 30 years old are saying, “Who is Ron Wolf?”

Ron Wolf was Oakland’s Player Personnel Director and one of the greatest evaluators of talent in the history of the NFL and he now takes his place among the games greatest, recently being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the architect of the great Raider and Packer teams and was in charge of the draft and player moves starting in 1963. Few teams in history had a better scout team lead by Wolf.

ron wolf and al davis
Ron Wolf & Al Davis before a Raiders game

Wolf was the perfect fit to team up with Al Davis. He was the strong silent type who didn’t compete for attention. It is fairly common knowledge that Wolf was one of the few people that Al Davis actually listened to, and followed. Many of the great Raiders of all time like Stabler, Shell, Upshaw, Tatum, Villapiano and Cliff Branch were all key choices by Ron Wolf. Wolf and Davis had no peers when picking up castoffs that other teams gave up on.

In 1975 Wolf took the job of Vice President of Operations for the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He went on to be the architect of the Bucs great early teams. His first draft included one of the greatest defensive lineman of all time Lee Roy Selmon and his brother Dewey, along with future 49er HOF QB Steve Young.  In the second draft he selected the great USC running back Ricky Bell (whose career was cut short tragically by a terminal illness which took his life in 1984) and 12 year NFL starter Charley Hannah who played 6 years with the Raiders and won a Super Bowl v.s. Washington. With these key players, Tampa Bay is still the fastest expansion team in the history of the post merger era to win a division, a playoff game, and host an NFC championship game.

ron wolf unveils his hof bust jpeg

Citing differences with the meddling Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse and head coach John McKay, Wolf came back to the Raiders before the 1979 season. In usual fashion the Raiders soon drafted players like Marcus Allen (who they literally had to con Mr. Davis into thinking he was faster than he was) and Howie Long. Allen was considered a question mark by many because he was considered too slow and Long was thought to be a long shot due to him coming out of Villanova who no longer had football. Unfortunately though, Mr. Davis transformation had begun.

Al Davis Change is Complete:

What changed the NFL and the Raiders forever was in 1982, when Dallas Owner Tex Schramm asked the NFL competition committee to hold an evaluation time for all of the players together, so all of the teams can evaluate them at the same time. Before that, teams had the option to share notes, films, and evaluations. Now players would be timed and rated on basic exercises and drills in gym shorts at the NFL combines. Al Davis loved it, especially the 40 yard dash times which was his main tool when drafting a player. Ron Wolf considered the Raiders evaluation of players to be superior so he hated it. When he was asked once why he doesn’t share information or films with the rest of the league he said, “why would we; we know more than everyone else”. A true Raider.

As time went on in the 80’s their relationship became strained. The draft became a mini war between the two. In the 70’s they both often said, “the quarterback must go down, and go down hard”. The key to that was a strong defensive front seven but Al Davis had gone away from that formula.

The Green Bay Magic:

In 1991 without new Green Bay GM Wolf’s input, Mr. Davis was in total control and the Raiders 1st and 2nd round picks were Todd Marinovich and Nick Bell.  Both would be out of the NFL in 3 years, which is easily one of the worst first 2 picks in history.  With pretty much no one to contradict him, Wolf’s first moves for the Packers was to fire head coach Lindy Infante, hire Mike Holmgren and trade for an awkward quarterback in Atlanta by the name of Brett Favre.  Within 4 years he transformed one of the worst defensive lines in the NFL to one of the best.  He signed free agent DL’s Reggie White, Sean Jones, Santana Dotson and “The Gravedigger” Gilbert Brown.  Along with free agency, he also drafted key pieces like RB’s Edgar Bennett and Dorsey Levens, TE Mark Chmura, WR’s Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks just to name a few.  A little vindication for sure.

In his 9 years as GM of the Packers, Wolf helped lead them to the second best record in the NFL (second only to Bill Walsh’s 49er’s) and two Super Bowl appearances with one Super Bowl win.

rw hof

His Rightful Place in the Pro Football HOF:

In time, every team that Ron Wolf directed became a winner. Last year during his daily interview on KCBS sports in the bay area, John Madden said, “The unsung hero of the Raiders will always be Ron Wolf. When Ron and Al were on the same page, it was pure magic. The genius of Mr. Davis at that time was to trust Ron Wolf and the scouts and it helped create a winning formula”.

Wolf’s mentoring tree is long and talented. It includes Packers GM Ted Thompson, Seahawks GM John Schneider, Chiefs GM John Dorsey, Washington GM Scot McCloughan, and Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie.

During their glory years, the Raiders had not only the highest winning percentage in football, but the highest winning percentage of any U.S. sports franchise during a two and a half decade span.  In today’s world where teams tell you what they are going to do and mediocrity is celebrated, can you imagine how fans would react to such dominance?  There aren’t enough memes or gifs to express it.  Thus, every Raider fan young and old, should appreciate the legacy and foundation that was created with the talents of Ron Wolf; the greatest Raider of them all.

 

 

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“A Good Day to be an Oakland Raider; Tim Brown & Ron Wolf Elected Into Pro Footballs Hall of Fame”

Tim-Brown-USA-Today

“A Good Day to be an Oakland Raider; Tim Brown & Ron Wolf Elected Into Pro Footballs Hall of Fame”

With the addition of Tim Brown and Ron Wolf, the Raiders again showed the football world the greatness and importance that the Raiders franchise has in the history of the NFL.

Tim Brown was a great high school football and basketball player. Although he played on some of the state of Texas’ worst high school football teams, schools like Oklahoma and Notre Dame recruited him. He chose Notre Dame.

At Notre Dame he quickly gained the nickname of “Touchdown Timmy” with his great playmaking skills. Tim could do it all scoring on various plays including runs, receptions, kick off returns and punt returns. In 1987 he became the first wide receiver to ever win the Heisman Trophy. He would prove to be as valuable for the Raiders once he was drafted with the sixth pick in the 1988 NFL draft.

After a great rookie season with 43 catches and leading the NFL in most punt and kick return statistics, Brown had a terrible knee injury that made him miss his sophomore campaign. When he came back, he did not have the same blazing speed, but it forced him to become a better receiver. He became a student of the game and learned the intrinsic things needed to take him to the next level including proper route running techniques and body positioning.

In 1994 Brown and Al Davis weren’t seeing eye to eye and he stated in an interview that he was prepared to leave. He signed an offer sheet with the Denver Broncos but the Raiders quickly matched it. After his sophomore season, Tim Brown never missed another NFL game playing almost every season for the Raiders.

Tim Brown was a constant reminder that hard work and talent together creates greatness. He now takes his rightful place among other great Raider pass catchers like Fred Biletnikoff and Dave Casper. The only hope is that Cliff Branch soon is added to the list.

If you say the name Ron Wolf, most Raider fans will shrug their shoulders.   In reality though he may be the most important figure in the almost 3 decades of Raider dominance in the NFL.

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ron wolf Al Davis

Al Davis made Ron Wolf his right hand man, and for 23 years he created an empire in Oakland. As a scout, Al Davis found out quickly what a great evaluator of talent Ron Wolf was.   He became the Player Personnel Director and was in charge of the Raiders drafts. Al Davis and Ron Wolf had a formula for success. Rush the passer, have a strong physical running game, and throw the deep pass. When both were asked once why they didnt share game films with other teams, they both would say, “Why would we? We know more than everyone else.”

Many writers, and ex coaches and players close to the Raiders said Al Davis listened to one guy; Ron Wolf.  In a famous story that John Madden likes to tell on his local CBS radio commentary, he tells of a brittle kneed quarterback named Ken Stabler. He was being evaluated for the NFL draft.   Most NFL experts didn’t have much confidence in Stabler being a good NFL player. Many said Stabler’s knees were like a 70 year old man and it would be pointless to draft him with a high pick. Al Davis asked all of the people in the Raider draft room if they should pick Stabler. They all said no. Al finally asked Wolf. Wolf paused for a second and nodded and said yes. Al Davis drafted him and the rest is history.

Famous picks that Al Davis gave credit to Ron Wolf for including Stabler, Jack Tatum, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Howie Long and Marcus Allen.

Ron Wolf went on to the Green Bay Packers. A team that was being compared to the Cubs for their years of losing play. Wolf hired Mike Holmgren to coach, traded for Brett Favre, signed Reggie White, and shored up the team with solid drafts and they won the Super Bowl.

Wolf was perfect for Al Davis. He was quiet, didn’t want publicity or credit and wanted to be behind the scenes while Al Davis enjoyed being out front and in the limelight.   Together they created an amazing team that will never be duplicated.

Both of these inductees were vital parts of the great tradition of the NFL and Raider football. Today is a good day to be a Raider.