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“The 5 Best NFL Draft Classes in Raiders History; With Video Comments from Phil Villapiano, Madden, Atkinson, Tatum & Stabler”

 

villapiano game
Phil Villapiano

*Raider fans are the best!  Please show your Raider loyalty and sign the petition to put Cliff Branch in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/276/842/889/

 

*Please follow Phil Villapiano’s Facebook page supporting him entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (#PhilVForHOF)

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

 

*And Follow Phil’s page on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/VillapianOk?lang=en

 

*Want some Phil V “Foo” Gear for the HOF?  His College BGSU has you covered! 

Phil Villapiano Hall of Fame Rally T-Shirt

NFL: Oakland Raiders-Jack Del Rio Press Conference

The NFL draft can make or break you.

The NFL draft has always been fascinating to me.  It’s an amazing thing to see how teams choose who they want to create the foundation of their team.  It’s not a coincidence though that with the greatness of the Raiders of the 1960’s to early 1980’s, most of their drafts were excellent getting at least 2 good starters in many drafts.  Director of Player Personnel Ron Wolf was a key element of these drafts and he is now in the HOF.  As John Madden said, “Al listened to only one person and that was Ron Wolf”.

To establish a great team you have to have excellent drafts.  Back in the day, a guy that could scout and pick out a good player was worth their weight in gold.  A recent ESPN study showed just how bad the NFL teams of today draft, especially missing on so many QB’s that it’s ruined some franchises for years.  In the olden days they relied on game films and occasional interviews with the players and their coaches.  Now they over analyze and see things that aren’t there and refuse to see things that are.  Paralysis by analysis.  If you look at something long enough you begin to see flaws.

For now though, let’s forget the drafts of today that might work out well, and look to the draft picks that did work out well often leading to wins and championships.

henry lawrence

#5:  1974 Draft:

1st Henry Lawrence T

2nd Dave Casper TE

3rd Mark Van Eeghen

4th Morris Bradshaw

Henry Lawrence was a pillar in the OL for 13 years for the Raiders with much of it being as a starter. He has 3 Super Bowl rings and in the last 2 Raider titles he was a starting tackle.  Dave Casper is a HOF player and was one of the best all around tight ends in history.  With his tough and physical blocking and his amazing hands, he, Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, and Ken Stabler made one of the greatest passing combinations of all time.

mark van eeghen

Mark Van Eeghen took over for Marv Hubbard and could do it all.  He wasn’t fast, but he was amazing at following his blockers and soon became one of the best all around RB’s in the NFL.  A great pass catcher, Mark also was a key pass protector for his ability to pick up blitzing LB’s.  Even though he ran for over 1,000 yards in the 1976 season, Oakland’s game plan was for Mark to be the lead blocker for most of the game and the speedy Clarence Davis (who ran for 516 yards the same year) would get the bulk of the carries against an older Minnesota Vikings team.  The plan worked to perfection as Mark had an amazing game blocking and Davis ran 16 times for 137 yards.  Van Eeghen ran for 73 yards and the Raiders rushed for 266 yards which is still the 3rd highest Super Bowl rushing game in history.  You wonder if players of today would sacrifice like that.

In the 4th Round the Raiders got WR Morris Bradshaw who became a key member of their special teams unit for 8 years.  He also was a part time starter with his best year being 1978 when he caught 40 passes for 552 yards.

cliff branch
Cliff Branch scoring another Post Season touchdown this time against Washington in SB XVIII

#4:  1972 Draft: 

1st Mike Siani WR

2nd John Vella OL

4th Cliff Branch WR

4th Dave Dalby OL

7th Alonzo “Skip” Thomas DB

To be honest you could interchange the #4 and #3 drafts and still have winners.  What a problem to have.  Mike Siani was a poor man’s Fred Biletnikoff and while he never lived up to his #1 status, he was a vital contributor in the Raiders passing game with many key pass catches in important games.  John Vella and Dave Dalby were part of what many consider the greatest offensive line of all time.  Their size and toughness wore opponents down.  Dr. Death Skip Thomas was a key member of the famous “Soul Patrol” that many feel is the greatest defensive backfield in NFL history.

skip thomas
Dr. Death Skip Thomas

Cliff Branch will eventually get into the Hall of Fame but he remains one of the greatest deep threats the NFL has ever seen.  During a talk show Raiders great Ken Stabler said, “I had a great offensive line, Casper, Biletnikoff who caught anything and Cliff Branch who could outrun half of the cars in the parking lot”.  This amazing draft class is just another reason why the Raiders were so good.

mike davis lester hayes
Mike Davis & Lester Hayes

#3:  1977 Draft:

2nd Mike Davis

4th Mickey Marvin

5th Lester Hayes

5th Jeff Barnes

8th Terry Robiskie

12th Rod Martin

Maybe this draft didn’t have the iconic talent of other drafts, but it definitely filled a lot of holes with excellent players.  Mike Davis was a key member at safety and his interception against the Cleveland Browns in the playoffs helped propel the Raiders to eventually win a Super Bowl. Mickey Marvin was an excellent OL for years.  Lester Hayes started out slow, but eventually became one of the best cover corners in the game and should be in the HOF.  Jeff Barnes and Rod Martin were excellent LB’s that helped the Raiders shore up their defense after the Villapiano, Willie Hall and Monte Johnson era.  Terry Robiskie was an excellent special teams player and backup RB.

 

sea of hands
Clarence Davis with the “Sea Of Hands” catch surrounded by 5 Dolphins

#2:  1971 Draft:

1st Jack Tatum DB

2nd Phil Villapiano LB

4th Clarence Davis

5th Bob Moore

12th Horace Jones

“They changed the rules because of Tatum and Atkinson”, said HOF QB Fran Tarkenton on San Francisco’s KNBR radio.  “The 5 yard chuck rule was created because of them and the other Raiders DB’s because the WR’s literally could not get off of the line against them.  They were so physically imposing and strong.”

Jack Tatum hit harder than any DB in history and should no doubt be in the HOF.  Phil Villapiano said, “Tatum’s shots just sounded different.  His hits sounded like a car wreck”.  George Atkinson added, “I once saw Jack hit Denver’s Riley Odom’s so hard that I thought he killed him.  It sounded like a car wreck”.  He was a star at Ohio St. where Woody Hayes loved his hard hitting style and instinct to be where he needed to be, and he brought that to the Oakland Raiders.  Jack’s timing was unmatched.  If it wasn’t for the Darryl Stingley hit, Tatum would already be in the HOF.  RIP to both of them.

A huge get was Phil Villapiano.  Supposedly an undersized LB out of Bowling Green, most teams had him as being too small.  Almost everyone had him as a possible 3rd round pick, but most had him going into the 4th round.  The Raiders; who were the only team that would not share information with other teams; picked him in the second round.  They knew that Phil was really 225 and not the 210 that everyone else said he was.  Villapiano became a key element shoring up their back 7 on defense.  He could tackle and stop the run, and with his lateral speed and timing he was a great pass defender.  There are many that feel Phil should be in the HOF as well.  His personality and fun spirit is classic Raider.  The below video shows Phil Villapiano leading the Raiders on and off the field.

Clarence Davis was a fast and clutch player.  His catch in the famous “Sea of Hands” game and his amazing performances in post season including his 137 yards rushing in the Super Bowl win against Minnesota are immortalized.  Bob Moore was a solid NFL back up tight end and Horace Jones was an important defensive starter for four of the 5 years he played for the Raiders.

eerie magazine ken stabler
This is the 1979 popular Eerie Magazine cover paying homage to the Raiders and Ken Stabler

#1:  1968 Draft:

2nd Ken Stabler QB

3rd Art Shell T

4th Charlie Smith RB

7th George Atkinson DB

11th Marv Hubbard

Now finally the greatest draft in Oakland Raiders history, the 1968 draft.   If you can draft 2 quality starters in your draft, usually your draft is considered pretty good.  Draft 5 key starters and 2 Hall of Famer’s and I’d say your draft was awesome.

In 1967 the Raiders drafted HOF guard Gene Upshaw who would help anchor an amazing offensive line.  In 1968, they chose other big pieces that would lay a foundation for their success in the 1970’s.

marv-hubbard
Marv Hubbard on the cover of Sports Illustrated

This draft was the key to the Raiders success in the 60’s and 70’s and this draft topped them all.  They now had one of the greatest QB’s in history in Ken Stabler, and another HOF player on the OL in Art Shell.  With Charlie Smith and Marv Hubbard they had a set of starting RB’s that could run and catch the ball.  All 4 players were big parts of the success of the Raiders in the 1970’s and late 1960’s.

rdheidi
Charlie Smith catching a pass and scoring the go ahead touchdown in the famous “Heidi” Game v.s. the New York Jets

Then oh by the way add 7th round pick George Atkinson who was considered too small to be a full time safety.  What teams didn’t get is that Atkinson was as tough as nails, hit like a ton of bricks, had a bad attitude on the field and was as fast as lightning.  Early in his career he was a great kick returner on both punts and kickoffs and held records for a number of years.

Jim’s Jamz:

So there you have it.  These are the 5 greatest draft classes in Raiders history.  The hope of all fans is that their favorite teams draft choices will reach their full potential and step up to be great players.  In the following years we will find out how the draft choices of the new millennium rank.  History shows us that if you consistently draft poorly, you will eventually erode your foundation and have to start over.  If you excel in the draft, you create a winning team for years to come.  When the Raiders had great drafts, they succeeded and were the winningest franchise in U.S. sports.  When they didn’t, they failed and struggled breaking records for futility.  Here’s to a future of great draft picks and great success to this amazing franchise.

 

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“Sid & Marty Krofft Lead the Way & Answer age Old Questions: The top 10 Wild & Crazy Kid’s Shows of the 1970’s”

 

Sid-and-Marty-Krofft

The simple things.

As time goes on, the struggles of life eventually wear us down and we long for the simpler things of our childhoods. The people, foods, and activities of our youth can fill our hearts with joy in a way few things can and they are greatly missed. One of the things that kids of the 70’s and 80’s enjoyed was some of the wacky kids shows.

For many children of the past, names like Hal Roach, Mel Blanc, William Hanna, Joe Barbera and Walt Disney are as timeless as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. For kids of the 70’s and 80’s, you can add 2 amazing talents in Sid and Marty Krofft. They created shows that few networks backed or liked, but millions still enjoy to this day.   Their crazy use of kid friendly subjects and human puppetry is unmatched.

Some networks still show these classic shows on occasion, but in the 1970’s to the 1980’s, one of the most anticipated days of a kids life was the Cartoon Preview specials on the last Saturday night in August before the new school year begun.   At the time these were highly rated shows and commercials advertising them flooded the television screen. Child stars of the day would host these specials and they were geared literally towards kids. It was an exciting time to see what new kid shows would shown for the fall lineup.

Today we are going to take a special look at the most craziest and quirky kids shows of the 1970’s.

Bigfoot and Wildboy:

Creator: Joe Ruby, Ken Spears, (produced by the Kroffts)

Cast: Ray Young, Joseph Butcher, Monika Ramirez, Ned Romero, Yvonne Regalado, Al Wyatt Jr.

Years: 1977-79

A lost boy in the woods is rescued and raised by a Bigfoot and they fight crime, aliens, and bad guys in a good v.s. evil plot.   This is definitely out there but it’s what the 70’s shows were all about. Ah, and what a good parent Bigfoot is.

 

The Lost Saucer:

Created: Sid & Marty Krofft

Cast: Jim Nabors, Ruth Buzzi, Jarrod Johnson, Alice Playten

Years: 1975-76

Running for only 16 episodes, this series has been greatly forgotten by most. Another one I had never heard of. It was classic Krofft; quirky, thought provoking, kind; with each show having either an environmental or social theme. It was interesting though because they would take the saucer into the past and into the future to try and get back home. Some of the stories were very thought provoking. Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi are interesting to watch in this outside the box performance that stretches their vast talents. An underrated show for sure.

 

The New Zoo Revue:

Creator: Doug Momary, Barbara Atlas

Cast: Doug Momary, Emily Peden, Sharon Baird, Yanco Inone, Larri Thomas, Chuck Woolery, Fran Ryan

Years: 1972-77

This was one of the most popular shows for pre-schoolers along with Romper Room and the Captain Kangaroo. The show mixed humans with life-size talking animals. It won several educational awards and is thought of as being one of the top preschool shows ever made. It has had a couple of revivals and it still remains a favorite of baby boomers who have turned the show on to their kids and grandkids.   And yes, below is game show host Chuck Woolery as Mr. Dingle.

Go on Youtube and check out their outtakes which have been released.   Racy, sexual and over the top funny.   They definitely had fun. If you are easily offended, I’d probably avoid them.

 

The Bugaloos:

Creator: Sid and Marty Krofft

Cast: John McIndoe, Caroline Ellis, John Philpott, Wayne Laryea, Martha Raye, Billy Barty, Sharon Baird, Joy Campbell, Van Snowden

Years: 1970-72

Another short lived Krofft show with a large cult following was the Bugaloos.   With it’s ABBA style songs and outfits, it remains a cult classic especially abroad. It pretty much was a show about 4 cute British teens in bug costumes who sing and have conflicts with the jealous Benita Bizarre played by the great Martha Raye.

The young cast said that Martha Raye and Billy Barty helped them immensely and were the kindest, most fun people. There was a Bugaloo’s movie in the works at the time because of it’s popularity, but due to Universal going bankrupt, the idea was nixed.

 

Dr. Shrinker:

Creator: Sid and Marty Krofft

Cast: Jay Robinson, Billy Barty, Ted Eccles, Susan Lawrence, Jeff MacKay

Years: 1976-77

Another show introduced during the Krofft Supershow was Dr. Shrinker.   A great cast along with catchy music, (this is one of my favorite intro songs); created a fun and popular show.   The diabolical Dr. Shrinker uses a shrink ray to shrink 3 young adults whose plane has crash landed on an island.   The show pretty much is Dr. Shrinker catching the “Shrinkies” and then them escaping. Mainstay Billy Barty plays his evil side kick Igor. He wants to sell the ray to the highest bidder and then give the Shrinkies to the second highest bidder. It was another show that was introduced on the Krofft Supershow that ran for 2 years. Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (video below with Deidre Hall & Judy Stungis) were introduced at the same time and it only aired for one season as well. Dr. Shrinker is one of the lesser remembered and known shows but it definitely is loved by the Krofft’s, and their fans.

 

 

Sigmund and The Sea Monster:

Creator: Sid & Marty Krofft

Cast: Billy Barty, Johnny Whitaker, Scott Kolden, Mary Wickes, Joe Higgins, Rip Taylor, Fran Ryan, Fred Spencer, Paul Gale, Van Snowden, Sharon Baird, Sparky Marcus, Margaret Hamilton, Walker Edmiston, Sidney Miller

Years: 1973-75

A show that was near and dear to the Krofft’s heart. Sigmund was another classic show that kids of all ages enjoyed. The legend Billy Barty played Sigmund, and even if he wasn’t feeling really well he still did some very physically trying scenes in the Sigmund the sea monsters suit. “Billy was amazing”, said Marty Krofft. “He would do things for us that he wouldn’t do for anyone else”.

This is the story of a friendly sea monster who is kicked out of the sea by his underwater family because he won’t scare people. He is then befriended by two boys who help protect him.   Margaret Hamilton also was added to a great cast. She was famous for being the wicked witch of the west in the Wizard of Oz! The story lines are sweet, straight forward, and pleasant to watch.

 

Lidsville:

Creator: Sid and Marty Krofft

Cast: Butch Patrick, Charles Nelson Reilly, Billie Hayes, Lennie Weinrib, Joan Gerber, Walker Edmiston

Years: 1971-73

Another very popular show that only ran a year was Lidsville. The theme song was another classic which was the norm for the Krofft’s. It was a story of a boy that fell into a huge hat owned by Merlo the Magician at 6 Flags in Texas. The boy Mark goes into a world of life sized hats called “lids”. Some people again tried to link drugs to the cartoon because at the time a lid was the street name for a bag of marijuana. Sid Krofft again laughed at this and said he had thought about the idea a while back thinking of the personalities that each hat may have and how everyone liked hats. If it was a cowboy hat, he acted like a cowboy and so on.

This was a lot like the Krofft’s other shows where little people would sometimes be in the costumes while someone else dubbed their voices.   Charles Nelson Reilly played the villain Hoodoo and was a natural. Billie Hayes played Weenie the genie and Butch Patrick played Mark. In the show Mark never really does get back home and he fights beside the good hats to avoid paying the hat check of HooDoo who was helped by 4 bad hats. The Kroffts especially loved this show. At the time, the music became so popular that many of the songs were put on an album by Johnny Whitaker. Another classic.

 

The Electric Company:

Creator: Paul Dooley/PBS

Cast: Morgan Freeman, Irene Cara, Judy Graubart, Rita Moreno, Jim Boyd, Skip Hinnant, Bill Cosby (71-73), Lee Chamberlain (71-73), Luis Avalos (72-77), Hattie Winston (73-77), Danny Seagren (74-77)

Years: 1971-77

Sesame Street and the Electric Company are probably the greatest kids shows of all time. The EC was unique and fun and very different because it used sketch comedy to teach kids to read. With an all star cast and guest stars in the likes of Michael Landon, Dean Martin, Carol O’Conner, Woody Allen, Barbara Eden, Joe Namath, Walt Frazier, Lily Tomlin, celebrities flocked to try to be on this show. It was popular and very well done with recurring favorite characters.   They tried to re-launch it in the last 10 years and it was awful. They did an amazing 780 shows with an average of 130 shows a year for 6 years.   Wow. Some series today have literally 8 shows in a full season.

The EC was groundbreaking and was even endorsed by the U.S. government and many educational organizations. It was always near or at the top of kids show ratings but was cancelled due to it being expensive to run. While the Muppets and Sesame Street could make a bundle in merchandise, the Electric Company was very limited on what it could sell. It helped the careers of many stars as well and remains one of the great kids shows of all time.

 

The Land Of The Lost:

Creator: Sid and Marty Krofft

Cast: Spencer Milligan (Seasons 1 & 2), Wesley Eure, Kathy Coleman, Phillip Paley, Ron Harper (Season 3)

Years: 1974-76

Name another kids show who had writers from Star Trek writing episodes for it. The Land of the Lost remains one of the great Krofft shows. When Marshall and his 2 kids Will and Holly get caught in a dimensional portal after an earthquake, they go to a strange land where dinosaurs rule. While trying to get home, Grumpy the T-Rex was their biggest worry, but most of the dinosaurs were friendly herbivores. They fight the evil Sleestak’s and befriend Cha-Ka of the Pakuni tribe. Spencer Milligan who played Marshall, left the show at the start of the third season because he wanted more salary and he thought the cast should get a cut of their images and the merchandise that had become popular. The 70’s was not exactly a decade for tv actors to get rich and many times they were not paid much in residuals or merchandise, if at all.

The original cast can often be seen at reunions and fan signings. It remains arguably the most popular show the Krofft’s have ever done. Want to win a bar bet? What future NBA star was an original Sleestak? It was none other than the World Champion Detroit Pistons Bill Laimbeer.   When he attended Palos Verdes High School, he was asked to be a Sleestak due to how tall and skinny he was.

 

H.R. Pufnstuf:

Creator: Sid and Marty Krofft

Cast: Jack Wilde, Billie Hayes, Lennie Weinrib, Joan Gerber, Walker Edmiston

Years: 1969-70

You want to know how great this show is? At the time the show was aired, the Beatles would ask for tapings of it sent to them directly by the Krofft’s. Teens and high school kids would write the show by the thousands.   They only did 17 episodes and even today it has a huge cult following. TV Guide rated it their 22nd greatest cult tv shows of all time. Add another classic hit theme, and it’s hard to top H.R. Pufnstuf.  This is considered their other greatest show along with Land of the Lost.

With the iconic Jack Wild (he played the greatest artful dodger of all time in the 1968 film Oliver which he got an Academy Award Nomination); Witchiepoo played by Billie Hayes (always flying her Vroom Broom) and the amazing adventures of good v.s. evil; this show captured the hearts of kids all over the world. There were rumors that Wild got a million dollars to do this show.

I cheated a little. This was actually created at the very end of 1969, but most of its airplay occurred in the 1970’s. Below they answer the age old question if drugs fueled the name of the show. Who’s your friend when things get rough?  H.R. Pufnstuf, because he can’t do a little if he can’t do enough.

Jim’s Jamz:

The longer I’m around the more I realize what’s popular isn’t always good and what’s good isn’t always popular.  Citizen Kane wasn’t widely seen for over 20 years and the public wasn’t that thrilled about it at the time anyway.  The Wizard of Oz took 25 years just to break even and that was after network television began to show it.  The networks wanted to cancel Hill Street Blues but they were nominated for so many Emmy’s that they kept it on.  In some instances though, the networks just don’t back what is popular.  That was the case with many of the Krofft’s shows.

Sid and Marty Krofft blazed trails and showed the way to a new type of kids show.  Sid; laid back and full on hippy; and high strung and tell it like it is Marty; created entertainment that will live forever. Their search for a kind, gentle, and peaceful world through their television shows, resonates with many even today.

What Sesame Street, the Kroft’s and Mr. Rogers did was they listened to kids; whether young or old.  Parts of these creators never grew up and they fed a kid’s passion for adventure, excitement, fantasy, and kindness without dumbing them down with violence and sex flooding the screen.  That is something many of today’s parents and tv shows have forgotten.  Let kids be kids and cherish their wonder, imagination and innocence for as long as you can.  And if you’re lucky, a part of them will never grow up too.

“Tom Hanks Immortalizes Phil Villapiano & the Oakland Raiders in a Way Only Hollywood Can”

hanx raiders

Only in Hollywood.

“Hanx” gets it. When so many athletes and celebrities get very full of themselves due to their fame, Tom Hanks knows his place in this world. He never looks down on people and treats people with respect and that is rare among the rich and famous. Tom Hanks is a true Oakland Raider fan, and a good guy.

(Below the late Michael Clarke Duncan thanks Tom Hanks for his humble support)

As I said in many writings, some Raider fans don’t fit in with the rest of the NFL fandom, and neither did Tom. In interviews he talked about growing up and how he was disliked by students and teachers alike, and that he was geeky and unpopular. Even though he was extremely shy, he was also the one that would blurt out something funny during a film or class activity. He said he was responsible, and didn’t get into much trouble though. He purposely would go to plays by himself always reading the program and then engulfing himself into the story and the moment. He worked hard at his craft.

hanx senior
Tom Hanks Senior Photo; Skyline High School in Oakland

He went to Skyline High in Oakland during the early to mid 70’s when there was a lot of turmoil in society. He then went to Chabot College in Hayward before going to Sacramento State.   He loved the Raiders his entire life.

The NFL and Hollywood:

I did a lot of research on the NFL and Hollywood and it’s pretty amazing how many players have been in the movies and on the television screen. In the 1970’s Merlin Olsen was epic as Jonathon Garvey on the Little House on the Prairie Series with Michael Landon. He was so naturally talented as an actor they gave him his own short lived series in Father Murphy. A member of the fearsome foursome in family television.

Then you have the great Alex Karras who also was a gifted actor. He played the father on Webster and was in Blazing Saddles and Victor Victoria. A little known fact is that he was the one of the final cuts to play Carlo Rizzi in the Godfather.

(below is Ben Davidson as Rexor v.s. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian.  Ben and Rexor have become cult icons with a huge following)

The Iconic Jim Brown was in the Dirty Dozen and many other films, and Vikings running back Ed Marinaro was amazing in one of the greatest shows of all time, Hill Street Blues. There are a lot more that in the future I will write about. No team in history though has more people in the big or small screen than the Raiders.

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Ken Stabler & Phil Villapiano

Raiders Invade Hollywood:

Fred Williamson is the Raiders and NFL icon all-time when it comes to Hollywood. The “Hammer” and ex-Raider has been in over 115 movies and tv shows and is still working at 80 years old. Carl Weathers, the former Raiders linebacker became famous playing Apollo Creed in the Rocky classics. Ben Davidson was in the M.A.S.H. movie as well as Conan The Barbarian.   He also made waves when he did a porn movie (he was fully clothed and did no sex) which got him hate mail from across the country. Many other Raiders have been in films and television and they were hugely popular on talk shows and commercials. Even with the Raiders glory years decades past, Tom Hanks put the icing on the cake in honoring his team in the 1996 film, “That Thing You Do”.

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Villapiano’s:

In the late 80’s and early 90’s Tom Hanks was at a crossroads. After his meteoric rise, he had 4 straight flops and was looking to get back on top. In 1992, he asked talented director Penny Marshall for a chance to play Jimmy Dugan in the movie “A League of Their Own”. Dugan was a washed up ex-baseball star whose career was cut short by his drinking. Marshall; who is as soft and sweet as a cactus at times; gave him the part and made him earn his way through the movie. Tom Hanks hit a home run in this classic, and from there went on to do some of his timeless films.

In 1996, Tom took to writing and directing his first film in “That Thing You Do”. A sweet movie about a musical group going from garage band to stars. He needed to choose a place for the musical numbers that had history and that could show how the 1960’s music scene really was during those times.

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Palomino’s back in it’s heyday

Hanx chose the famous Palomino Club in North Hollywood. In keeping with the history of the club, he honored ex Oakland Raiders LB Phil Villapiano by naming it after him. Villapiano’s became a key place in the film. Here is the famous fight scene from the movie at Villapiano’s.

Here is Tom Hanks mentioning Villapiano’s on the Red Carpet with his lovely wife Rita Wilson.

Why is This So Important and Where is Villapiano’s?:

What’s funny is that online movie fans have argued, what venue was used as Villapiano’s and where is it? I’ve searched various sites and did some digging and the site for Villapiano’s eventually was found out to be the iconic Palomino’s, and he couldn’t have picked a better place to name Villapiano’s.   This place was once called The Grand Ol’ Opry West. Just like the Whiskey a Go Go and many other LA hotspots back in the day, this launched many a musical career and was the place to be.

They actually sell the t-shirt at cafe press.  Here is the link:  https://www.cafepress.com/mf/32417705/villapiano_tshirt?productId=209598228

villapiano_tshirt

Le Monge
The Palomino closed 20 years ago and is now a banquet hall called Le Monge

The history of this place is historic. In true Raider form, the Palomino was originally called the MuleKick.   Before the Palomino opened in 1949, the MuleKick was a blue collar neighborhood bar that was frequented often by the ex-country and western film actors and stuntmen of the 1930’s and 1940’s that mostly lived there. The clientele was friendly but gruff, hard working and hard drinking. Country Music Star Hank Penny bought the place and changed the name to the Palomino.

Many famous stars like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson performed to packed crowds. Below is a rare shot of Willie Nelson performing at the Palomino in 1970.

willie nelson 1970 palomino
A young Willie Nelson plays at the Palomino in 1970

Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan and even Elvis Pressley would play unannounced sets to the crowds whenever they would drop in. In the 70’s and 80’s it became a haven for the Hair Band and rock band era with many of the hottest bands in the country playing there. Bands like Quiet Riot and the Red Hot Chili Peppers would hone their craft and create a groundswell of support, launching their careers.

(Below is a great performance from the Palomino Club by Jerry Lee Lewis with a very candid interview of the “Killer” afterward.)

Tom Hanks knew the history of the Palomino, and it was a match made in heaven to choose this venue to call Villapiano’s. Hanx grew up in the east bay during the Santa Rosa Oakland Raiders training camp days and no team was as hard drinking and hard living as the Oakland Raiders and their ring leader Phil Villapiano. Ben Davidson, Phil and Ken Stabler would have fit in this bar like a fish to water.

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Jim’s Jamz:

For anyone that grew up in the 1970’s, they remember how the Raiders were everywhere. Their winning was done in such a charismatic way that it attracted fans, the NFL, and Hollywood. For Tom to use Phil’s name in the movie just shows how much he loves the team of his youth.

So grab a glass of your favorite adult beverage, put on your favorite Raider jersey and check out “That Thing You Do” if you haven’t already. And most of all give a toast to Tom Hanks and Phil Villapiano and all of the Raiders of the past. And enjoy the fact that Tom Hanks immortalized the Raiders and Phil Villapiano, in a way only Hollywood can.

 

“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/ 

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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.

Phil_Villapiano
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.

rowe hendricks stabler villapiano
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.

“Who do you Pick? The Oakland Raiders Top 5 Probable Picks in the First Round of Today’s NFL Draft”

inminkah final

It’s here.

The NFL has done a masterful job in getting people addicted to the NFL draft. Some even pay “experts” to tell them who will be drafting who. The funny thing is if an expert can get 6-8 picks in the first round right, then that is really good. About 5 years ago KNBR pointed out after the draft how Mel Kiper Jr.; the present draft guru; got ONE pick right in the first round. What this tells us is that your guess is as good as theirs.

I first got into the draft in the 1980’s. To the ire of my mom, my dad and I would watch hours of the coverage.   She would vacuum under our feet and sigh every once in a while letting us know that Dr. Z’s thoughts on an offensive linemen was not vital to mankind’s existence. “How in the world can you watch hours of grown men talking about who to choose to go on a stupid football team?” Eventually my dad would say,”your mother is mad, let’s get some stuff done”.

My friends and I picked up the torch. In 2000 we started having a draft party. We would take the day off work to the chagrin of our female partners, and drink adult beverages, eat food, and draft for each of our favorite teams. We vowed to keep our draft picks and the following year (and years) we would rip on each other or brag about each of our picks. As a Raider fan, what really was sad is that a bloke like me drafted 100 times better than the Raiders did for almost 2 decades.

ESPN did a great article saying what I’ve been saying for years; NFL teams do not draft very well; especially at Quarterback. If you look at the NFL draft history, no team stands out as a great drafting team and most have had a lot more misses than they would like to admit.

Why The NFL Struggles With the NFL Draft:

It’s really not that hard. I can’t remember who said it, but during one of the drafts, he told a great story.   “If you have a beautiful woman standing in front of you, you are amazed at her perfection. If you look at her day after day then all of a sudden she’s a little too fat in some areas and she’s not as pretty as you thought. If you look hard at something long enough, you will find flaws and imperfections”.

The NFL combines is that over analyzing factor. I never watch or care about it. If a team denies 3 to 4 years of game film because a guy impresses them while wearing gym shorts in an air conditioned arena, then you deserve what you get. I remember half a dozen DB’s (and even a WR) picked by the Raiders alone purely because they had the fastest 40 times at the combines but they ended up being huge busts. Darrius Heyward-Bey was never really that good at Maryland and couldn’t carry Michael Crabtree’s jock but his 40 time wowed Al Davis and the rest is history. Still remember all of the Raider fans telling me to give him time. I hope they still aren’t waiting.

The NFL has also become a cookie cutter league. They have a certain size that they love in players. For QB’s if you are 6’ 3” and over with a big arm, you are anointed a great prospect. I watched Wyoming QB Josh Allen in a lot of games and to be honest I never saw him as a great QB or even a first rounder.

Josh Allen has bust written all over him but he’s big and has a rocket arm.   He’s never been in the top 50 in QB rating and against the best competition he’s faced, he had his worst games. In contrast players like Baker Mayfield and Georgia LB’s Roquan Smith’s best games were against their best competition.

In true NFL manner, someone also has brought up tweets that Allen made when he was 15 and 16 trying to stir it up. Funny how they are brought into the news right before the draft, but no one said this wasn’t a dirty business.

To me the NFL is as ridiculous as it gets with some of their research.   The dumb questions teams and scouts ask at the NFL combines are of legend. This year one possible draft pick was asked if he was gay and another was asked what type of women he liked. Other dumb questions that players have admitted they were asked will astound you. Do you wear boxers or briefs; is your mom pretty; what’s the most popular drug at your school; if you had to kill someone, would you use a knife or a gun?; when did you lose your virginity; what team do you pick in Madden and why?; if I give you a paper clip, what things would you do with it?   And these are the “experts” that some fans like to defend when people question teams choices?

Fans v.s. Teams:

Personally I’ve had some stud drafts over the years. Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson have been great picks for me but I’m honest. I also wanted Matt Leinart so I’ve had my train wrecks too.   While the Raiders picked Gareon Conley last year I chose Reuben Foster. I like my chances on that one too.

This years draft will be classic because there are so many QB’s in it which means there will be busts. For me I’m not in love with any of the QB prospects. Darnold is a turnover machine who takes too many chances; Rosen has to have a lot of time because he struggles against a rush; and Lamar Jackson out of Louisville looks like an athlete playing QB a lot like Terrelle Pryor and even former Texas Longhorn QB Vince Young.

The Raiders will choose……..

Oakland will pick in the #10 spot after losing the coin flip to San Francisco.   What stinks is that the 49ers have many of the needs that Oakland does. San Francisco would love to have another linebacker to go with Reuben Foster and their young and talented DL but they also have huge holes in the secondary just like the Raiders.

As I’ve said before, the rule changes have made passing the ball so much easier and it’s limited the effectiveness of defensive backs. You have to have a pass rush. The Patriots lead the NFL in post season sacks and who would think Tom Brady would be stopped on his last 2 drives in the Super Bowl? The Eagles pass rush stopped those drives. Offense puts butts in the seats but defense wins championships. The Raiders pass rush was poor again last year and that is with Khalil Mack in the fold. They desperately need a DT that can push the pocket back to opening up sack opportunities.   Below are the players that they are almost certain to have on their draft board.

roquan smith final

  1. Roquan Smith, LB Georgia

I don’t think he will last. If he drops down to the 49ers it’s hard to think them passing up on him. Smith can play every down and can start immediately and he and Foster would be some tandem in the 49er recent tradition of linebackers.  He can play every down and he’s legit.

minkah 2

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama

I’m into pass rush and having a stud defensive front 7 but Minkah is a stud. Some teams say he doesn’t have the ideal size but I like him a lot. If the Raiders do get him then it says they aren’t exactly thrilled with #2 draft pick safety Obi Melifonwu which means another wasted pick. Obi is an amazing athlete but he has little instinct especially in the passing game. I did not like the pick last year. Karl Joseph also struggles at times in pass coverage.   Fitzpatrick is instinctive and can tackle. The Raiders have missed a lot on draft picks, and you can’t keep redrafting and resigning positions due to mistakes and win.

mike mcglinchey

  1. Mike McGlinchey, OT Notre Dame

McGlinchey is the sexy pick of late for draft “guru’s”. He is a polished player who is 6’ 8” and 310 pounds.   Most feel that he needs to hit the weight room a bit but overall he is a great talent who can start right away.   They need defense so I’m not so sure about this pick.   The Raiders defense isn’t that good and they have to upgrade the talent.

vita-vea-washington-660-350

  1. Vita Vea, DT Washington

I love this pick. He can move the pocket and he’s as strong as it gets. He’s a beast in the middle and he can push the pocket back and be a huge problem for offenses to block. Problem is, it shows again wasted picks with Jihad Ward who is a probable bust, and Eddie Vanderdoes who didn’t supply a pass rush up the middle just like he didn’t at UCLA. I personally think because of the picks the past 2 years, Vita might be passed over if he drops this far but it would be a mistake.

derwin james

  1. Derwin James, S Florida St.

He’s got classic Raider pick written all over him and I don’t like it. He’s big at 6’ 3” 215 lb., and he has good speed. He’s more of a safety than a CB. I’m not thrilled with this pick but with the Raiders revolving door of DB busts draft picks and signings they’ve had over the recent years, I still have nightmares of bad first round DB draft choices dancing in my head.  Don’t be surprised if this is their guy.

Jims Jamz:

Barring a trade, these are probably the draft picks the Raiders will choose from. A new rumor yesterday said the Raiders may draft up for stud DE Bradley Chubb out of N.C. State, but wake me up if that happens. (I’m still waiting for the LeVeon Bell to the Raiders and Odell Beckham Jr. to the Patriots rumors to come true). The Raiders have had many chances to sign a stud pass rusher but they didn’t spend the money and I find it hard for them to move up to do this.  Getting Chubb would immediately improve their defense but me winning the lottery would improve my goals of buying cars for everyone.

So there  you have it.  Pour yourself an adult beverage and enjoy the draft. But remember, it’s easy to be right after the fact and complain about others on social media, than it is to be accountable for your picks.  If you have the guts though, start drafting for your favorite team and see how you do versus the experts like we’ve been doing for 19 years. It’s a lot easier being a critic than a GM.

 

“Is Jack Del Rio’s Day’s Numbered & is History Repeating Itself; Las Vegas; Oakland Raiders Looking for Answers”

 

Jack Del Rio

When Ken Norton was released from being the defensive coordinator of the Oakland Raiders, it started the ball rolling. According to some reporters, the ball is still rolling.

With Offensive coordinator Todd Downing being the scapegoat to all of the Raiders offensive problems, he is probably gone. He definitely didn’t do a good job, but there was a lot of blame to go around.   People forget the main reason to hiring him was to make Derek Carr happy before negotiations to his huge contract.   Carr loved the hire. Todd Downing was not ready for the job but it is what it is.

The blame is also being given to OL coach Mike Tice now which is puzzling. He’s a good coach and I feel something is fishy here and we will talk about this in a bit.

Going back to Downing, Some complained about the play calling but Derek Carr has the final say on what plays are called. He can audible any time he wishes but usually doesn’t. You can’t blame Downing without giving blame to Carr.   And that’s the tip of the iceberg on offense and defense.

Is Del Rio Still The Answer?:

When JDR was hired, only a few would say that the hiring of Jack Del Rio was not as great as many thought. Most Raider fans loved Jack Del Rio; “in Reggie we trust; in Jack we trust!” was all you heard all off season on social media. Now the same loyal soldiers are carrying pitchforks and torches.

As is the norm, I took ton of heat for my article on Jack Del Rio when he was hired but many of the things I warned fans about are now coming to fruition.  It was a safe hire but there were many others I liked more.

https://jimjax4.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/raiders-win-the-battle-of-the-bay-again-jack-del-rio-is-a-solid-hire-as-oakland-raiders-coach/

To refresh our memories, Jack Del Rio went through 19 coaches during his 9 years at Jacksonville.   Usually when coaches are fired and the head coach isn’t, that means the blame is being put on the coaches instead of the head coach. (Insert Mike Tice’s name here). In 2016 when Mike McCoy kept his job for the Chargers, most of his staff was fired.  John Pagano the defensive coordinator of the Raiders was one of them. Frank Reich the Offensive coordinator of the Eagles was also fired by the Chargers, who before their Qb’s injury was the #1 offense in the NFL.   His staff was sliced and diced but Mike McCoy Survived another year before he was fired.

Gary Radnich of KNBR 680 and KRONTV fame, is a media icon in the bay area and he never says insider information unless he has facts to back them. When Norton was fired Gary said he knew people in the Raiders front office and there were grumblings about Del Rio. The complaints were mostly about the same issues he had at Jacksonville.   Jack was a control freak and didn’t let the coordinators or other coaches do what they wanted. Jack also manipulated people so that he deferred blame to some players and coaches when things didn’t go well. The magical kingdom was crumbling.

The question is will the Raiders give Jack Del Rio three years of free money to go away and get nothing in return? It’s hard to think they will do this but crazier things have happened.

Jims Jamz:

Every teams fan base is pretty much the same. The New York Giants fans last year raved about their front office and coaching staff when they made the playoffs. Now after a terrible season, the fans want their entire front office fired; which most will; even though this was the same coaching staff that lead them to the playoffs last year. I guess they all have Alzheimer’s now and forgot how to coach. The fact that they had more injuries than any other team in the NFL might be more of the reason but that would be too easy. Many fans give all the credit to the players when they win, and all the blame to the coaches when they lose. And if the player is on the field but not playing well, then he has to be hurt. Personally I don’t get it.

And the fact that the Raiders played the 2nd easiest schedule in the NFL last year and had to struggle to barely beat some of these teams with 7 last minute wins means nothing I’m sure. This year they had the 2nd toughest schedule. There are many other reasons but I’ve talked about it at nausea in previous articles.  Firing Downing is not going to bring a Super Bowl to Oakland.

Will Jack Del Rio Survive:

As I said previously, it’s hard to think that the Raiders will pay Jack Del Rio 3 years of salary to go away. I think he gets one more year.  They have other problems too.   The Raiders are near the poorest team in the NFL. The Las Vegas stadium is a mess. If the new GOP tax plan passes, it eliminates any public funds to be used for NFL stadiums. This means the Raiders would have to somehow be grandfathered in, but that will take time and may never happen.  That means they may now have to come up with 750 million more dollars. It could get ugly real quick.

At the end of last year there was so much hope, and now there is lots of turmoil. This is the era of the salary cap and this is how things can change so quickly. With the Raiders making changes and getting an easier schedule next year, I see them coming back and having a good season.  In reality I hope this makes more fans appreciate the 3 Super Bowl Titles the Raider greats of the past won. Daryle Lamonica was 40-4-1 in his first 45 starts as the Raiders QB. Ken Stabler was 56-13 in his first 69 starts. Oakland was 18-1-1 in their first 20 Monday night games. That’s why the Raiders of the past are so revered. It’s not that easy folks.

 

 

“Raiders Matt Millen relives The Day That Eagles Fans Threw Snowballs @ Santa; Is Santa Safe When The Raiders Visit Philadelphia on Christmas”

SantaEagle
Santa’s in Trouble

You Have to be a Philly fan to get it.

On December 15th, 1968; the craziest Christmas story ever told occurred. And to think, this story almost was never known. In fact until Howard Cosell released the news and showed some footage on his weekly show, hardly anyone outside of Philadelphia even knew it happened.   After Cosell reported it, it had a mind of it’s own and it became a part of football lore.

A Miserable Day:

It was a miserable cold December day in Philadelphia, and the fans were not in a good mood. To be honest fans in Philadelphia are rarely in a good mood but they had reason this time.   Their fans are unlike any other fan base in sports. They might be the smartest in the U.S., but they also will go off in a heartbeat if they feel things aren’t going well. Fans that day had arrived to over a ½ foot to a foot of snow on their seats in old Franklin Field. In true Philly fashion, 54,000 die hard Eagles fans came to see one of the worst teams in the NFL on a terrible winter day.

A few weeks earlier there was joy with many fans thinking the Eagles would have the worst record in the NFL. This would mean they could draft a cant miss super star in USC tailback OJ Simpson.   Sadly, they won 2 meaningless games so they now had the #3 pick in the draft. Buffalo chose Simpson #1 and the Eagles chose Leroy Keyes, a RB out of Purdue.   He showed so little promise at RB that they moved him to Safety after 1 year. Keyes was out of the league in 4 years and OJ became one of the greatest RB’s in history. Their fans knew.

frank olivo with his loving family
Frank Olivo (In Santa’s hat) with his loving family

Philadelphia fans are as passionate as any fan base in history.   They treat their teams like family members. Tough, rough and hardcore, if their teams do well they will be favorite sons. If they fail, they will rip them to shreds like newspaper. Not every athlete can play in Philadelphia.   Thin skinned, sensitive athletes need not apply.

wowzie_wowzie_woo_woo_by_darcsyde_by_the_darcsyde-da432hz
Schleprock from the Pebbles & Bamm Bamm Cartoon

Philly fans are the “schleprocks” of the sports world. They feel there is a black cloud over them at all times, just waiting to drop down a curse that will eventually ruin even the best of seasons.   I remember a tweet by a Philly fan a week ago. He said, “I’m so freaking scared; things are going too good. I know something is going to happen”. The next game star QB Carson Wentz tore up his knee and is now out for the season.

***************

On this cold day in 1968, there was nothing to play for. The Eagles lost to the Vikings but that was not the story. Already in a bad mood, the Eagles fans wanted nothing to do with cheer or with crappy halftime entertainment.   The temperature had now dropped to the low 20’s with wind gusts to 20-30 mph. At half time the Eagles had promised a small parade. The Philly cheerleaders would be in cute elves costumes followed by a large band. They also had a Santa float. The Santa float started to go across the field but fans booed because it got stuck due to the bad conditions. The worst part is that the Santa that they had hired, didn’t even show up and wasn’t in the float as expected. There are still stories that he may have possibly had too many adult beverages after seeing how cold it was outside, but that isn’t confirmed.

Eagles Entertainment Director Bill Mullen had an idea. He saw a 20 y/o fan by the name of Frank Olivo in the stands who was dressed as Santa Claus. At 5’ 7” and about 170 lbs., he was a poor imitation at best. Nicknamed “beefy”, Frank was a small, portly Italian man who had lots of personality and he loved to ham it up. Never shying away from attention, Frank agreed.

Olivo found out quick that Eagles fans were in no mood for second class entertainment. Seeing a wannabe Santa was too much for them to take and they started to boo. After someone in the upper deck chucked a snowball at Frank, it created a domino effect. First a few and then dozens of snowballs from all over the stadium started to rain down.

Matt Millen Remembers:

At 11 years old, a young Matt Millen knew what being an Eagles fan was all about. The future Penn State and Raiders star was all Pennsylvanian.  He knew that he was a part of a generation of Philadelphia fans and there was a passionate responsibility to it. As your fathers and grandfathers go, so go the children.

 “I was 10 or 11 at the time and it was a miserable day and they were a miserable team”, said Millen to reporters. “To be honest the snowball throws were the only fun thing about the game.   Dads, kids, grandfathers, and even old ladies started throwing them. I mean he had it coming. When the band played Here comes Santa Claus, that was it. It was no big deal. It was just what we did”.

Matt Millen said it was a much different era obviously. “Fans of today don’t realize how serious Philly fans take their football. Franklin Field was a crazy place to play. More than a few times people would leave the stands and go onto the field to physically confront players and coaches alike if things weren’t going well”.

The Aftermath:

Frank Olivo from the start was a good sport about it. “I’m one of them”, he said often. “I understand them so I didn’t take it personally. They didn’t like anyone at that moment. I do admit though when the Eagles asked if I would do it again next year I said no”.

Frank did admit he never booed a player ever again. “When they boo, you feel like they’re all against you individually,” he said. “And that’s why, when I heard it, I said to myself, ‘My God, what do these players think or feel when they’re getting booed?’ It’s like you’re being told you’re not good enough to be here.”

Frank and his family members were eventually priced out of Eagles games not being able to afford the PSL’s with the new stadium.   Much like in other areas, the most diehard of fans were eaten up by the greed machine that is the NFL.

Years later though, Frank was asked to be Santa at a 76ers game reliving that day and he accepted. At first they cheered him on, and then in true Philly fashion, they realized that for old times sake they had to boo Olivo. He loved it. Frank passed away in 2015 but he treasured his memories of his beloved Eagles until the day he died.

Bracelet Snow:

The latest situation where Philly fans took some heat was last year during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Flyers were down 2-0 to the Washington Capitals and before game 3, they were honoring owner Ed Snider who had recently passed away. Every seat had a white bracelet on it that lighted up.   The light show before the game in honor of Snider was a sight to see and everyone was in great spirits before the first puck dropped.  That feeling eroded though.

As the Capitals pulled away late, fans began to pelt the ice with the bracelets. The game was halted for a time. Not even the Flyers ice girls; who pretty much wear strip club school girl outfits; could stop the madness. The white bracelets were literally impossible to clean up because they matched the color of the ice.  This incident also included a few obscenities yelled out by some fans during the moment of silence.

What Will Happen on Christmas v.s. The Raiders?

Things are going pretty good where the Eagles fly, but you never know.   What if the Raiders somehow beat them?   What if Nick Foles implodes.   What if somehow something bad happens?   If these things occur, I think that whoever is playing Santa better have a thick suit and a thick skin. And if he is anywhere near the good sport and the great Eagle fan that Frank Olivo was, if snowballs come his way then so be it.   He would understand. You have to be a Philly fan to get it.