Tales from the Oakland Raiders by Tom Flores

From the book Tales from the Oakland Raiders by Tom Flores 2003

Our very first game was at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco… on July 31, 1960. It was a night game against the Houston Oilers, which we lost 37-22. And so it started for the Raiders….

Of the Raiders two main rivals –the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos– I would say that the Chiefs rivalry is based on a mutual respect for each other… The Broncos rivalry, however, is based on disgust.

There also were the many times that we’d be in one of the (Denver) end zones and, before the Broncos had sense enough to put up the big fence, fans used to shower us with snowballs. That sounds innocent enough, except some of them were quite lethal because they had rocks in them.

As soon as the dismal 1962 season–when we won one game–was over, coach Red Conkright was fired. In January 1963, Al Davis was hired as the Raider’s head coach and general manager. Since I missed all of the 1962 season with the illness, the first time I met him there was some skepticism as to whether I would be able to play again.Training camp was forever. I think we reported for camp shortly after July 4, and then didn’t break until the Friday before our first league game which was September 7.

Al has a passion for football. He never would do anything to hurt the game. Sure, he does some things attempting to get the edge on people.

Simply put, Al is very loyal to those who have been loyal to him.  He will go to endlesss lengths to accommodate somebody–tohelp someone– even if their departure from the organization was a little acrimonious. He still does what he can to help.

Mark Davis, Al’s son, was a little guy when I fist met him. Now he’s a man in his forties.Mark was kind of a nosy and mischievous kid. During practice, he oftentimes would run on the field, grab the football and kick it and then run right through the middle of a drill. Mark always bugged all the players and the trains in the locker room.

Mark always bugged all the players and the trainers in the locker room. One day — and I’ll never say who did it– some mysterious people tied Mark and taped him to a chair in  he locker room.  They had to have used several rolls of tape to wrap up little Mark Davis.

I think those years are when Mark developed his great love for the Oakland Raiders. To this day, he still lives and bleeds with the Raiders. With every loss he hurts, and with every win he celebrates. But I guess that’s the way it is for most of us.

Ron Wolf.

I first heard of Ron Wolf in 1963 when Al Davis came to the Raiders. For a long time, many people in the organization probably thought Ron Wolf was a fictitious person. Many of us had heard the name Ron Wolf and we knew that he worled for the Raiders in some type of capacity, but we would have had trouble picking him out of a two-person line up.

Who was Ron Wolf? Was he a figment of Al Davis’s imagination? Did Al make up this person so that he would have a name to which he could refer occasionally?

Well, come to find out, Ron Wolf was a real person. .. Ron was always in the back room somewhere, in the darkness, looking at old films of teams and players. Or he was back there fixing the film when it broke, because in those days, the film couldn’t handle the torture that scouts and coaches delivered…

Finally, when Ron Wolf came out of the darkness, out of this mole hold back there and into the sunlight, we realized Ron was playing an important role in the organization, because suddenly we would see this new player and then another new one.  Ron Wolf was a big part of the Raiders organization and the development of the pool of players. He was almost like a one-man show establishing the scouting department and going around the country.  He was doing a thankless job in those days.

Unfortunately for Ron he left the Raiders one year too soon, because in 1976 the Raiders won their first Super Bowl, XI. He came back to the Raiders during John Madden’s last year to help in the scouting department.  Ron helped John with some of the personnel moves.

I remember in January 1984, when we were the Los Angeles Raiders, playing in the AFC Championship against the Seattle Seahawks. We had a comfortable lead… I was not celebrating yet, but was feeling good inside. I turned around and there was Ron with the biggest smile on his face, because now he had a chance to go to the Super Bowl.  He was just beaming.

Ron had some health problems while we were in LA and he walked away from football for a short time…  Later in the 1980’s he got a chance to go to Green Bay…  Quietly—the way Ron works so well—he started assembling a championship team in Green Bay. He did a marvelous job of drafting and signing personnel.

Fans

Raider fans are forever. You either love the Raiders or you hate the Raiders; there’s no in between. Early in the 2002 season, when we played at the San Diego Chargers, there were hundreds of Raiders fans in the airport who were in town just for the game. When we go to New York, Buffalo, New England, wherever, our hotel lobby is always filled with Raiders fans. That’s just the way it is.

Raider fans have always been unique. At Frank Youell Field, where we played from 1962-1965, you could turn around and you were not more than 12 feet from the stands. The fans were right behind the bench. The players could turn around and talkt o them. We could almost touch them, they were so close to us. Only about 20,000 people could jam into Frank Youell, but their excitement and enthusiasm was felt because they were so close. During those early years it was almost as if they were in the game with us, especially in 1963 when we started winning.

The Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders

Moving from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982 was not an easy task. When I took over as head coach, the rumors that we were going to LA had started. It was a roller coaster time.  I thought the people who operated the Oakland Coliseum were going to make the necessary changes to keep the Raiders. Instead, they told Al Davis that they weren’t going to make any changes and that Al couldn’t move the team because Pete Rozelle wouldn’t allow it.  I think that was when Al went down and finally started listening to the people in Los Angeles.

Jim Plunkett

Like many NFL teams, the Raiders can be identified by their quarterbacks through the decades. This current decade, at least the first part of it, belongs to Rich Gannon. Tom Flores was the early 1960’s, and Daryle Lamonica was the late 1960’s.  Kenyy Stabler was the 1970’s. And Jim Plunkett was the 19680’s.

The only think Jim Plunkett did as a player was win. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1970.  He won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award with Boston. And he won two Super Bowls with the Raiders, including the Super Bowl XV MVP award. I will never understand why he’s not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet.

In 1980 we traded Stabler for Dan Pastorini. I was not in favor of the trade, but I went along with it. It probably was time for Stabler to go, but we could have traded him for a first-round draft choice. However, since we traded a starter for a starter, Jim was still second string. In hindsight, he should have been the starter.

Oakland Raiders Jim Otto, Tom Flores

We started the season 2-2, going into a home game against Kansas City. The Chiefs beat us badly that day, 31-17.  Pastorini was out with a broken leg. There were all kinds of rumors that I was to be fired. All of a sudden, Jim was our guy. We played at home the next week and we beat San Diego.

Even though we were 3-3, we were trying to find our way above water going into Pittsburgh the following week for a Monday night game in front of the whole country. Jim had a marvelous game that night. All the guys were making big plays. We won 45-34.

Throughout his career, Jim took a beating because of the way he played. He was big and not a real nimble guy, so when he ran with the ball or when he was in the pcked, he took some pretty good hits. He was such a courageous guy though.  But in 1983 he was really beat up.

We took a 5-1 record to Seattle in October. We lost, 38-36, committing seven turnovers. By the end of that Seattle game, Jim was really beat up.  The next week at Dallas we made a change, starting Marc Wilson at quarterback. Jim wasn’t happy about it, but he went along with it. We won in the last minute of the game, and we lost the next week to Seattle at home in the LA Coliseum. Then we went to Kansas City.

We were playing a typically close game against eh Chiefs. There seemed to be a jillion people in Arrowhead Stadium—all wearing red. All of a sudden Marc Wilson went down.  He said, “Coach, if you want to win this game, you better put Jim in, because I think I’m hurt pretty bad.”

So there we were again—time for our team’s savior, Jim Plunkett. It was almost like he came in on a white horse. He came into the game against the Chiefs and he was incredible. He was like a new person. He had spring in his legs, he was bouncing and was as agile as I had ever seen him. He had life in his arm. He was flawless that game and nearly flawless the rest of the season.

Once again, Jim took us all the way to Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa, where we beat the Redskins. Jim had a big night, making some big plays. He played great in big games and was a champion through and through.

It’s funny to think back to the end of training camp in 1980 when Jim came to me wanting to be released or traded. I am extremely thankful that Jim decided to stay. I would bet he’s thankful that things worked out the way that they did. I thank God for Jim Plunkett.

Art Shell

One thing about the Raiders is that very few guys have come in and started right off the bat. Usually, guys have people that could play ahead of them, so there was no urgency to rush. The Raiders drafted Art Shell in the third round of the 1968 draft. When he came in, he was a guard, but they were grooming him to become the left tackle. When he finally became the starting left tackle in 1970, he was there forever.

Art Shell was the epitome of a left tackle, because he was intelligent, nimble, explosive, quick and quiet. You never knew if he was in the huddle or in the meeting rooms because he was so quiet.  Art helped us win two Super Bowls and then he became a coache for me on my staff when he retired from playing after the 1982 season.

Oakland Raiders Quarterback Tom Flores #15

All of Art’s work paid off for  him, because in 1989, he became the first black head coach in the NFL.  In an interview he was asked, “How does it feel to be the first minority head coach in professional football?” He said, “I wasn’t the first minority coach.”. The reporter gave him a quizzical look. Then Art said, “Tom Flores was the first minority coach I’m the second.”

Advertisements

About theoaklandraiders

Oakland Raiders fan since mid 2009, when I noticed the Raiders on TV during a visit to my wife's family in Ohio. By the end of the game versus the Bengals I had become a fanatical fan and haven't missed a game since... View all posts by theoaklandraiders

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: