I’m going to start out by talking about my ex-coach John Madden. John was forced into retirement by ulcers and nothing else. I know the rumor had it that John was asked to step down because of the bleak 9 and 7 season the Raiders went through in 1978, but that’s not true. For health reasons alone, John was unable to continue coaching. He could deal with people on any level, and the Raiders’ success and development of their personnel offer proof of that statement. Look down our roster to see what I mean. Many of the Raiders were a band of misfits, rogues, and ruffians who couldn’t get along with their own mothers until Madden took over. Madden had a way of taking the undesirables and turning them into a functioning machine that gave him the highest winning percentage of all the coaches in the NFL. There have been coaches who have won more total games than John but none have attained a win-loss ratio as impressive as his.
John had the ability to communicate with anyone on the team, even Skip Thomas. I don’t mean to slight Skip. Its just that Skip had different ideas, but John was able to understand and love the man. Skip is a tremendous athlete, but most teams would have given up on him a long time ago.
Hank Stram, however, believed in the biggest players he could find. Hank’s idea was to first find the giants and then teach them to develop speed and quickness. Well, speed and quickness can be developed to a degree, but you don’t take a lumbering 6 foot 10 tight end and make him capable of 4.5 speed. Stram was a great coach and a very successful man, but I feel that his teams needed a little more balance. Stram had some great players and won a Super Bowl, but I believe he could have improved by looking for a little more overall team speed and quickness.
After eight or nine years in the NFL, you have a tendency to start counting your stitches, bumps and bruises and looking at a future day when your body will start to slow down a a little and physical exercise will not be a necessary way of life. When that happens, I know that arthritis and bursitis will settle into my bones and joints an yesterday’s hits on wide receivers will become tender and stiff areas of my body. Humans were just not built with the contact of professional football in mind. And regardless of all the conditioning a football player does, there is still the chance of serious injury and still a price that will be paid during old age. Even now, it gets more difficult for me to get out of bed for days after a game. I know that is simply a combination of the aging process and football’s minor injuries catching up with me. Still, though, it’s the type of work I have chosen and the price I must pay, and hopefully, when my NFL career is over, I’ll still be able to stand upright and walk like a human being.