Oakland Raiders: A Trip Down Memory Lane


Al Davis was no-brainer for the Raiders’ Mt. Rushmore (Photo: Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

The Oakland Raiders are one of the National Football League’s most storied franchises.

They rank 14th all-time in total wins with 430, but are second only to the Cowboys in wins by teams added in 1960 and later. The Raiders also are in top 10 in all-time winning percentage with .542 percent and in all-time Super Bowl wins with eight. Also, 21 players in the NFL Hall of Fame have donned the silver and black at one point in their careers.

The Raiders franchise is one that transcends the world of sports into the realm of pop culture. Al Davis was the key figure in creating the unique culture of the franchise. Davis took over as the team’s head coach in 1963 at the age of 33 years old. The Raiders went 23–16–3 during his time as the head coach. He eventually became a part owner and was put in charge of the team’s football operations after the AFL-NFL merger.

This led to Davis’s hand picked successor John Rauch to take over as the team’s head coach. Rauch was extremely successful as the team’s head coach with a 33–8 –1 record in three seasons.

He led the team to their first playoff appearance and their first Super Bowl appearance in 1967. The Raiders would drop Super Bowl II to the Green Bay Packers. Next season, the Raiders would again challenge for the AFL Title, but would fall to the New York Jets in the title game. During the offseason, Rauch would resign as head coach due to conflicts with management interfering with day to day coaching decisions.

Rauch was successful as the Raiders’ head coach, but his departure would pave the way for the Raiders’ golden age. His replacement would be the future Hall of Famer John Madden. The Raiders would become a perennial powerhouse under Madden. Madden led the Raiders to 10 straight winning seasons, seven division championships, and their first Super Bowl victory.

The Raiders’ persona of tough, hard hitting style play was developed under Madden, who was known for his defensive style of play.

The Raiders’ first Super Bowl victory came in 1976. The Raiders would face off with their rival the Pittsburgh Steelers for the third straight time in the AFC Conference Championship game. They would finally get past Pittsburgh for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XI.

The Raiders would face the Minnesota Vikings, who were making their fourth Super Bowl appearance in 11 years. The defense would dominate the Vikings and force three turnovers enroute to a 32 to 14 victory.

Madden would leave the Raiders in 1979 to pursue his broadcasting career and would be replaced by former Raiders’ quarterback Tom Flores. Flores was the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL. Flores would find glory in only his second season as the head man.

An injury to Dan Pastorini would open the door for former number one draft pick Jim Plunkett to take over as the starter. Plunkett and Flores would lead the Raiders to their third Super Bowl appearance. The Raiders became the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl after again getting a dominant defensive performance as they forced the Philadelphia Eagles to commit four turnovers, including forcing Ron Jaworski to throw three interceptions.

The team would miss the playoffs in the 1981 season, but the 1982 season kicked off a new era in the team’s history as they moved to Los Angeles. During the first season in Los Angeles, the Raiders would fall to the Jets in the second round of the playoffs. The following season would see the Raiders in the Super Bowl again, as they faced off against the reigning Super Bowl Champions the Washington Redskins. The Raiders again rode a dominant defensive performance to their third Super Bowl in team history.

The team would see a downfall in the following season as they failed to get past the early rounds in the playoffs and then posted back to back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1960’s, with just four winning seasons between 1986 season and the 1999 season.

The next three seasons would be a resurgence for the Raiders’ franchise under the coaching of Jon Gruden. Gruden would leave prior to the 2002 season, which put Bill Callahan in head coaching position. The Raiders would make their fifth Super Bowl appearance, but the tables were turned as the Raiders were dominated by Tampa Bay’s defense. The Super Bowl loss would kick off a decade of futility, as the Raiders would finish no better than .500 just twice in the 10 seasons following the loss.

The Raiders were a special team in the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s. The Raiders suffered one losing season between 1965 to 1986. NFL Films created a poem titled “The Autumn Wind”, which became the anthem of the Raiders. That poem was a perfect description of the Raiders franchise at the time, as it described the bad boy, rebellious persona portrayed by the franchise.

That rough and tumble image and success in Los Angeles allowed the Raiders to infiltrate the west coast hip-hop scene, which was led by the rap group N.W.A. This transcendence into pop culture as built one of the deepest and most passionate fan bases in the history of sports, the Raider Nation.

The team has fallen on hard time recently, but seems to be poised for a turn around under the guidance of GM Reggie McKenzie. T

he NFL is a much better place when the Raiders are a playoff contender. Hopefully, those “Autumn Winds” are just around the corner with the Raiders rejoining the NFL’s elite.