Oakland Raiders: Greg Papa believes it was his loyalty that cost him his job

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16: An Oakland Raiders fan hold up a sign in honor of the late owner Al Davis before the game against the Cleveland Browns at O.co Coliseum on October 16, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16: An Oakland Raiders fan hold up a sign in honor of the late owner Al Davis before the game against the Cleveland Browns at O.co Coliseum on October 16, 2011 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Oakland Raiders now former play-by-play man Greg Papa gave his first interview since being fired and says loyalty cost him his job.

For Oakland Raiders fans, it’s not going to be the same. For twenty-one years, we’ve listened to the distinctive voice of Greg Papa calling games for the Silver and Black, and came to cherish his signature call of, TOUCHDOWN RAIIIIDDDERRRRRS!

Granted, there was a period of time we didn’t hear a lot of that call, but you get the point.

Papa was a piece of the fabric of the Raider Nation. Sure, maybe he’s not in the same category as a Vin Scully or Chick Hearn, but for Raiders fans, he’s been an integral part of the Nation for years and years.

And now he’s gone.

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Both he and Tom Flores – who himself is an important piece of Raiders lore – have been ousted in favor of 79-year old Brent Musburger and Lincoln Kennedy.

Now, Kennedy’s elevation to the booth makes sense. He’s a solid piece of Raiders history himself and has a solid connection with the fans. But Musburger’s only connection to the team is that he currently resides and has a presence in their future home of Las Vegas.

Bringing Musburger in to call games, on certain levels – though painful to listen to on so many other levels – makes some amount of sense. Having a face and voice familiar to the “home crowd” as Davis tries to make some inroads with the fans in Sin City is somewhat understandable.

However, in making his first remarks since being fired, Papa made it known he believes there was more in play than simple economics or trying to make inroads with the Vegas fanbase.

To hear Papa tell it, it was his loyalty to the late patriarch of the Raiders, Al Davis – and his outspoken nature – that led to his dismissal.

In particular, Papa points to an incident on his radio show back in 2015 as the defining moment that led to his ouster – a discussion about the possibility of Mike Shanahan coming back to coach the team.

"“I had known this for about a week and a half before … I felt it to be beyond my comprehension – it still is – that Mike Shanahan could interview to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Knowing how much Al Davis loathed him, it just couldn’t happen.I was extremely outspoken about how it could not happen, in my opinion. I threatened to quit as the voice of the team and I would have no association with him. The reason I was doing it was my love and respect for Al Davis.”"

Papa’s criticism of Shanahan’s name being bandied about as a potential head coaching candidate was a direct criticism of Mark Davis himself. Something papa said laid he groundwork for his eventual departure.

Papa expounded on that when he relayed a conversation he had with Raiders president Marc Badain, who was introduced at the same time Jack Del Rio was officially made head coach of the team. Papa said Badain urged him to speak with Mark Davis and patch up that relationship.

"“The phone conversation did not go well. He wound up hanging up on me. I don’t know exactly what he wanted me to say, if he wanted me to apologize for my feelings. I said ‘I’m sorry you feel this way. It was not a direct shot at you. Sometimes I just feel there’s nobody around here to defend Al.’”"

Which probably isn’t the wisest or most politic thing to say to somebody when you’re talking about their father.

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But, that was Papa. His outspoken, pull no punches nature, was part of what made him so great. His passion for this team was unrivaled and he was often one of the most ardent and vocal supporters when things were going well.

And, on the other side of the coin, he was also the first one to lay it out in plain, simple terms when things were not going well. Which was something we heard far, far too often over the last decade and a half.

Papa had no idea things were moving in this direction and was clearly blindsided by the move. And he insists that it has to do with his criticism of Shanahan’s name being connected with the organization once more. If there’s one thing he should have known – and account for – though, it’s that the Davis’ know how to carry a grudge. It’s in the family DNA.

"“We never were able to mend fences, Mark Davis and I. Whenever we were around each other, standing right next to each other many, many times. I reached out to him to say hi, he ignored me. I thought over time it would dissipate. I thought over time, especially with Jon Gruden coming back, that it would really go away.”"

Ultimately, that inability to mend fences means the fans will suffer. Papa’s unique style, his passion for the organization, and love of the game defined him as a broadcaster. He painted pictures with his words and had that rare ability the truly great broadcasters have – he could make you “see” the game, despite the fact that you were listening to it on the radio.

But, it was his deep, unwavering, steadfast loyalty and love for Al Davis that paved the way for his forced exit.

"“This is happening because of my deep, deep love for the patriarch of this franchise.”"

Papa is – or apparently, was, is probably the correct word now – a big part of the Raiders. He’s interwoven in the culture, the mystique, and the DNA every bit as much as the legendary broadcaster Bill King was.

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Since taking over after Al’s passing, Mark has made some terrific moves and has done some terrific things. He’s building on his father’s legacy, but is putting his own stamp on the organization.

But in this issue, Mark go it very, very wrong. Ultimately, because of his inability to set aside his personal beef, he’s diminishing the experience for the fans, and we’ll all be poorer for it.