Bay Area Sports Franchises: Oakland Raiders
March 9, 2011 Leave a comment
Championships: 1967 (pre-Super Bowl), Super Bowls XI (1976), XV (1980), XVIII (1983)
Retired Numbers: The Raider organization does not retire jersey numbers of former players on an unofficial or official basis.
Rivals: San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers
The Raiders began play as a member of the AFL in 1960 and joined the NFL through the 1970 merger between the two leagues. Although there were very few resources to justify placing a new pro football team in Oakland, local leaders found a number of businesspeople willing to invest in the new team. Additionally, to build fan interest and support, a contest was held by the Oakland Tribune to name the team. The winning name was the Oakland “Señors,” but the ownership did not think it was appropriate, and changed the team’s name nine days later to the Raiders, which had finished third in the contest.
The Raiders had originally played in Kezar Stadium in San Francisco as their home stadium. However, they were allowed to move to Candlestick Park for the final three home games of the 1960 season after gaining the approval of the City of San Francisco. Usually a baseball stadium, this move marked the first time that professional football would be played at the new stadium.
After splitting the previous home season between Kezar and Candlestick, the Raiders moved exclusively to Candlestick Park in 1961. However, in 1962 the Raiders moved into Frank Youell Field, their first home in Oakland, which acted as a temporary home for the team while the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was under construction. Amidst all of the relocations during this time, the team felt the discouragement from the low attendance, and turned in dismal records for the first few years of their existence.
After the 1962 season, Valley hired Al Davis, a former assistant coach for the San Diego Chargers, as head coach and general manager. At 33, he was the youngest person in professional football history to hold the positions. Changing the team colors to black and silver, he began to pioneer a turnaround that saw steady improvements with each season that passed in the early 1960’s. Finally, it was under the leadership of John Rauch (Davis’s hand-picked successor) that the Raiders won the 1967 AFL Championship. This win earned the team a trip to Super Bowl II, where they were beaten 33-14 by Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers. The following two years, the Raiders again won Western Division titles, only to lose the AFL Championship to the eventual Super Bowl winners—the New York Jets (1968) and Kansas City Chiefs (1969).
In 1969, John Madden became the team’s sixth head coach, and under him the Raiders became one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, winning six division titles during the 1970s.
The beginning of the 70’s also saw the AFL-NFL merger that placed the Raiders in the Western Division of the AFC in the newly merged NFL. The first post-merger season saw the Raiders win the AFC West with an 8-4-2 record and go all the way to the conference championship, where they lost to the Colts. Despite another 8-4-2 season in 1971, the Raiders failed to win the division or achieve a playoff berth. The Raiders also garnered another division title in 1972, but were beaten by the Steelers 13-7 in the playoffs. The 1973 season saw an improvement to a 9-4-1 record, with the Raiders reaching the AFC Championship, where they lost to the Dolphins.
In 1974, Oakland came close to a Super Bowl appearance again, earning a 12-2 regular season, which included a nine-game winning streak. Beating the Dolphins in the divisionals, Oakland fell to the Steelers in the AFC Championship, and lost to them again in the conference championship in the following season.
In 1976, the Raiders won 13 regular season games and then knocked out the Steelers in a revenge-themed AFC Championship to go to Super Bowl XI. Facing the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland won 32-14 for their first post-merger Super Bowl.
After ten consecutive winning seasons and one Super Bowl championship, John Madden left the Raiders in 1979 to pursue his career in football commentating for television. His void was filled by former Raiders quarterback Tom Flores, who was also the first Hispanic head coach in NFL history. In the 1980 season, behind quarterback Jim Plunkett, Oakland cruised to an 11-5 record and a wild card berth. Beating the Houston Oilers, Cleveland Browns, and San Diego Chargers in the playoffs, the Raiders went to Super Bowl XV, where they bested the Eagles to win the franchise’s second NFL championship in five years. With this victory, the program also became the first ever wild card team to win a Super Bowl. The team would not see a repeat performance in 1981, falling to 7-9 and a losing record for the first time since 1963.
Prior to the 1980 season, the Raider ownership signed an agreement to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. The move was originally defeated by NFL owners, but the ownership in Oakland tried to move the team anyway, he was blocked by an injunction. In response, the Raiders not only became an active partner in an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (who had recently lost the Los Angeles Rams), but filed an antitrust lawsuit of their own. In 1982, a second jury found in favor of Oakland’s party, and the Raiders finally relocated to Los Angeles for the 1982 season to play their home games at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The team finished 8–1 in the strike-shortened 1982 season, but lost in the second round of the playoffs to the New York Jets. However, the following season, the Raiders won with distance against the Steelers and Seattle Seahawks in the AFC playoffs. In Super Bowl XVIII, Oakland cruised to a 38-9 victory over the Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, clinching their third NFL championship. The team had another successful regular season in 1984, finishing 11-5, but fell to the Seahawks. The 1985 season saw 12 wins and a division title, success that was unfortunately followed by an embarrassing home loss to the Patriots in the first round of playoffs.
After much success in the first half of the decade, in 1986 through 1989 the Raiders finished no better than 8–8, posting consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1961–62. Low game attendance and lacking fan interest were extremely evident by this point. In 1988, rumors of a Raiders return to Oakland intensified when a preseason game against the Houston Oilers was scheduled at Oakland Coliseum. There rumors were confirmed on March 11, 1991, as owner Al Davis announced his intention to bring the Raiders back to Oakland. However, failed negotiations prevented the agreement to come to fruition for 4 more seasons, causing much angst and frustration for fans a players alike, giving way to an era characterized by poor records, fan apathy, and frequent personnel turnovers.
On June 23, 1995, Davis signed a letter of intent to move the Raiders back to Oakland. The move was greeted with much fanfare, as under new head coach Mike White the 1995 season started off well for the team. Oakland started 8–2, but injuries to starting quarterback Jeff Hostetler contributed to a six-game losing streak to end the season, and the Raiders failed to qualify for the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
After two more unsuccessful seasons under White in 1996 and 1997, the Raiders selected a new head coach from outside the Raiders organization for only the second time when he hired Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Jon Gruden, who previously worked for the 49ers and Packers under head coach Mike Holmgren. With Gruden at the helm, the Raiders posted consecutive 8-8 seasons in 1998 and 1999. Oakland finished 12-4 in the 2000 season, and won their first division title since 1990. Advancing to the AFC Championship, they lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
The Raiders acquired all-time leading receiver Jerry Rice prior to the 2001 season. They finished 10-6 and won a second straight AFC West title but lost their divisional-round playoff game to the eventual Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Shortly after that loss, the Raiders made an unusual move that, releasing Gruden from his contract and allowing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign him in return for cash and future draft picks from the Buccaneers. Bill Callahan, who served as the team’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach during Gruden’s tenure, was named head coach.
Under Callahan, the Raiders finished the 2002 season 11-5, won their third straight division title, and clinched the top seed in the playoffs. Quarterback Rich Gannon was named MVP of the NFL after passing for a league-high 4,689 yards. After beating the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans by large margins in the playoffs, the Raiders made their fifth Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII, facing Tampa Bay Buccaneers, coached by Gruden. The Raiders, who had not made significant changes to Gruden’s offensive schemes, were intercepted five times by the Buccaneers en route to a 48–21 blowout. Some Tampa Bay players claimed that Gruden had given them so much information on Oakland’s offense, that they knew exactly what plays were being called. At the end of the 2003 regular season Callahan was fired and replaced by former Washington Redskins head coach Norv Turner.
The next few seasons were dismal at best, with the Raiders falling into playoff oblivion and finishing with some of the NFL’s worst seasons amidst frequent head coach transitions and superstar turnovers. The program’s finish to the 2008 season would turn out to match their best since they lost the Super Bowl in the 2002 season. However, they still finished 5–11 and ended up 3rd in the AFC West, the first time they did not finish last since 2002. They would produce an identical record in 2009; however the season was somewhat ameliorated by the fact that four of the Raiders’ five wins were against opponents with above .500 records. At the end of their 2009 campaign, the Raiders became the first team in NFL history to lose at least 11 games in seven straight seasons.
In 2010, outlook for the team improved, with new acquisition Jason Campbell at QB running the offense. However, they became the first team in NFL history to go undefeated against their won division yet fail to make the postseason, as they finished 6-0 in the AFC West, 3 games behind the Jets for the second wild card berth. With the recent introduction of Hue Jackson as the next head coach for the upcoming season, big changes are in store for the Raiders. Stay tuned tomorrow as we analyze what’s happening today for Raider Nation!