There’s one team in the NFL that has a reputation that precedes them and it’s been that way since the very beginning.
The Oakland Raiders were established in controversy and have remained that way practically since Day 1.
Every team with Oakland on their schedule has the storied “Raiders Week” when they plan to face a Raiders team that has historically been unpredictable. Even in their down years, it was hard to prepare because you never knew which team would show up.
The franchise was created by football Maverick, Al Davis, who was known for his battles with the NFL, all monumental and never resolved. He was one of the owners that helped build the newly established American Football League to combat the monopoly that the NFL had over professional football. The AFL was successful enough to cause concern, to the point that the NFL pushed for a merger between the two. The leagues joined together in 1970, but the bad blood between Davis and the NFL continued.
Even though Davis never gave up the grudge, he was consistent in his ability to find and develop Hall of Fame caliber players. He picked up the “riffraff” that other teams dropped for one reason or another and made them into champs. His success was in the cast-off’s who fit the Raiders mold. He wasn’t the most successful in big-name pickups, but by the late 70s, Raiders Week was real and it was frightening.
If asked which team had the scariest players in the league in that era, you’ll hear a pretty resounding concurrence: the Oakland Raiders. Other teams had players with bad reputations here and there, but the Raiders were a team that personified the bad boy image. As the late great Ken Stabler stated, a third of the team had to be on work release just to go to the games. At least, that was the assumption.
It wasn’t uncommon for the Raiders to clear a bench to defend their brothers if there was disrespect on the field. Even if there wasn’t, sometimes it just seemed like a good idea. Testosterone is the mother of aggression, after all. On the field, players were assigned nicknames like the Assassin, the Mad Bomber, the Mad Stork, and Dr. Death. These come as a result of some of the foulest aggression and hardest hits you’ll see in the game, even today. With physical dominance like that, it stands to reason that you absolutely have to prepare for Raiders Week.
Oakland is still seen as the “bad boy” franchise. Even though the team does boast fewer felons than any other team in the league, the reputation does and always will remain. Silver and Black brings a certain “je ne sais quoi” to opponents and fans alike.
That’s what makes the Raiders so important to the league.
So is it a shock that skirmishes continue, even today? While it seems like it should be, given team leader Derek Carr and his belief in God and forgiveness, not many in Raider Nation were surprised. The biggest shocker was that more of the team wasn’t involved.
The Broncos and Raiders have possibly more bad blood than any two teams in the league. After more unprofessional behavior from Denver cornerback Aqib Talib, who ripped Michael Crabtree’s gold chain from his neck for the second year in a row, Crabtree had his fill of Talib’s foolishness. It was time to take him to task and Crabtree did that. It may seem like a selfish act, but there was a reason for it. And if you were a Raiders fan prior this century, you understand why.
Crabtree is generally mild-mannered and lets things slide off his back, but the continued disrespect by Talib hit a fever pitch, causing Crabtree to swing back after dodging a shot thrown by Talib. The altercation stretched over nearly half of the field, a sight fans haven’t seen in a while but were silently giving him an “atta boy”. The biggest travesty was that he got ejected, which wasn’t something you’d see 40 years ago. The Raiders were without their most reliable weapon on offense. Even so, they rallied and held the Broncos off for a 21-14 victory.
It seems the bad blood between the Raiders and the rest of the league is perpetual. Teams come into the Black Hole with a chip on their shoulder and they leave just the same.
Make no mistake, Raiders Week is back in full force. The fire in their bellies after that fight gave them a purpose and they looked like the Raiders of old.
Don’t underestimate this team on or off the field. It may be your downfall.