Las Vegas Raiders
Yes, NFLbets knows that relocation of a franchise is always sad news, particularly in cases of a historically solid fanbase, but doesn’t “Las Vegas Raiders” just sound cool, with the assonance and all? Plus, what other town is more appropriately glitzy-yet-rowdy enough to hold the Raiders? (I mean, besides Los Angeles.)
Here’s to thinking that Las Vegas is also particularly well-equipped to host a controversy magnet like the Raiders. In fact, would-be Las Vegas Raiders fans should *hope* their new(ish) team is such a magnet, because the entire history of the franchise has demonstrated just two modes of existence: controversial and irrelevant.
Naturally, the Oakland Raiders were born as part of the most successful rogue football league of all-time. As one of the inaugural eight teams in the AFL in 1960, the Raiders were (you guessed it) completely irrelevant over their first three years, going a cumulative 9-33. The hiring of a head coach named Al Davis for the ’63 season didn’t exactly turn things around, but once Davis moved into the front office and started doing the hiring (not to mention ascending to the AFL presidency in time for the AFL/NFL merger), things in the burgeoning Raider Nation started looking up.
John Rauch was Raiders head coach for just three seasons but during his brief while on the sidelines brought over Daryle Lamonica from the Buffalo Bills, drafted/signed Fred Biletnikoff and got the team into Super Bowl II. The team’s season ended the following year with a loss to the upstart New York Jets in the “Heidi Game”; Rauch had grown weary of Davis’s interference and so took the head coaching job in Buffalo. And this, of course, paved the way … for Madden.
John Madden was promoted from linebackers coach to head coach in Rauch’s wake and, before he’d leave the Raiders 10 years later for color commentary and video game divinity, compiled a best-ever 103-32-7 mark. Eight Madden-coach Raiders teams made the playoffs, seven times after winning the AFC West. And Madden’s Raiders may also boast one of the greatest-ever single seasons in NFL history, namely that of the 16-1, Super Bowl XI-winning 1976 squad. Tom Flores later took many of Madden’s chosen players and plugged in redemption story QB Jim Plunkett to win Super Bowl XI.
And although Flores got the Raiders through a subsequent rebuild and back to winning in one season, the biggest news surrounding the team involved now-owner Davis’s legal tussles with league officials and franchise owners. Even during the Super Bowl run, Davis and his legal team were working on the dreaded anti-trust suit he’d brought against the NFL after the league helped block his effort to move the Raiders to Los Angeles. Though Davis ultimately lost the anti-trust case, by 1982 his franchise was based in L.A. anyway and the City of Angels was digging on its first Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl XVIII.
Perhaps the karmic police silently started taking paybacks. From the outside, it appeared a combination of counterproductive “help” from Davis plus a string of lame head coaches (Art Shell, Mike White and Joe “24-56 career” Bugel, none of whom coached again after leaving the Raiders) were the cause of 12 seasons with just three playoff appearances. In ’95, the Raiders returned to their original home and few outside the Bay Area even noticed.
Jon “Chucky” Gruden brought some life back into the team with his boundless energy, ballsy play-calling and generally psychotic demeanor. In his third season as coach, his 12-4 team advanced to the AFC Championship game, only to lose in the “Tuck Rule” game. Apparent difficulties between Gruden and – stop us if you’ve heard this before – Davis led to Gruden getting traded (!) to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, followed by Chucky’s new team stomping his old one in Super Bowl XXXVII.
This was in turn followed by an even longer string – 15 seasons – of incompetent to comatose coaches which included one anomalous 12-4 season. Another move, to Las Vegas in 2020, is planned and this time was given the consent of an NFL apparently ready to eschew the Bay Area along with St. Louis. And perhaps due to desperation and/or willingness to tank for a few seasons more, the late Davis’s son Mark has dusty off ol’ Chucky, mercifully taking him out of the ESPN Monday Night Football rotation.
For the official Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders website, click here.