The Oakland Raiders are one of the most successful and popular franchises in the NFL. The team is known for its colorful characters, its rabid fans, being part of some of the most controversial plays in league history and its owner, Al Davis.
In 1960, after the Minnesota Vikings accepted an offer to join the NFL, Oakland became the eighth and final franchise to join the American Football League.
The Raiders struggled in their first couple years in the burgeoning league until Davis was hired as head coach and general manager in 1963.
The 33-year old Davis immediately turned the team’s fortunes around by implementing a vertical passing game and acquiring the type of players needed for such a scheme. He also changed the Raiders’ colors to silver and black.
Davis left the team in 1966 to become commissioner of the AFL. Two months later the AFL and the NFL announced plans to merge. With the AFL no longer needing a commissioner, Davis returned to Raiders as part-owner and head of football operations.
The Raiders won the 1967 AFL Championship but lost Super Bowl II to the Green Bay Packers, 33-14. Two years later, Davis would hire John Madden as head coach.
During the 1970’s Madden would lead the lead the Raiders to ten consecutive winning seasons, six division titles and a victory in Super Bowl XI. Prior to their 1976 Championship, the Raiders lost three consecutive AFC Championship games, two of which to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After Madden left the team in 1979, Davis replaced him with former Raiders quarterback Tom Florres, the first Hispanic head coach in the NFL. In 1989, Davis would replace coach Mike Shanahan with hall of fame offensive lineman Art Shell. This hiring would make Shell the first black coach of an NFL team in the modern era and the second all-time after Fritz Pollard.
With Jim Plunkett as his quarterback, Florres coached the Raiders to their second Super Bowl win in 1980 (Super Bowl XV). During the game, Raiders linebacker Rod Martin picked off Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski three times as Oakland defeated Philadelphia 27-10. The victory made the Raiders the first wildcard team to ever win the Super Bowl.
Florres got the Raiders back to the “Big Game” at the end of the 1983 season. In Super Bowl XVIII, the “Silver and Black” dominated the Washington Redskins 38-9 and running back Marcus Allen was named the game’s MVP.
The Raiders made their fifth Super Bowl appearance after the 2002 season. Raiders quarterback, and the league MVP for that year, Rich Gannon, threw five interceptions as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sailed to a 48-21 victory. The coach of the Buccaneers was Jon Gruden, the year before he was walking the sidelines for the Raiders.
The Raiders finished in last place from 2003 to 2007. While they avoided a last place finish in 2008, they still managed to lose 11 games. This made the Raiders the first team in NFL history to lose eleven or more games in six consecutive seasons.
New head coach Tom Cable is looking to the turn the franchise around. Helping him are top draft picks quarterback JaMarcus Russell and running back Darren McFadden.
Besides the numerous Super Bowls and AFC Championships, the Raiders have also played in some of the NFL’s most memorable games like the Heidi Bowl, the Immaculate Reception, The Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post, The Holly Roller, Red Right 88, and the infamous Tuck Rule Game.
Several Raiders have been inducted into the hall of fame including Fred Bilentnikoff, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Dave Casper, Mike Haynes, Ted Hendricks, Howie Long, Jim Otto, and Gene Upshaw.
While not in the hall of fame, the team has also produced a bevy of color characters like “The Snake” Ken Stable, John Matuszak, Phil Villapiano, Lester Hayes, and Lyle Alzado.
Through all the winning and losing, beyond all the great players that have worn the silver and black, only one man remains a constant fixture within the organization, Al Davis.
While Davis was instrumental to the success of the Raiders and the AFL, he’s also been involved with several protracted legal battles with the NFL. Davis sued the league in 1980 and 1995. Both suits revolved around relocating the franchise (the Raiders left Oakland for Los Angeles in 1982 only to return in 1995) and other stadium-related issues
In 1996, Davis sued the league again for over 22 separate clauses including the claim that the Buccaneer’s logo diluted the Raiders’ trademark in the state of California. The suit was eventually dismissed.
Perhaps Davis’ most controversial decision was testifying on behalf of the USFL in their lawsuit against the NFL. While the rival football league lost their suit, Davis was the only NFL owner to testify against the league.
The Raiders play in the West Division of the AFC. Every team in their division is a heated rival, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers. Numerous playoff meetings have turned the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Jets and the New England Patriots into fierce rivals as well.
Their passionate and expressive fans have nicknamed themselves Raider Nation. Some of the team’s diehard fans, including those who dress in ominous silver and black garb, sit in sections 104, 105, 106, and 107 of their home stadium, O.co Coliseum (formerly the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum). This area is appropriately called “The Black Hole.”