The transcript of an interview Raiders owner Al Davis did with Sirius Satellite Radio host and friend Gil Brandt Tuesday:
Q: Why are the Raiders called the team of the decades?
Davis: Well, that’s because there are five decades in which the American Football League and the National Football League have played professional football. And during those five decades, there’s only one team that has played in the Super Bowl four of those decades. And that’s the Raiders. They played in the Super Bowl four of the five decades. They played in the 60s, they played in the 70s, they played in the 80s and in 2000 (actually 2002), they played in the Super Bowl, and No. 2, Gil, in each decade, beginning in 1970, the first 10 years of the decade, the Raiders played in the championship game. In 1980, the Raiders played the San Diego Chargers in the championship game.
In 1990, the Raiders played the Buffalo Bills played in the championship game and in the year 2000, the Raiders played the Baltimore Colts (Ravens) in the championship game. So in every decade, beginning in 1970, 80, 90, 2000, we played in the championship game and it’s our hope that in the year 2010, which we’re getting ready to start, repeat the Raiders hope that they do again what they’ve done in the last four decades, play in the championship game.
Q: Tell me about the 50 years you talk about, tell us about your feelings now that it has been 50 years since the NFL-AFL merger . . .
Davis: Well, they were exciting years for me, as you know, I was the head coach and general manager of the Raiders. I was asked to be commissioner of the American Football League against the venerable traditions of the great National Football League. We were in competition, and then because of strict competition and because of the rules and the regulations of player allocation, we were forced into a merger.
That merger was in the 60s, ’66 to be exact, and culminated in ’70 with a joint schedule between the Raiders and the National Football League and all teams in the American Football League, and teams in the National Football League. But something that has stuck with me that I’ll never forget, just recently, I came across a picture, that in 1968, Pete Rozelle, who was named commissioner of both leagues, I had come back to be the owner of the Raiders, he named a committee to do all the scheduling and all the realignment and all the methods of competition, player rosters and numerous things, a joint committee of both leagues, and I have a picture of that joint committee, and they were some of the greatest people who have ever lived, who ever put the hats on, that were coaches, or general mangers in professional football.
From the Green Bay Packers, the representative was Vince Lombardi. From the Cincinnati Bengals the representative was Paul Brown. And then the great Tex Schramm of the Dallas Cowboys, and then myself, Al Davis, comprised that committee. Unfortunately, three of them are gone now, passed on, but the time still holds in my hand my love for those people, even though we were strong rivals, strong enemies from time to time.
Our respect goes out to them because they really, they really were the game, they helped make this game, the great game, and we can never lose sight of that Gil. You and I both know about the great players who came before us, who we watched, who we idolized, we go back to the Hall of Fame regularly in Canton, to honor them, and to take our place with them. But one thing we can never forget _ those who came before us. And we hope in the CBA, that we can make amends and help those people who need it most.
Q: The Raiders have been in five Super Bowls with four different quarterbacks and four different head coaches, how have you kept the organization so successful for so long with such change at key positions and where does this team rate?
Davis: Well, we haven’t been successful, Gil, in the last few years. For example, since 1963, when I took over as head coach and general managers of the Raiders, the Raiders, up until a few years ago, were the No. 1 team of wins and losses in the National Football League. Now the No. 1 team is the Dallas Cowboys of which you were a proud, proud organizer an doer.
The Miami Dolphins are 2, and the Raiders are 3. We’re very close to the top, but we let go the last few years which took us from the top. We had been the No. 1 for many years, back to No. 3, and we’re hoping that the start of this decade is a prelude for greatness for the Raiders. For example, in the year 2000, we played the Baltimore Colts (Ravens) in the championship game. In the 2001 we played the New England Patriots in the great tuck game up in Boston which we thought we had won the ballgame, but had it taken away from us in the moments by officials that changed the call and took a win away from the Raiders.
In 2002 we played in the Super Bowl, so we thought that the decade of the 2000s would be ours, but boy we slipped. We slumped. And now we come in the year 2010 and I really liken this team a great deal to the team of 1980, in which the great Jim Plunkett pulled us out of the doldrums, took us to the Super Bowl as a wild card, and we had so many great players who eventually made their way into the Hall of Fame.
I see this young Jason Campbell as a football player like I saw Jim Plunkett. He has everything. He was 13-0 in college, at Auburn, he can throw up the field, he can run, he’s big, he’s smart. I really predict great things for him. I hope he doesn’t let me down. I don’t think he will. I think we have a team that’s pretty similar, we don’t have as many Hall of Fame players as we have on the ’80 team, which was the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl. But this team has a lot of potential and a lot of great young players.
It’s ironic. When we started every decade like I said to you in 1970, being a different quarterback, Daryle Lamonica, and a different head coach, the great John Madden, 1980, we had Jim Plunkett and Tom Flores, who won two Super Bowls. In 1990, we had Art Shell, the first Afro-American head coach in the modern era, and Jay Schroeder, and in the year 2000, we had Rich Gannon and Jon Gruden. That’s four different quarterbacks, four different head coaches, and this year we come in and we have a bright new young offensive coordinator in Hue Jackson, and I just have great hopes for this young team. It’s a very young team, but I do have hopes for it.
Q: Your place in history, your legacy is already intact _ in fact NFL Films produced a film naming you No. 1 all time relative to your impact in pro football based on personal achievement, team achievement and contributions to the game. What else is there for you to achieve?
Davis: Oh, Gil, just like you. Gil, the will to win will always be here. The fire that burns brightest in me and my family, Carole and Mark, is the will to win. We just want the Raiders to do great. As you know, I’m 81 years old, but I still can contribute a great deal. We do a great deal for the team, I think we have our stamp on this team. It’s our personnel, it’s our picks, its our want to be great once again, to join the ranks of the elite and get back that No. 1 rating on terms of wins and losses since we come into the league, and to make the National Football League, which is the greatest game which is always played by the greatest players, the greatest coaches, the greatest players, the greatest games, and of course, the greatest fans, than anyone could want.
Q: I want to leave you with one thought. This morning I did a chat for NFL.com and we announced that were in Raider camp. Our first call, or our first message that we took came from Norway, our last one came from Canada, and we had Australia in the middle of it, so I think you realize what the Raiders are to the world?
Davis: We’ve always wanted to be global, and we are global. You take that silver and black, you take that uniform, and you can go anywhere in the world and you say silver and black, and you know what they’re talking about. Whatever else you want, I guess the star, the Yankees, you have to stay the pinstripes, the Celtics, the green, but the silver and black of the Raiders, we want that flag to be the dominant flag over the sports world.