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Former Raiders coach Charlie Sumner, architect of Super Bowl XVIII touchdown, dies in Maui at age 84

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Note: Updated with reaction from Raiders as well as comments from former Raiders coach Tom Flores and former Raiders linebacker Jack Squirek

Charlie Sumner, a former Raiders assistant coach associated with one of the most famous plays in franchise history, died Friday from complications following gall bladder surgery.

Sumner, 84, passed away in Maui, according to his son, Colin Sumner.

“The Raiders are deeply saddened by the news of Charlie Sumner’s passing,” the club said in a statement. “Charlie was an esteemed part of the Raider family and was instrumental in some of the Silver and Black’s greatest triumphs. Our deepest sympathies are with Charlie’s family at this time.”

A veteran of seven NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings from 1955-60, Sumner served three tours under Raiders owner Al Davis as a defensive assistant, coaching defensive backs from 1963-68 and as defensive coordinator from 1979 to 1984 and from 1986 to 1989.

In 1985, Sumner was head coach of the Oakland Invaders of the United States Football League, leading that team to the league championship game.

Sumner was an innovator who helped an obscure linebacker named Jack Squirek become a hero in the Raiders’ last Super Bowl victory on Jan. 22, 1984 against Washington. With Washington backed up on its own 12-yard line with 12 seconds to play in the first half, the situation called for a run to kill the clock.

However, Sumner had a hunch based on a play in a 37-35 loss to Washington in the regular-season. In that game, quarterback Joe Thiesmann threw a screen pass to running back Joe Washington, who raced 67 yards to set up a field goal just before the half.

Based on that play, Sumner sent Squirek in for Millen to shadow Joe Washington.

Millen pleaded with Sumner to remain in the game, telling him, “Don’t take me out! They can’t handle me.”

Squirek intercepted the Theismann pass and ran it 5 yards into the end zone to put the Raiders up 21-3, helping to fuel a 38-9 victory for the Raiders.

Said former Raiders coach Tom Flores: “The thing I remember is Millen going ballistic on the sidelines. A few minutes later, he’s picking up Charlie and hugging him.”

Sumner told reporters in matter-of-fact fashion following the game how he had diagnosed the play.

”When they were backed up in that game, they threw a screen pass to Joe Washington for 67 yards,” Sumner said. ”I just knew it was coming again, that’s why I wanted Squirek in there. It was just an adjustment.”

Squirek, 56, runs a cleaning and janitorial business in the Cleveland area and said in a phone interview he is still asked about the play about once a week and even more often during Super Bowl week.

“I remember Charlie saying, `We’re going to be playing a prevent zone but I want you to cover (Joe) Washington man-to-man,’ ” Squirek said. “One of the last things he said was, `Don’t go for the interception and miss it.’ ”

Flores said the anticipation of the play was typical of Sumner, with whom he won two Super Bowl rings.

“Charlie had a great overview of the whole picture,” Flores said. “He worked on drills and techniques, but his overall input on game day was what I thought was most impressive.”

Another Sumner wrinkle that paid big dividends came in the wild card playoffs againt the Houston Oilers on Dec. 28, 1980. Although Davis was never a big believer in the blitz, Sumner dialed up a corner blitz to make life miserable for former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler in a 27-7 win at the Coliseum.

The Raiders sacked Stabler seven times, with cornerback Lester Hayes coming free from the blind side and getting him twice.

“They were a two tight-end team and mostly a left-handed team because of Stabler,” Flores said. “So when he dropped back from the tight end side, we brought the extra guy and he couldn’t be blocked from the backside. Charlie saw the weakness in their pass protection.”

Two Raiders Hall of Fame players, defensive end Howie Long and linebacker Ted Hendricks, thanked Sumner in their acceptance speeches.

Sumner was also a defensive backs coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969 to 1972 and defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots from 1973 to 1978. After leaving the Raiders, Sumner had a short stint with the New England Patriots and then worked as an assistant with the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football in 1991 and 1992.

Although Sumner had offers to return to coaching, he instead went to Maui on vacation “and never came back” according to Colin Sumner.

A 6-foot-1, 194-pound safety out of William & Mary, Sumner was a 22nd-round draft pick by the Chicago Bears in 1954.

Sumner died with his partner June Raymond by his side. Sumner is survived by sons Colin and and Terry Sumner and by his ex-wife Barbara. Sumner’s ashes will be scattered at sea in Maui this week in keeping with his wishes.

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Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • the hysterical dr robert

    I’m from south bend Indiana. Which is in greater Chicagoland.

    He has a hard time with it cuz he thinks I’m from the south.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    Right next door dumbbell.

    Somehow that’s in the south.

  • I Care!

    You said the town you grew up in his “town and country”. Greater Chicagoland. Like Sacramento is in the bay area.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    U sure?

  • the hysterical dr robert

    No. I said the part of town I grew up in.

  • I Care!

    Bobby, if you coulda, you woulda. You post on a football blog and post pictures of your high school team like Al Bundy because it’s important to you. Of course your first choice was football. But you weren’t good enough. You were not a football player, Bobby.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    Wow, I thought the pride of Sacramento was being the Capital of California, Sonoma’s was wine and the fact that they are the originators of the California flag, and Santa Rosa…. Well I only know it as my Grandma’s home for the past twenty years or so until she passed away last year, but that’s as good a reason for pride to me!

  • the hysterical dr robert

    Chose baseball fummy. Better at it.

    Nearly played football at rose hulman, where my cousin was coach.

  • I Care!

    South Bend is 95 miles from Chicago, Bobby. Are you done?

  • I Care!

    Yeah, except you didn’t grow up right next door. South Bend is 95 miles from Chicago. It is not in the Chicago area. Bobby, you’re lying to people to hide your rural corn fed bobby boy identity.

  • I Care!

    Even with your cousin as coach you weren’t good enough to make the back up squad. He’s probably the one who gave you the talk.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    Ask anyone from Chicago if they consider south bend a part of Chicagoland.

    I will wait.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    That’s only a little bit further than Sacramento is to San Francisco.

    Perspective

  • the hysterical dr robert

    U think ur getting me or something?

    Ur aware I actually know the truth about me?

  • I Care!

    If you had a brain, you’d know I was being sarcastic when I said Sacramento is part of the SF bay area. I know it’s not. The issue here is Bobby boy trying to lie, continuously, to hide his corn fed, hick Bobby boy identity, and you being too dumb to keep up with the discussion, of course.

  • I Care!

    I will. Let me know when someone from Chicago is in here.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    My Mexican wife just pointed out the Mexicans next to us had 6 people in the backseat of their sedan.

    She must not know she and they are noble and peaceful.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    ChicagoLAND.

    Words are important dummy.

  • I Care!

    Wow. Bobby Boy from Indiana stepped in it this time. Said South Bend, Indiana is part of the Chicago area? South Bend is 95 miles from Chicago. Heck, Sacramento is 87 miles from San Fran. I guess according to Bobby’s logic, Sac is part of the SF bay area, too. Oh, what people ashamed of their backgrounds will do to lie.

  • I Care!

    Now there’s the Bobby from South Bend we know.

  • I Care!

    I know you posted a pic of your high school football team, which tells me you’re proud of your short football career, and since you don’t have a college pic to show, well then I guess we know the game quit you, because you sure didn’t quit it.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    See, now that’s condescending! You got it man… good job!

    Baby steps.

  • I Care!

    95 miles, dummy. Nothing but country between Gary and South Bend.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    Google Chicagoland dude… South Bend Indiana is included FYI.

  • I Care!

    No, your approval, too. We need you to tell us that you got drunk in these towns and enjoyed it. Because heaven forbid, if you didn’t enjoy it, we’d be beside ourselves.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    Maybe Doc did a little doctoring, but if you Google Chicagoland apparetly SouthBend Indiana is included.

  • R8drTahoe in SF
  • I Care!

    Chicagoland covers like a hundred mile radius outside of Chicago. Big deal.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    Big deal… it’s only what you’ve been arguing.

  • I Care!

    No, it’s not.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    HAHAHA

    Dude you are quite possibly the most argumentative person around! WOW

  • I Care!

    Your overuse of “WOW” and your delusional belief that anyone cares what you think of their city is kind of silly.

  • R8drTahoe in SF

    Okay sweetypie

  • slewof damascus

    You will be remembered Coach, RIP – prayers to the family

  • slewof damascus

    This comment section has gone to the dogs – no respect for a guy who was instrumental in 2 Championships.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    But I didn’t live in between.

    Duh.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    Except it didn’t. As I told u, I had a choice. I picked baseball.

    I know u need to think these things due to ur inferiority complex.

  • the hysterical dr robert

    U know no one. We both know this.