Ahhh…January 14, 1968 the second AFL/ NFL World Championship game…Super Bowl II: Packers 33-14 over Oakland. The game was best remembered as Vince Lombardi’s final game as legendary Packers coach. Yet the culmination of Al Davis work, since returning from a stint as AFL commissioner, also took the field that day down in the Orange Bowl.


Al Davis fist Raider ring

The 1967 Raiders had the best record in all of pro football with a 13-1 record. After throttling the Houston Oilers 40-7 in the AFL Championship, they were poised to avenge the AFL’s first SuperBowl loss. Behind the “Mad Bomber” Daryle Lamonica, this era of Oakland Raider football was among the best in Raider history. When you look at the years 1967, ’68,’69, and 1970 the Raiders made it to the AFL Championship or AFC Championship every year.

The block AFL

The block AFL “A” along with the 1967 AFL Championship score 40-7 over Houston.

Warren Wells and Hall of Famer Fred Biletnikoff were the receivers during these years. Wells was the quintessential deep threat where as Biletnikoff was the intermediate target piling up yardage over the middle. Biletnikoff at one point held the postseason record for receptions, yardage, and touchdowns who later was named Super Bowl XI MVP. Hewritt Dixon and Clem Daniels (AFL All Time leading rusher) were the running backs for this team.

The defense was led by Ben Davidson at DE, Carleton Oats, Tom Keating on the defensive line formed a serious pass rush. Dan Conner and Gus Otto were steady linebackers yet the secondary was a serious strength of this team and where they borrowed the techniques started in Buffalo of tight cornerbacks playing “bump and run” coverage. Hall of Famer Willie Brown and Kent McCloughan were strong on coverage. This coverage along with the rush was what propelled this team to a 13-1 record. Their 1st chance to win the AFL championship in the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum went like this:

Silver & Black...#1 in the AFL West

Silver & Black…#1 in the AFL West

They played in some of the most famous games in football history, from The Heidi Bowl to George Blanda’s miracle season of 1970 where he garnered MVP votes for 5 nail biting finishes. It was this era that propelled the Raiders into becoming the winningest organization in sports…then the Stabler, Branch, Biletnikoff (still going), Tatum, Atkinson, Villapiano, Hendricks era took it from there.

super-bowl-logo-1967Not bad for a franchise that was supposed to be in Minnesota huh? Minnesota?? Yeah Minnesota. I have told the story before where one of the final AFL teams was going to be in Viking country. However the NFL brass told the owners of the Minnesota territory to wait until the last second to defect to the NFL for one of their franchises. When that happened, the AFL moved the chess piece further west and drafted the Oakland territory. So its fitting that the masterpiece that was the first Raider Super Bowl win was in the 11th edition against Minnesota…. How’s that for irony?? LOL

Happy Birthday John Madden – One of The Chancellor of Football’s Mentors

To a new generation of football fans, John Madden was a colorful announcer that had his likeness on the front of the popular video game series. What many of them don’t realize is how much effort he put into the game of Pro Football during his tenure coaching the Oakland Raiders. He was the first person to win more than 100 games in less than a decade, and of the first dozen Super Bowl winners, his 13-1 Oakland Raiders had the second best record to win it next to the undefeated 1972 Dolphins. He was the first to leave the game citing coaching burnout.

One amazing aspect of John Madden’s football odyssey are the points he made in several books that showed his love of the game while translating it to something fun and everyone could understand. In Hey Wait A Minute, One Knee Equals Two Feet, and One Size Doesn’t Fit All, he popularized notions that are still a part of The Chancellor of Football’s repertoire today.

  • One knee equals two feet: When a receiver catches a pass and only has one knee touch the ground before going out of bounds, its a good catch as though two feet had touched. This is also good of one elbow or hitting the ground butt first before going out of bounds
  • One stepper: A term used for cornerbacks when reacting to a receiver breaking his route in or out. Whether they are in a back pedal or running side by side with a receiver, the good cornerbacks react in just one step where the marginal cornerback will take two or more before reacting.

These are a few of the nuggets that he showed how he saw the game and simplified it for millions while giving valued information to assessing players and talents. Why prattle on when we can offer you something better… John Madden himself.

For many years he teamed with Pat Summerall in the booth and was the most expressive color analyst in television history. They developed the telestrator for him to diagram plays and blocking assignments for live television. He was a pioneer. Its a shame he didn’t make it to Monday Night Football until late in his career. The casual fan would have learned a lot about the game from him instead of only seeing him for 4 or 5 times a regular season.

The one thing we want the video game generation to understand is he was a record setting coach before. He made it to a record 5 straight conference championship games in the 1970s, which was second to Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown. Or the most since the AFL / NFL merger. Do you realize how re-written history is if he wins the 1973, ’74, ’75’ and ’77 AFC Championship games??

If his Raiders had won, the Miami Dolphins don’t repeat as champions for Super Bowl VIII. You don’t have the back to back champion Pittsburgh Steelers of Super Bowl IX & X. After winning it all in 1976, they would have defended their title against the Dallas Cowboys for Super Bowl XII..,.but alas this happened in the 1977 AFC Championship Game:

Just like the Immaculate Reception back in 1972, his Raiders got jobbed in the playoffs. Yet Madden would go on to coach through the 1978 season before retiring as coach of the Raiders. His record was 103-32-7 over a 10 year period. Note that he had 7 ties during his career which started in 1969 as head coach but the NFL didn’t adopt regular season overtime until 1974, hence all the ties. He made the playoffs in 8 of his 10 years and had the best winning percentage of all time of those who coached 10 or more years. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

John Madden, Pro Football Hall of Famer.

John Madden, Pro Football Hall of Famer.

He was one of the game’s greatest coaches before becoming the best color analyst of the television era covering the NFL. His coaching tenure actually started in the old AFL which became the AFC. Then he started having his All Madden Teams when he covered the game for CBS & Fox.

He was more than just the name sake on Electronic Arts video game that bears his name. Year after year he challenged them to make more realistic game play and was a part of that game’s overall growth and success. We mention it here because a complete generation learned intricacies of football through the Madden video game series starting in 1989.

So today, we celebrate John Madden’s 76th birthday. Happy Birthday!! Thanks for your contributions to the NFL.

RIP Al Davis, Gene Upshaw, & Jack Tatum who appeared in the video.

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

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The Soul of The Game: Jack Tatum

When it comes to the soul of the game, purists like our CEO thinks of games being dominated by fierce and aggressive defense. One player that embodied that spirit was Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders.

tatum.whiteXIWhen his name is brought up it’s hard to not think of the unfortunate paralysis injury suffered by Darryl Stingley in 1978. However he was much more than that.  During the 1970’s he made the Oakland Raiders defensive secondary the forceful equivalent of the Pittsburgh Steelers front four.


Jack Tatum, one of the NFL’s hardest hitters ever.

The Raiders weren’t a great defense from a statistical standpoint. In fact their highest ranking against the pass during the 1970’s was 5th in 1975, and 8th in 1973. As a matter of fact the year the Raiders went 13-1, won Super Bowl XI & the Raiders were 22nd against the pass. However for a record 5 straight years (1973-1977) the Raiders made it to the AFC Championship Game and Jack Tatum was a main reason why.

It was his physical style of play the Raiders fed off of and his mentality became that of the Oakland Raiders defense. Even SS George Atkinson, who began his career as a corner with the Raiders in the late 1960s’, had Jack’s playing style rub off and become his style of play. Nowhere in football history were there ever more cases of “alligator arms” than there were going across the middle when Jack Tatum was on patrol. His hits were like car collisions.

One of his most famous hits occurred in what has been called the single greatest touchdown in NFL history, The Immaculate Reception. The famous Franco Harris touchdown with :22 left in the 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff the Steelers won 13-7. Initially on 4th and 10, Terry Bradshaw was trying to complete a pass to John “Frenchy” Fuqua when the ball and Tatum all arrived at the same time.

NFL rules at the time didn’t permit a pass to be tipped by a receiver then caught by another receiver. Had that occurred the play would be ruled incomplete and penalized for “illegal touching”. The problem was it was so close you couldn’t call what happened from the naked eye.

When the Steelers were awarded the touchdown it touched off a bitter 5 year playoff rivalry and controversy over that play rages to this day. Tatum had another famous hit that you saw in the first video when he knocked Sammy White of the Vikings out in Super Bowl XI. It was the fourth quarter and the Vikings were forced to pass and the Raiders knew it.

However, 11 months later in what would be John Madden’s last playoff game as coach of the Raiders, another Tatum hit was in the middle of another controversy. It was during the 3rd quarter of the 1977 AFC Championship with Oakland trailing the Denver Broncos 7-3. The Raiders had fumbled to put the Broncos in business inside the Raiders 20 yard line. Several plays later when it was 1st and goal with the momentum teetering toward the Denver sideline, Tatum comes through with a thunderous shot…


Another case of the Raiders coming up on the short end of the stick and was one of the reasons they lost 20-17. Although our CEO lived in Denver at the time and was cheering for the Broncos, he believes they were robbed. Rob Lytle clearly fumbled. Had they won they would have gone to Super Bowl XII with a chance to defend their Super Bowl title. They could have beat Dallas and would have been crowned a dynasty had they made it there. Jack Tatum would play two more years with the Raiders before joining the Houston Oilers in 1980.

He and quarterback Ken Stabler were traded to the Oilers to help Bum Phillips “Kick In The Door” which was the slogan used that year. Ironically they didn’t face Pittsburgh in the playoffs, instead they lost in Oakland to the Raiders in the 1980 AFC Wildcard Game 27-7. For his 10 year career, he did intercept 37 passes with a high of 7 in the lone year he played in Houston. Yet it was the fierce way he hit that brought Tatum his notoriety.

Epilogue: However fame and memory of his play has been purposely obscured by NFL Films selectively after the event where Darryl Stingley was paralyzed. For every fearsome defender that has come through the NFL, there are videos of these tough players, many of which we feature here, yet Tatum is a glaring omission. Contrary to popular belief he did try to see Darryl Stingley while he was in the hospital in Oakland but the family turned him away. John Madden chronicles it in one of his books. Former Ohio St teammate John Hicks said Stingley’s paralysis had an affect on Jack Tatum, saying he became a recluse.

Tatum would have looked sick in a black helmet.

Tatum would have looked sick in a black helmet.

He seemed to be be caught between the tough guy persona and the humanity that did lie within. He’s been quoted from his book They Call Me Assassin that “I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.” Trying to capitalize on his bad boy persona since that was what he had to go off of in future years. We don’t know what was said to Jack Tatum by the Stingley family that night in that hospital.

Yet defensive players using hyperbole to describe what they perceive as the perfect hit isn’t anything new. In the Soul of the Game article with Dick Butkus, he describes a scene from Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte. Where he describes how a decapitated head rolls down the stairs and he liked to project those things happening (to his opponent) on the football field.

In other writings and videos we celebrate the over the top intensity and meanness of an Ed Sprinkle, a “Bulldog” Turner, a Wilber Marshall, a Hardy Brown, a Cliff Harris, a “Mean” Joe Greene, a “Mad Dog” Mike Curtis, or what about the comments and actions of a one Jack Lambert?? None of these men were asked to apologize for the way they played nor should they have to.

Well, neither should Jack Tatum. The question remains: Did  Jack Tatum handle the whole situation with Darryl Stingley the right way?? In my opinion he could have done more to make amends with him but it’s not up to me to be the complete judge on all that took place. Again we don’t know what was said between the Stingley family to him that fateful night. Understand I’m not trying to make the villain into the victim, but it’s high time that someone says something in Tatum’s defense. Quit treating him like a pariah, almost like he didn’t exist.

From THE Ohio State University, Jack Tatum!! RIP

From THE Ohio State University, Jack Tatum!! RIP

Ronnie Lott, Kenny Easley, Todd Bell, Dennis Smith, Dennis Thurman, Leonard Smith and the generation of NFL Safeties that came onto the scene as he was retiring patterned much of their game after his. On July 27, 2010, Jack Tatum passed away, but the way he played lives on as the generation who saw him play share memories of him with grandchildren like a Paul Bunyan type. There isn’t a lot of footage on him so the stories have to be told of how he was such a hitter. Well he was an intimidating performer and definitely a Soul of the Game defender.

Dedicated to the memory of Jack Tatum (November 18, 1948 – July 27, 2010)

RIP Darryl Stingley (September 18, 1951 – April 5, 2007)

RIP Rob Lytle (November 12, 1954 – November 20, 2010)

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Taylor Blitz Times new logo!!

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