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When the unnamed football club from Minneapolis Minnesota, later called Minnesota Vikings decided to join the more established National Football League, the American Football League had to replace it with the Oakland Raiders. The AFL admitted the Raiders partly due to the lobbying of the Los Angeles Chargers owner, effectively inheriting the draft picks of the Minneapolis club. The history of the club reflects both challenges and landmark achievements including AFL titles and Super Bowl wins. There are many perspectives through which one can analyze the history of the Raiders. In this essay, however, the analysis will focus on the dominant phases the club has gone through and the people at the helm, who have been behind the events comprising the team’s history. To that effect, the analysis will focus on three phases including its founding, the move to Los Angeles, and the move back to Oakland. A brief description of the NFL-AFL merger will also be part of the Oakland Raiders team history analysis.
After its acceptance to the AFL, the team launched a name search competition, initially picking Oakland Señors but, later settling for Oakland Raiders after the poor reception of the name by the fans. Initially, the team held its debut matches at the Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. The Raiders moved to the Candlestick Park venue for the 1960 season, the Frank Yourell Field in 1962, and later on to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. The move did not however improve the team’s fortunes, suffering a series of losses both on and off the pitch. One of the factors one cannot ignore about the Raiders is the change of ownership throughout its development.
The 1962 season, however, marked a turning point for the Raiders after the hiring of Al Davis who would later become the club’s owner. Under Al Davis, the Club improved tremendously through the implementation of various changes including change of the team’s colors to silver and black and adoption of an aggressive offensive strategy that Al Davis referred to as the “Vertical game”. Al Davis briefly left the team in 1966 after accepting a position in the AFL as a commissioner. He made a return to the team two months later and went ahead to buy a stake as third general partner for $ 18000. He eventually took control of the team in 1972 after a revision of the partnership agreement. His effect on the team was clear since most of the team he helped assemble won the 1967 AFL championship, earning a Super Bowl place. The entry of John Madden in 1969 marked the beginning of the most successful era of the team’s history, winning six division titles in the 70’s decade.
After the merger of NFL and AFL, the Raiders continued their impressive performance culminating in the 1976 Super Bowl win over the Minnesota Vikings. John Madden led the Raiders to ten consecutive winning seasons, eventually leaving the team in 1979 with Tom Flores, the first-ever Hispanic American coach in NFL taking charge.
Apparent failure by Al Davis to make critical improvements to the Oakland Coliseum informed his decision to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. Legal battles delayed the move with eventual success and move to the city in 1982. The team registered an impressive run in the years 1982 to 1986 with a win in the 1982 Super Bowl against the Washington Redskins. Plummeting fortunes from 1986 saw the team start looking for a new venue that could easily be filled. This led to the commencement of negotiations to take back the Raiders to Oakland. The move did not succeed until 1995. One can only describe the performance of the team as lukewarm in the 1989-1995 seasons when Art Shell the first African-American coach in the NFL modern era was in charge. Also, contributing to the lackluster performance were disputes between Al Davis and some players, notably Marcus Allen.
Approval by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1995 saw the Raiders move back to Oakland City, lukewarm performance, again, hindered their return. Since the move back to Oakland, a host of coaches have served the team including Gruden, Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, and a return of Art Shell. Even with improved resources and better draft picks, a fair assessment cannot describe the team’s performance as steady. Despite the apparent lack of consistent glamour, however, the team represents a rich tradition of both the AFL and NFL.
In the discussion above, there was an emphasis on the events that have been characteristic of the team’s development especially the role of key personalities and decision-makers. It is important to note that analysis of the history of Oakland Raiders can take place through different perspectives. The three phases making the body of this essay are just some of them. It is justifiable to assert that interference by the team’s ownership and failure to institute reforms in the NFL has partly impacted the success of the Oakland Raiders. However, the team still boasts a rich history and that is unique to the United States, California, and Oakland city.
- Reese, Jenny. The Oakland Raiders: History, Hall-Of-Famers and Super Bowl XXXVII. Los Angeles: 6Degrees Books, 2010.
- Stewart, Mark. The Oakland Raiders. Chicago: Norwood House Press, 2010.
- Travers, Steven. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Oakland Raiders: Heart-Pounding, Jaw- Dropping, and Gut-Wrenching Moments from Oakland Raiders History. New York: Triumph Books, 2008.