The Oakland Raiders are one of the most recognizable and infamous franchises in all of sports. Their uniforms are sinister, their fan base is legendary and their place in NFL history is undeniable.
As is the case with every organization that takes pride in their image, the Raiders embrace a reputation as villains. The swashbuckling logo that adorns their iconic helmet represents a culture and personality that both team and fan base identify with. The pirate is a symbol of both grit and lawlessness; qualities that most of Raider Nation identify with in one form or another.
Living in a state of symbiosis with the NFL, the Raiders are as much a part of the country’s makeup as they are with the city of Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas). A complex entity such as the Raider organization is a product of leadership and the willingness of those leaders to challenge the status quo. A maverick, a visionary, a rebel and a trailblazer helped to define the Silver and Black culture and legitimized it with their actions on and off the field.
Owner Al Davis, Head Coach John Madden, Quarterback Ken Stabler and CEO Amy Trask epitomize the population of Raider Nation. The four represent what it means to be a Raider, and are viewed by many as examples of a culture loved by many and hated by more.
Sports Al Dente presents the four greatest Raiders in franchise history. A collection of unlikely heroes that managed to change a franchise, a fan base and the league for the better.
Mount Rushmore: The Four Most Impactful People In The Oakland Raiders History
Owner: Al Davis
Mention the Oakland Raiders in any situation or scenario and the name Al Davis is sure to come up. It is impossible to converse about the Raider Nation and not mention its unquestioned leader in some form or another.
Davis was known as a maverick throughout the league for doing things his way and caring very little for those he upset along the way. His trademark tracksuits and slicked back hair only added to his mystique and from 1967 to 1985 the Davis led Raiders became one of the most successful teams in all of professional sports.
His success on the field and in the front office is well documented, but it’s his legacy of civil rights support and diversity that may be his most lasting contribution to the sport. Davis is responsible for the hiring of the first African- American head coach (Art Shell) and the first female CEO (Amy Trask) in NFL history.
Davis remains the only executive in NFL history to have climbed the ranks from scout to owner. His is responsible for the NFL that fans recognize to this day. His work as AFL commissioner helped to combine the two leagues (AFL & NFL) into a product that has taken the country by storm.
Head Coach: John Madden
Arguably the most recognizable figure in all of the NFL, John Madden is best known for his broadcasting and the video game franchise that bears his name. However, before all the limelight and cult fame, Madden was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Madden became head coach of the Raiders in 1969 after spending just one year as a linebacker coach with the team. At the time, he was pro football’s youngest head coach at the age of 32 and he would go on to be the youngest to reach 100 wins.
Madden led the 1976 Raiders to their first Super Bowl victory in a lopsided 32-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. After losing the AFC Championship game the following year to the Denver Broncos, he coached one more year and retired after the 1978 season.
Madden left the game having never endured a losing season and still owns the second best winning percentage of any coach in NFL history. To this day, he is still the winningest coach in Raider history and a legend in the world of professional football.
Quarterback: Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler is a Hall Of Famer, League MVP, four-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl Champion and member of the 1970’s all-decade team. A product of Alabama, Stabler was selected in the second round of the 1968 draft by the then reigning AFL champion, Oakland Raiders.
He was sent to play for the Spokane Shocker’s of the Continental Football League only to be recalled in 1970 by head coach, John Madden. Stabler would go on to be one of the most recognizable and popular figures in Raider history, known for his cool demeanor on and off the field.
Nicknamed “The Snake,” Stabler was a mobile quarterback who had a knack for turning broken plays into a thing of beauty. After multiple knee injuries, however, he learned to be a more traditional drop-back passer. His accuracy from the pocket and ability to lead come-from-behind victories only added to his legend, and Raider Nation appreciated the effort.
Stabler was traded to the Houston Oilers after two lackluster seasons in 1978 and 1979. At the time of his departure from Raider Nation Stabler was the all-time leader in completions (1,486), passing yards (19,078) and touchdown passes (150).
The long-haired southpaw from Alabama epitomizes what it means to be a Raider, and for that, fans will always remember the Snake as one of the greatest ever to wear the Silver and Black.
CEO: Amy Trask
Affectionately known throughout Raider Nation as the “Princess of Darkness,” Amy Trask is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. The first female CEO in the NFL, her appointment is both a testament to owner Al Davis’ belief in diversity and the ability of women in leadership positions.
Trask began her career with the Raiders as an intern, and after a short legal career rejoined the organization only to be appointed Chief Executive in 1997.
Her interactions with league executives are well documented, and in true Raider fashion, Trask handled each instance with bravado and grace. She belonged in the arena and showed tenacity when faced with archaic beliefs and traditions.
Trask is a role model for young women and men who choose to excel in non-traditional roles. Her ability to succeed in such a role is a credit to both her grit and determination. During her time with the Raiders, she embodied the spirit that Raider Nation has come to embrace. Amy Trask is a Raider, and always will be.