The Oakland Raiders were a power in the American Football League during the 1960s, but not until Al Davis came to town.
The Raiders were 6-8, 2-12, and 1-13 in their three first seasons after the AFL was founded in 1960, and after beating the Boston Patriots, 20-0, in the final game of the 1962 season to keep from going winless, radio play-by-play announcer Bob Blum said: “There’ll be dancing on Broadway tonight.”
Well, not really because the Raiders had not yet caught on with most fans.
That happened the next season when Davis, an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers, was hired as coach and general manager and turned the franchise around with a 10-4 record that included eight consecutive victories to end the season.
The Chargers were the AFL champions that year, and there were many who believed they could have beaten the NFL champion Chicago Bears, but the Raiders knocked off their arch-rivals in both meetings that season, 34-33, at Balboa Stadium in San Diego, and, 41-27, in one of the great games in Silver and Black history at Frank Youell Field in Oakland.
The Raiders, who were 0-6 against the Chargers before that season, trailed, 27-10, going to the fourth quarter when quarterback Cotton Davidson replaced Tom Flores, who was back after missing the 1962 season while battling tuberculosis.
Davidson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as the Raiders scored 31 straight points in the final quarter to win, 41-27.
Crackerbox Frank Youell Field, which seated about 22,000 fans and was packed at the start of the game, emptied to about half full after three quarters, but Raiders fans in their cars on the way home turned around after hearing the rally start on the radio, and the stadium was nearly full again at the finish.
The Raiders were only 5-7-2 in 1964 but followed with consecutive seasons of 8-5-1.
Then Davis traded Flores and star wide receiver Art Powell to the Buffalo Bills for quarterback Daryle Lamonica, and the Raiders started a run of reaching to conference championship game nine times in 11 seasons.
Lamonica, known as “The Mad Bomber” for his powerful passing arm, and double-threat running back Clem Daniels led the Raiders to a 13-1 record in 1967 before they routed the Houston Oilers, 40-7, in the AFL Championship Game.
Unfortunately, Daniels sustained a season-ending and eventually career-shortening knee injury in the ninth game of the season. Without their leading rusher and deep receiving threat out of the backfield, the Raiders did not have much of a chance while losing to the Green Bay Packers, 33-14, in Super Bowl II.
In the last two seasons of the AFL, the Raiders went 12-2 but lost to Joe Namath and the New York Jets, 27-23, in the 1968 AFL Championship Game, before going 12-1-1 but losing the 1969 AFC title game to the Kansas City Chiefs, 17-7, when Lamonica hit his hand on a helmet early in the game and could not throw the ball effectively.
The Jets and Chiefs both went on to win the Super Bowl, something the Raiders weren’t able to do until routing the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, in Super Bowl XI to cap the 1976 season. The Silver and Black went on to win Super Bowls XV and XVIII, as well.
Center Jim Otto and quarterback-kicker George Blanda are the only Raiders in the Hall of Fame who played most of their careers in the 1960s, although Blanda spent much of his time with the Houston Oilers.
Cornerback Willie Brown, who also started in the AFL, is enshrined at Canton.
Fans of Raider Nation have said for years that you can make cases for Daniels, Lamonica, Powell, and running back-tight end Billy Cannon being enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Daniels, the AFL’s leading rushing and most valuable player in 1963 rushed for 5,138 yards and 30 touchdowns in nine seasons, in addition to catching 203 passes for 3,314 yards, a 16.3-yard average, and 24 more TDs.
Without the injury, obviously, those numbers would have been even greater.
Lamonica, the AFL’s most valuable player in 1967 and 1969, passed for 19,154 yards and 164 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the Bills and Raiders, in addition to rushing for 14 scores. He had an incredible record of 40-4-1 as a starter in the AFL, and Lamonica went 66-16-4 in his career, with his .791 winning percentage second-best in NFL history.
Powell, a four-time AFL All-Star, made 479 receptions for 8,046 yards, a 16.8-yard average, and 81 touchdowns in 10 seasons, while Cannon, the 1959 Heisman Trophy winner at LSU, rushed for 2,455 yards and 17 TDs, in addition to catching 236 passes for 3,656 yards, a 15.5-yard average, and 47 scores in 11 years.
Even without having busts in Canton, longtime members of Raider Nation know these legends laid the foundation for the franchise that has diehard fans far beyond Oakland, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.
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