Top 10 Nicknames in Oakland Raiders History
Every team in every sport has nicknames for their favorite players and coaches. Some make sense and some leave us scratching our heads.
Bill Cowher certainly has a "Chin," but Lou Piniella is anything but "sweet."
One thing they all have in common is that these monikers are the most sincere expression of the fans' love for their favorite players and coaches.
For decades, Raider fans have been at the forefront of this wonderful ritual.
They always use the most creativity, humor, understanding of the game and the Raider mystique to coin the most appropriate nicknames for their beloved Raider icons.
The following is a list of my personal favorites.
10. Loose Gannon
This is a pretty obvious play on the expression "Loose Cannon" which may not be the most fitting description of Rich Gannon.
It is normally given to a person who takes unnecessary risks in order to reach a goal he or she has set. Gannon's play was highly consistent and anything but out of control.
It does apply to him in the sense that Gannon wasn't afraid to sling the ball all over the field...like a loose cannon on a battle field. His stoic demeanor sometimes left him when things didn't go as planned.
He was not afraid to get into the face of his teammates if they failed to perform up to his high standards. That included team leaders like Lincoln Kennedy and future legends like Tim Brown.
Overall, the play on words, the fiery leadership and his accurate, cannon arm all contribute to "Loose Gannon" being an accurate enough description of this Raider quarterback to get him on this list.
9. The Assassin
I wonder if we should ask this Vikings receiver if this nickname suited Jack Tatum. Is he awake yet?
In my opinion, this is the most fitting nickname in Raiders history. The old feel-good statement you hear, "no one wants to see a guy get hurt" was not in Tatum's lexicon. He made no bones about it.
He wanted to take your head off and put you in the training room. If that meant pushing the league rules and ignoring "gentleman's agreements," so be it.
With this attitude, No. 32 quickly owned the hearts of Raider Nation as part of the "Soul Patrol." You could create a two-hour video retrospective detailing what "Raider mystique" was, using nothing but Jack Tatum plays.
He didn't just play Raider Football. He had a big hand in creating it with his nasty, no apology, no fear approach.
8. The Mad Bomber
Most "experts" and purists will argue that the "Long Bomb" was invented by Sammy Baugh, Roman Gabriel or Otto Graham.
If you ask those same experts who perfected it you almost invariably hear the same name...Daryle Lamonica.
Lamonica threw the long ball as well or better than anyone before or since. The old coach's expression "there aren't a lot of plays in the playbook for third and 25" didn't apply. For that matter, 4th and 99 wasn't even that far out of reach!
Of course this had Al Davis licking his chops. This was the perfect guy upon which he could build his game-changing offensive scheme of score from anywhere, at any time and on every play if at all possible.
Lamonica endeared himself to Raider Nation by not only throwing deep, but by showing incredible toughness, leadership and oh yeah...winning!
7. Dr. Death
This nickname has been used for two players in Raiders lore: George Atkinson and Skip Thomas. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a decent picture of them together, so this will have to do. My apologies to Mr. Thomas.
They were defensive backs that had a reputation for "head-hunting" and playing "dirty". In Oakland that's simply called "football!"
Ironically, they played together for six years. Along with Jack Tatum and Willie Brown, Atkinson and Thomas made up one half of the secondary known as the "Soul Patrol."
I wonder how they handled the overlapping nickname issue. I'm guessing this is how Atkinson got his second nickname, "Black Death."
Either way, when you have two players in the same secondary with the word "death" in their nickname, it tends to inspire fear and hesitation in opposing receivers.
If their nicknames didn't strike fear in the opponent, their hits and nasty streaks certainly did!
6. Eleven Angry Men
This is perhaps the most appropriate nickname for any defense in league history.
"The Steel Curtain" wasn't actually made of steel, and I can name almost all of the players from the "No name defense," but these eleven men were indeed angry! Check that...they were TICKED OFF!
George Atkinson, Ted Hendricks, Phil Villapiano, Jack Tatum, and the rest of this defense took their anger issues out on opposing teams with violent, borderline "dirty" aggression with regularity.
Their play prompted players and coaches from opposing teams to appeal to the league in an attempt to curb the torrent of pain delivered by this 1970s powerhouse. This feeble attempt served only to stoke their fire even further.
When asked about the legendary "clothes-line" hit (which was legal then) of Steeler Lynn Swann, Atkinson summed it up this way. "Hey, it's football! If you're afraid of getting hurt, don't put your pads on."
That is Raider mystique/swagger at its finest.
Eric Allen came to the Raiders as a free agent from New Orleans in 1998. He brought with him all the wisdom of a nine-year veteran. He had seen it all and done it all. Hence the reference to "Yoda," the wisest of all the Jedi.
No one knows exactly who dubbed him "Yoda", but it might have been a rookie at the time named Charles Woodson who served as his "Padawan" for the four years they played together in Oakland.
Allen imparted his vast knowledge of the game and the corner back position to Woodson, just as Yoda taught the ways of the Force to Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker.
Thanks in part to this jump start, Woodson is well on his way to the Hall of Fame.
I believe that Eric Allen is primarily responsible for the development of Woodson, Tori James and Marquez Pope, all of whom contributed to the success of the Raider defense in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
May the Force be with him...always!
One look at Jon Gruden's angry face when things weren't going well is all it takes to realize that Raider fans got this one right. The resemblance is uncanny.
Jon was a fan favorite because of one thing more than any other...he won. However, he also possessed something else that Raider Nation appreciated and the horror movie character embodied, a temper!
If a player blew an assignment, it was obvious because Gruden would grab them by the face mask, pull them down to eye level and chew them a new one!
What made him a good coach was that after scolding a player, he always built them back up with words of encouragement.
He understood that confidence played a big role in a player's performance, and he never let a player stay down on themselves for too long.
If the officials blew a call, not only the fans knew it, the whole world did. His tirades could be heard in the San Leandro Valley!
He showed absolutely no fear of getting in an referee's face and unleashing a stream of criticism, profanity and spittle the likes of which they wanted no part.
His winning got the fans on his side, but it was his fire and passion that got him in their hearts.
Okay, I know, it's too obvious and not creative enough to be this high on the list. However, I'm taking a little "writer's privilege" with this one because he's my all-time favorite player. You're just going to have to deal with it.
Dave Casper was my hero when I played Grid kids (The Northwest version of Pop Warner), middle school and high school football.
I tried to pattern my game after his and soon discovered that I wasn't nearly as talented as he was.
To me, the nickname "Ghost" goes beyond his shared name with the comic book/cartoon character. He had a unique ability to drift through the defense almost unnoticed and reappear wide open. This is amazing considering his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame.
Another aspect in which his supernatural nickname applied was his ability to adjust to the ball while it was in the air. The play earlier in the drive that culminated in the famous "Ghost to the post" play is evidence of this.
The ball was thrown a little further outside than he expected. Casper located the ball behind him, turned his body around on the run while never taking his eyes off the ball.
It was almost as if he were actually made of nothing more than protoplasm.
2. The Mad Stork
He wasn't dubbed "The Mad Stork" because his knees worked backwards or because he delivered babies to expectant mothers.
His wild persona, unpredictable behavior and lanky physical characteristics linked him the awkward looking bird.
Like the bird, Ted Hendricks' wingspan was much longer than seemed proportionate to his body.
Just when an opponent thought he had him blocked, Ted would simply reach around the blocker and drag the ball carrier down.
The stork is an aggressive and wild bird. At least I don't know of any cases in which people domesticated them as pets. Like the stork, Ted was not one to be tamed.
This is exemplified by the outlandish stories about his antics at practice and training camp we've heard over the years.
Hendricks owes a lot of his success to John Madden and Al Davis. Al for recognizing the talent under all the bravado and surrounding him with complementary players.
Madden allowed him to be his own person and never forced any player to conform to a strict set of behavioral rules.
Without this freedom and the support from his teammates, coaching staff and management Ted Hendricks may not have made it in the league. A lot of teams wouldn't have tolerated his odd behavior.
Raider fans are grateful that Al found him, John coached him and the players accepted him because he's one of their all-time favorites.
1. Darth Raider
When a Sith Lord enters a room, regardless of who is in that room, everyone knows who's in charge. That is the effect Al Davis has had in football circles for decades.
Contradictory to what some would like to argue, Al is not evil, he cannot choke you out without touching you, and he has never cut his own son's hand off. However, he doesn't pull punches, and he would always prefer to strike first.
He had in mind an unorthodox vision of what the future of football would look like. While most teams were running the ball 65-70% of the time, Al's team was heaving it down field with what appeared to be reckless abandon.
He felt that fans wanted to see scoring, and he set out to give it to them. That said, he never lost site of the importance of good defense. He had a vision for that too.
Al drafted and signed guys with bad reputations for being undisciplined and out of control. The other teams were staying away from players that could cause ripples in their traditional little worlds, Al was embracing them.
He believed that in addition to lots of scoring, fans also wanted to see the violence of the game, and boy did he give it to them.
Davis knew that if he would just let the players keep their mean streaks, but focus them on the opponent, it would create a demoralizing effect on the offenses of the day.
It did, and combined with the free wheeling offensive strategy, the Raiders won...a lot!
Davis assumed control of the Raiders in 1963 and began building more than a professional football team.
He began building a reputation, an aggressive way of doing business and an attitude that permeates the minds of millions of fans all over the world to this day.
Well, that's that.
I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I learned a lot. It really is amazing how much information you discover when looking for something completely unrelated.
It was difficult because there are a ton of Raider nicknames out there, some of which I'd never heard.
But after wading through a mountain of information and navigating some interesting web sites, I think I have it all sorted out and I'm pretty happy with the order.
Of course this is all subjective and there are some out there that you feel I missed or under/over rated. Please comment.