Oakland vs. Green Bay: The Raiders and Packers Have Some Interesting Connections
The Green Bay Packers have played the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders 11 times: ten times in the regular season, where the series is knotted up at 5-5 record, and once in the Super Bowl, where the Packers won Super Bowl II.
The Packers have also won the last five games in a row. The two teams have some interesting connections.
Super Bowl II was the last game Vince Lombardi ever coached for the Packers. The Packers were up only 16-7 at halftime, when G Jerry Kramer described the scene in his classic book Instant Replay.
"A few of us veterans got together— Forrest (Gregg) and 'Ski' (Bob Skoronski) and Henry (Jordan) and me and a few others—and we decided we'd play the last thirty minutes for the old man. We didn't want to let him down in his last game".
The Packers did play the second half for the old man as Green Bay rolled to a 33-14 victory.
One of the best players on the Raiders in Super Bowl II was a defensive end by the name of Ben Davidson. Davidson had become was of the AFL's most feared defensive players and was an AFL All-Star from 1966-1968. In fact, Davidson sacked Bart Starr in that particular Super Bowl.
Davidson started out his professional football career with the Packers in 1961, the first Lombardi team to win a NFL title. Davidson was just a reserve lineman then, but he did play in every game of that season for the Packers. The was Davidson's one and only year in Green Bay, but at least he was able to experience a NFL championship.
The next time the Packers and the Raiders met was in September of 1972. That was the year that the Dan Devine-coached Packers won the NFC Central crown for ONLY the second time, and it wouldn't be until 1995 that the Pack won the division again.
In that 1972 game, Raiders safety Jack Tatum scooped up a ball fumbled by Packer RB MacArthur Lane and raced 104 yards for a record touchdown.
It is still the all-time record in terms of fumble recovery yardage, although it was equaled by CB Aeneas Williams in a game against the Redskins in 2000, when he was with the Cardinals. The Packers ended up losing that day to the Raiders, 20-14.
The next big game in terms of Packers-Raiders history was December 26, 1993 at Lambeau Field. The Packers won that game 28-0, when the temperature was 0 degrees. It was the third coldest game ever in Green Bay, only surpassed by the "Ice Bowl" in 1967 and the NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Giants in 2008.
But the play that makes the game memorable was the first ever Lambeau leap.
S LeRoy Butler forced a fumble that DE Reggie White recovered at the Raiders 35 yard line. After returning the fumble 10 yards, White laterals to Butler, who returns it the remaining 25 yards for a TD. Butler than jumped into the crowd in the south bleachers for the first leap, which is now a tradition.
The opening game of 1999 at Lambeau Field was the next great moment of Packers-Raiders history. The 1999 season was Mike McCarthy's first coaching job in Green Bay, as he was quarterbacks coach under head coach Ray Rhodes. Playing with a thumb injury, Favre brought the Packers back with a last minute drive and Green Bay won 28-24 when Favre hit TE Jeff Thomason with a short TD pass. Favre ended up having a very emotional press conference after the game.
But no time was more emotional for Favre than Dec. 22, 2003. That was the day after Favre's father Irv had passed away after suffering a heart attack.
Favre decided to play that night in Oakland for his father, and also for the dad who coached him in high school. What Favre did that night was simply incredible and heart warming. Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdown passes in a 41-7 Green Bay victory.
Then there is the Ron Wolf connection.
The Packers were swimming in mediocrity before then President Bob Harlan made a bold move and hired Wolf to lead the football operations of the Packers on November 27, 1991. Wolf’s background in the NFL proved to Harlan that he could acquire the talent needed to make the Packers a upper-echelon team in the NFL.
Wolf started out in the NFL under Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders in 1963 at age 25, first as a scout and then as a key member of the front office of the Raiders. Wolf helped bring Oakland a number of talented players in the draft, including Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, Ken Stabler and Jack Tatum.
All of those players had key roles for the Raiders as Oakland won Super Bowl XI in 1976.
Wolf left Oakland in 1975 and moved on to Florida to head football operations of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wolf brought in some very talented athletes, drafting players like Lee Roy Selman, Doug Williams and Ricky Bell. That group led the Bucs to the NFC title game in 1979.
However, Wolf was not around to see what developed that year, as he resigned from the Bucs in 1978 and returned to work with his mentor Davis. Wolf stayed on with the Raiders until 1990. Once again, Wolf was able to bring in talents such as Marcus Allen, Howie Long and Matt Millen, and the Raiders won two more Super Bowl titles in that time frame.
Wolf then spent a year with the New York Jets front office, before taking the reins in Green Bay. Wolf’s first move was to fire then head coach Lindy Infante and to hire Mike Holmgren as his new head coach.
Wolf also brought on a guy to help out in the scouting department for the Packers. The guy’s name was Ted Thompson. One of Thompson’s first jobs was to review tapes of players the Packers were thinking about acquiring via trades. Thompson looked at the tape of the player and gave his endorsement to Wolf about trading for him. The player’s name was Brett Favre.
Wolf obviously made the trade, and the rest they say is history.
Wolf used the draft to build the Packers during his time in Green Bay, but Wolf also used trades and free agency to get excellent talent as well. The Favre trade was huge, but Wolf was also able to get excellent talent in the trade market by acquiring players like TE Keith Jackson, S Eugene Robinson and RB Ahman Green over the years.
Wolf also acquired perhaps the best free agent in NFL history when he signed DE Reggie White in 1993. Wolf used free agency quite often, and he also signed players such as S Mike Prior, DE Sean Jones, WR Don Beebe, DT Santana Dotson, WR/KR Desmond Howard and WR Andre Rison.
Wolf oversaw 10 drafts with the Packers, and although he hit on some pretty good talent in early rounds—LB Wayne Simmons, G Aaron Taylor, CB Craig Newsome, S Darren Sharper, DT Vonnie Holliday, Bubba Franks and Chad Clifton—it was Wolf’s expertise in the mid-to-late round picks that brought a boatload of talent to the team.
WR Robert Brooks, RB Edgar Bennett, TE Mark Chmura, OT Earl Dotson, RB Dorsey Levens, FB William Henderson, LB Brian Williams, WR Antonio Freeman, G Adam Timmerman, CB Tyrone Williams, LB Keith McKenzie, CB Mike McKenzie, WR Donald Driver, DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and Mark Tauscher are prime examples of that efficiency.
All of this led to one of the greatest periods in the history of the Packers.
From 1992-2000, the Packers had a 92-52 record (a .639 winning percentage), won three NFC Central titles, seven straight winning seasons, six straight playoff appearances, participated in three consecutive NFC Championship games (winning two of them) and were also in two consecutive Super Bowls—with the Packers winning Super Bowl XXXI.
Although there have been a couple of bumps in the road, the Packers have continued that excellence since Wolf left.
Wolf was a mentor to Ted Thompson. Thompson was hired by Wolf, first as assistant Director of Pro Personnel in 1992, then as Director of Pro Personnel from 1993-1996 and then as Director of Player Personnel from 1997-1999, before heading to Seattle with Holmgren to become Vice President of Football Operations.
Thompson returned to Green Bay in 2005 to become Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations. Although Wolf was obviously his mentor, Thompson has used a different style in getting the Packers to the promised land of lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
After one year as GM, Thompson—like Wolf—also brought in a brand new head coach in Mike McCarthy, after the Mike Sherman-led Packers went 4-12 in 2005.
Unlike Wolf, Thompson uses the draft almost exclusively to build the Packers' roster. Rarely does Thompson dip his toes into free agency.
Thompson gets a lot of flack for his reluctance, but in 2006, he hit the jackpot when he signed CB Charles Woodson—who had been with the Raiders. In the history of free agency, the Green Bay Packers have hit gold twice, once in 1993 when DE Reggie White was signed, and also with Woodson.
While in Oakland, Woodson had OK stats, but nothing that would make you say, "wow." In eight years with the Raiders, Woodson had 17 interceptions, with two of those picks being returned for TDs.
Woodson also had five and a half sacks. The former Michigan Wolverine Heisman Trophy winner also forced 14 fumbles and recovered five of them. Woodson also went to four Pro Bowls and played in one Super Bowl, where the Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21 in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Then in 2006, Woodson came to Green Bay.
Since then, Woodson has put together a brilliant resume in his not quite six-year career in Green Bay. For instance, Woodson has picked off 36 passes, including nine for TDs. Woodson has also forced 14 fumbles, recovering five more. Woodson has 10 sacks to boot.
Add to that: Woodson was named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Woodson has been named to three more Pro Bowls and has finally won a Super Bowl ring. Looking at those stats, I would definitely say, "wow."
In Oakland, the man who ran everything until he passed away earlier this year was Al Davis. Davis grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He was the architect of the Raiders and ended up guiding them to three Super Bowl wins.
The Packers also hired a Brooklyn native once: His name was Vince Lombardi.
Lombardi and his Green Bay teams won five NFL championships in seven years, and also won the first two Super Bowls. The Packers also won three consecutive NFL titles from 1965-1967.
That is a feat that has never happened in the NFL—except once. It happened from 1929-1931, when Curly Lambeau was the man in charge of the Packers.
Davis and Lombardi certainly knew how to build championship teams. And it was Wolf, a man who Davis mentored, who helped to bring back another championship to Green Bay after the 1996 season. It was 29 long years after the Packers (under Lombardi) had last won a NFL title.
Thompson has continued the championship expertise he learned under Wolf, as the Packers are the defending Super Bowl champions.
So we now have the 7-5 Raiders coming to Lambeau Field this Sunday to take on the 12-0 Packers. A team that has won 18 straight games. The Raiders are fighting for their playoff lives, while the Packers—who have already clinched the NFC North title—are looking to clinch home field advantage in the NFC playoffs over the next couple of weeks.
The 2011 Packers, led by QB Aaron Rodgers, look to do what a couple of the Lombardi era teams did in the 1960s: Repeat years as NFL champions.
The 2011 Raiders, meanwhile, led by new head coach Hue Jackson, are tied for the AFC West divisional lead with the Denver Broncos, but would lose out because of tiebreakers. The Raiders are playing this season in honor of Davis, so it would mean a lot if the team can somehow win their division over the last four games of the season.
Bottom line, both the Packers and Raiders have a championship tradition in their respective organizations. The Packers have won 13 NFL titles and four Super Bowls, while the Raiders have won an AFL title and have won three Super Bowl titles.
Since the NFL merger in 1970, the Packers have made 15 playoff appearances, while the Raiders have made 18.
One could also say that there has been a bit of a merger between the two teams, especially with the Davis-Wolf connection that carries over to this day with Thompson running the Green Bay organization.
One of slogans that Davis coined is certainly very apropos for the Packers today: the "Commitment to Excellence" phrase.
And with an 18-game winning streak heading into the game against the Raiders this Sunday, another phrase that Vince Lombardi once coined is also appropriate for the Packers: "Winning is a habit".
Time will indeed tell if the Packers will repeat as Super Bowl champions, or if the Raiders can get back their winning tradition that was so apparent for such a long time. The Raiders have not been in the playoffs since the 2002 season, the season they advanced to the Super Bowl.
Winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal for both of these proud franchises. The Packers reached that goal last season and hope to repeat this year.
It is very appropriate the name Vince Lombardi is on the Super Bowl trophy as well.
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