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Las Vegas Raiders: Tale of 3 Cities

The Las Vegas Raiders are an NFL franchise that brought Super Bowl championships to two cities and now look forward to good fortune in a third.

But no matter where the home field, the Raiders have a home in the hearts of fans everywhere. They are one of the most recognized and revered brands in the world.

Those fans know the rugged reputation of the men in the Silver and Black. And they recall the three Super Bowl championships of the 1970s and '80s, as well as the four AFC Championships, 15 division titles and 22 playoff appearances.

Now as they venture into new territory, they look to be embraced by the high-rolling ticket buyers of Las Vegas.

Raiders History

The Raiders were founded in 1960 as an original member of the American Football League. Strangely enough, folks in Oakland didn't ask for a franchise, but the new league needed another team on the west coast to join the San Diego Chargers.

It was a challenge. There was no stadium in Oakland suitable for pro football, and there was already a successful NFL franchise in the Bay Area, the San Francisco 49ers.

So the city scrambled together a group of civic and business leaders interested in investing in the new team. They included F. Wayne Valley, who would become the team's first owner.

In the early years, the Raiders played home games in San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium and Candlestick Park, but they didn’t come close to filling them. They did not draw more than 13,000 fans to any home game in the first three seasons.

Davis and Rauch

In 1962, the Raiders hired former San Diego assistant Al Davis as head coach, and he put together a 10-4 season in ’63. Davis had quarterback Tom Flores, receiver Art Powell and running back Clem Daniels to lead the offense.  Davis was the AFL Coach of The Year that season and would become a fixture in the franchise.

The team would continue to build while Davis was called away to be AFL Commissioner to help negotiate the merger with the NFL. He would return as general manager of the team and later sole owner.

John Rauch took over on the sidelines in 1966, and a year later, had a championship team. 

They went 13-1 in 1967, with quarterback Daryle Lamonica earning league MVP.  They had Daniels and a clever, sure-handed receiver in Fred Biletnikoff in that offense, and big Ben Davidson anchoring the defensive line. 

The Raiders beat everyone they played but the New York Jets that regular season, and pounded the Houston Oilers, 40-7, to win the AFL Championship. But in the second version of the AFL-NFL Championship game, they ran into Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers and were humbled, 33-14.

Rauch coached the team to a 12-2 season in 1968, but ran into the headwinds of a domineering GM Davis, and resigned.

The team continued to build, though. They drafted QB Ken Stabler of Alabama in 1968, and he would share the role with Lamonica until 1972 when he had a breakthrough game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs.

Madden Football 

In 1969, Davis moved assistant John Madden into the head coaching position to take over for Rauch. It would be a move that led to seven division titles and a Super Bowl.

The early 1970s were frustrating, despite solid seasons and as many as eight future Hall of Famers to work with. The Raiders would put together division winners, but would be stopped in the playoffs, usually by the Steelers.

But 1976 would be the breakthrough season. In that 13-1 regular season, Madden and the Raiders had the services of Stabler, and receivers Biletnikoff and Cliff Branch, working with an offensive line featuring Art Shell and Gene Upshaw.

The defense was as formidable, with linemen John Matuszak, Otis Sistrunk, linebacker Ted Hendricks, and defensive backs George Atkinson and Jack Tatum.

After dominating the AFC West, the Raiders beat the Patriots and avenged previous losses to the Steelers to capture the AFC Championship. In Super Bowl XI, the Raiders overwhelmed the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14. Biletnikoff was the game’s MVP.

Tom Flores Era

Madden would leave in 1978, but another Super Bowl was soon to follow. 

Tom Flores took over in ’79, with remnants of that great team and new names such as QB Jim Plunkett, running back Marcus Allen and tight ends Dave Casper and Raymond Chester.

In 1980, the Raiders went 11-5, barely earning a playoff berth. But that was enough for this team. Oakland dispatched the Oilers, 27-7, in the first round of post season. But they needed a last-minute Mike Davis interception in the cold confines of Cleveland to pull off a 14-12 win over the Browns.

In the AFC Championship the Raiders grabbed a 28-7 first-half lead before having to fend off their West Division rivals from San Diego, 34-27.

Oakland entered Super Bowl XV an underdog to the Philadelphia Eagles and their offensive trio of QB Ron Jaworski, RB Wilbert Montgomery and wide receiver Harold Carmicheal.

But Flores had a good plan. Plunkett passed for three TDs while Jaworski was picked off three times, and the Raiders pulled a 27-10 stunner.   

During that year, Davis battled Oakland for improvements to Oakland Alameda County Coliseum to no avail. He tried to move the team, but was blocked by the league. It took almost two years of legal skirmishes for Davis to get his move to Los Angeles.

Third Super Bowl Crown

The Raiders launched their LA team in 1982, playing in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

They maintained top form. They next year they were in the Super Bowl again, after a 12-4 season and postseason wins over the Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. With Allen rushing for 191 yards, the Raiders upset the Washington Redskins, 38-9, to win their third Super Bowl.

Flores departed in 1988, and Art Shell would have contending teams through the mid-90s and the Raiders’ return to Oakland. That came about after the 1994 season and a pledge by Oakland to improve Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.

Jon Gruden took over as head coach in 1998 and turned around a slumping team with a contender in just three seasons. By 2000, the Raiders were winning the AFC West regularly.

But Gruden left abruptly and set up a strange Super Bowl showdown. In 2002, under Bill Callahan, the Raiders went 11-5 with quarterback Rich Gannon earning league MVP. They whipped the Jets and Tennessee Titans to head for the Super Bowl and a game against Gruden and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Gruden had inherited a good team in Tampa, and he knew how to coach against his old team - Gannon threw five picks and Buccaneers won, 48-21.

On to Las Vegas

The next 15 years were bleak ones, with eight head coaches and only one playoff team. 

In 2016, the Raiders went 12-4 under Jack Del Rio. They had QB Derek Carr, wide outs Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper and RB Latavius Murray, plus a defense that featured end Khalil Mack.

But Carr was injured late in the season and the Raiders couldn't survive the first round of the playoffs.

The same year, after failing to get a suitable lease with Oakland Alameda Coliseum, owner Mark Davis came to an agreement with Las Vegas and the State of Nevada to relocate the team to Vegas in 2020.   

Raiders Facts

  • Venue: Allegiant Stadium
  • Location: Paradise, NV
  • Open: 2020
  • Capacity: 65,000
  • Allegiant is a 10 level domed stadium with a clear roof, silver and black exterior and large retractable curtain-like side windows facing the Las Vegas Strip. The design includes an 85-foot-tall torch in one end to house a flame in honor of Al Davis.
  • The stadium will be home to the UNLV Rebels football team as well as the Las Vegas Bowl. At least two Pac 12 Championship games will be held there.
  • The Raiders were originally going to be called the "Oakland Señors" after a name-the-team contest had that name finish first. But after being the target of local jokes, the name was changed to the Raiders before the 1960 season.

Raiders Career Leaders

  • Passing Yards: 19,196 Derek Carr (2014–present)
  • Passing Touchdowns: 150 Ken Stabler (1970–1979)
  • Rushing Yards: 8,545 Marcus Allen (1982–1992)
  • Rushing Touchdowns: 79 Marcus Allen (1982–1992)
  • Receptions: 1,070 Tim Brown (1988–2003)
  • Receiving Yards: 14,734 Tim Brown (1988–2003)
  • Receiving Touchdowns: 99 Tim Brown (1988–2003)
  • Total Touchdowns: 104 Tim Brown (1988–2003)
  • Points: 1,799 Sebastian Janikowski (2000–2016)
  • Pass Interceptions: 39 Willie Brown (1967–1978), Lester Hayes (1977–1986)
  • Sacks: 107.5 Greg Townsend (1983–1997)
  • Coaching Wins: 103 John Madden (1969–1978)