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Archive for the category “Raider Nation”

The Legend Continues


More pics from the archives of the Original Raider Nation…………

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Autograph signing with Jon Ritchie at the Raider Locker Room.

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John Vella and Phil Villapiano showing off their Super Bowl Rings. Another autograph signing at John Vella’s Raider Locker Room. From the Raider Nation archives.




Raider Nation – Early Adopters


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Raider Nation – Brand Identity Part 2

cheer4bEarly on I scored several major coups by enlisting the aid of various Raiderettes to the cause of Raider Nation. This drove the competition bonkers as they were driven insane by the very real speed by which Raider Nation was becoming the acknowledged leader for Raider fans on the Internet, and beyond. First they lost the coveted Raider Locker Room outlet by which the image and name of Raider Nation could be advertised daily through a brick and mortar outlet. Then they lost the battle for the very hearts of Raider fans when the Raider Nation moniker started to appear on the backs of cheerleaders – WTF, this is adding insult to injury. It was a brilliant execution of strategy aimed at making the Raider Nation brand well known and adopted as a symbol of Raider fans worldwide.

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Raider Nation – Brand Identity Part 1

vellakat3OK, there may be several teasers to the real lesson of building brand identity. What is undeniable is that a product or service can fail or succeed based upon the image that consumers have in their minds.

In 1996 the internet was secondary to the traditional marketing channels that existed at the time – meet and greets with the cheerleaders!! What was becoming clear, however, is that the internet could spread news and photos on current events much faster and across a much more diverse geographical base. Instead of only fans in the San Francisco Bay Area being able to see the latest news in the local rags there was now the ability to spread this info across the globe. No one appreciated the impact of the internet in this area more than I did when it came to formulating a strategy which would propel Raider Nation to the pinnacle of success.

The photos shown here were all published on the Raider Nation website exclusively and I, in effect, became the official photographer for events that were taking place at John Vella’s Raider Locker Room. The Raider Locker Room and Raider Nation became strategic partners in spreading the Raider Nation brand. Traditional brick and mortar retail was still the predominant method of sales in 1996 but to sell to a global fan base the internet was becoming the preferred marketing and sales channel. The symbiotic relationship between most retail outlets and the internet is taken for granted now, in 1996 Raider Nation was on the cutting edge.

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Raider Nation Brand Identity – The Original Design

scdThese are the original draft designs from initial concept to final design which made it as the official logo of Raider Nation.

2013-03-17 16.59.44 (1)

I originally went to a t-shirt screen printer in Berkeley thinking where else would you go to get a far out wild design done the right way. Big mistake as it turns out they were good at concert graphics but simple sports designs were just not their thing.

From these drawings you can see the skull and bandana went through several iterations until it was done right. Once the design was finalized there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be popular. The design incorporated all the base attributes which Raider fans identified with – skull and crossbones, being a team for the nation, and portraying the rogue mentality.

2013-03-17 16.58.42So, these original draft designs document the true origin of Raider Nation as this became the iconic symbol for the website and all merchandise associated with Raider Nation.

2013-03-17 16.57.04

The Snake Design – Reposted


The snake design came about based upon the popularity of Ken Stabler who came to be identified as “The Snake”. Early in the evolution of Raider Nation I opened discussions with representatives of Stabler and, eventually, with Stabler himself. He was developing a presence on the internet and I thought there might be some synergy to be gained if we could team together on a design that he endorsed. The original concept is pictured here with the website Snakes Place incorporated, this was Stabler’s site. Let’s just say that we could not come to terms on pricing strategy and I pulled out of the deal. The idea was good enough, however, to move forward without incorporating any references to Stabler, a generic Raider Nation t-shirt which turn out to be as killer as the original design.


But now you have a little bit of insider history on what went into the designs development and what could have been – see below. Lovely isn’t it? Too bad it never went into production as originally designed since I am not inclined to be sued for infringement and no agreement could be reached. In my opinion, very short sighted on The Snakes part as this would have been a marketing gold mine for him and establish his place among a new generation of fans. Alas, it was not meant to be.

scd2All was not lost however as the design went on to become a top seller and solidified its place in Raider Nation history. Of course, it never hurts to have Raiderettes modeling your designs!!

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Lessons learned: don’t be short sighted with your marketing. Look to the long term to capitalize on success, what cost you now will come back to yield dividends in the future. All photos are exclusive to the original Raider Nation website.


Raider Nation – Ken Stabler Interview (Originally posted 2013)

During the reign of Raider Nation I had several “beat” reporters who were conducting interviews with players and management of the Oakland Raiders. It was a heady time as it gave me direct contact with some of the most influential people in the Raider organization – past and present. Below is an interview that was done for Raider Nation in 1998 with Ken Stabler:

With long hair flowing out of the back of his helmet,    quarterback Kenny Stabler, number 12, embodied the renegade Raiders during the 1970s.Known somewhat undeservedly throughout his career for his propensity to party,    Stabler never let his reputed off-the-field exploits overshadow his heroics on Sundays. He    was the leader of pro football’s bad boys, a team featuring the giant defensive end with    the handlebar moustache, Ben Davidson; combative linebacker Phil Villapiano; eccentric but    talented tight end Dave Casper; and the University of Mars graduate, defensive lineman    Otis Sistrunk. These great players and their Raider teammates enjoyed a good practical    joke, a few competitive card games and a couple of cold beers during the week, but they    lived for Sundays, when they were actually paid to play a game they truly loved. On game    day, these players, including the team’s All Pro quarterback, were all business.With accuracy equaled by only a couple of quarterbacks in the history of    the NFL, Stabler picked apart a defense with perfectly timed passes to his favorite    receiver, Fred Biletnikoff, before tearing out a defense’s heart and soul with a long bomb    to speedy wide receiver Cliff Branch. Every Sunday, the former University of Alabama    quarterback used the weapons at his disposal — Biletnikoff, Branch, Casper, et. al     — to create offensive masterpieces, much like Picasso used different paints to create    a classic. Stabler’s canvas on Sundays was the football field, where he led pro football’s    most-feared offensive attack.The fact that Stabler threw for more yards, completed more passes and    had the highest completion percentage of any quarterback in the history of the Raiders    should have guaranteed him a spot in the Hall of Fame. But it didn’t.

After throwing for 19,078 yards and 150 touchdowns and compiling a    winning percentage with the Raiders that was among the best in the history of the NFL,    Stabler should be in the Hall of Fame. But he isn’t.

His flawless performance in Super Bowl XI against the Vikings in a    dominating win should have elevated him to Hall of Fame status. But it didn’t.

Have the same anti-Raider biases that encouraged officials to overlook    opposition fumbles and penalties for decades permeated into Hall of Fame voting? How else    can one explain that the field general for one of the NFL’s greatest teams, the 1976    Raiders, isn’t enshrined in Canton?

Raider Nation Journal‘s Randy Shillingburg recently talked with    Stabler about his omission from the Hall of Fame, and the Immaculate Reception, Sea of    Hands and Holy Roller games.

Raider fans, enjoy this conversation with one of the team’s all-time    greats:

* * * * * * *

RS: What are you doing now? I read    that you’re going to be doing some work with the University of Alabama as a radio    announcer. What else are you doing?

KS: Of course, the radio work    we’re going to be doing with Alabama. I did television for a while, and got out of that by    choice. I didn’t have the real passion for it. Because it’s the University of Alabama, I    want to get back closer to that program. And like I said earlier, expose my children to it    so that they can see where Dad played college football. As I said, I’ve got an old    Victorian house that was built at the turn of the century, and we’re in the process of    putting together a package to develop a piano bar concept — a coffee house type    concept — here in Mobile. It will serve as the base for me and what I do. I’ve been    real, real busy, doing a lot of traveling, and doing a lot of sports marketing events. I    do a lot of corporate work. I’ve been real busy, the schedule has been busy. Things are    going well.

RS: Are you having fun?

KS: Having a blast. I always have,    and it’s just getting better and better. I think the reason for that is my children. I    think the best thing that’s happened to me in an awfully long time is my kids, being with    them, getting involved with them and watching them grow, and communicating with them. It’s    been just absolutely wonderful.

RS: Was the ’76 team the best    Raiders team you were on?

KS: I suppose it has to be because    of the result. I mean, the result was the Super Bowl. That’s the reason you go in there.    That’s the reason you play is to get to that game and to win that game. We went 13-1, and    we beat New England in the first round of the playoffs and we beat Pittsburgh in the AFC    Championship Game, and then we beat Minnesota in Super Bowl XI in the Rose Bowl in    Pasadena. I had good personal numbers, and a lot of guys had great numbers. That’s the    only way you can get there is for everyone to have good years, to play well and to stay    healthy. To answer your question: Without a doubt, ’76 was a really good football team.    But it was the same guys who were on the ’74, ’75 and ’77 teams also. We were a really    good football team who just happened to put it all together, and got the right breaks and    stayed healthy, and we got good years out of our people that particular year.

RS: In my column last week, I    mentioned something about “You know you’re a true Raiders fan if someone mentions the    words, ‘Rob Lytle,’ and you cringe” a little because of the fumble in the ’77 playoff    game that wasn’t called.

KS: Well, we had an opportunity to    go, you know, to repeat. Not too many football teams have been able to repeat the Super    Bowl. It’s awfully hard to get there once. To repeat is even tougher. We had that    opportunity and we went right back to the AFC Championship Game in Denver and Rob Lytle     — I guess they said he fumbled and it wasn’t called. It was one of those things. You    get some of those breaks and sometimes they go against you. You have to play through that,    you have to win regardless of the officiating. You have to win regardless of the injuries    and you have to win regardless of the turnovers. You just have to find a way. That    particular day we weren’t able to find a way to get it done and as a result, we didn’t get    to repeat, but we came awfully close.

RS: At what point in the Super    Bowl against Minnesota did you know that you had that game won? How early in that game did    you know?

KS: Well, I think we were really    confident going into that ball game because of our team and you look at the matchups with    that team. We understood that we were a much bigger and stronger team and probably we had    a little bit more speed than they did. When you went through the AFC West at that point in    time, when you played Denver and Kansas City and those teams that were very, very good,    and then you had to go play Pittsburgh in the championship game. When you did that, you    were pretty much battle-tested for anybody you wanted to play. We felt really good playing    Minnesota, going into that game because of our size. Our offensive line matched up really    well against their defensive (line). They were really an undersized defensive line with    Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page and those people, so we felt good. But to answer your    question, I think probably — you know the football bounces funny and anything can    happen. When you have Chuck Foreman and Ahmad Rashad and Sammy White and Tarkenton and    those people, that’s a dangerous team. But to answer your question: probably, uh, late    third quarter, early fourth quarter, you feel pretty good and you’re up. Freddie    Biletnikoff caught a real deep down and in type pass. The safety missed an assignment or    something, and he (Biletnikoff) breaks it down inside the five.

RS: I remember that.

KS: I can remember saying to    myself as I watched (Biletnikoff) run, and they tackled him inside the five — I    remember saying to myself, “That’s it. It’s basically over.” I don’t know when    that happened. I think that might have been late third or early fourth quarter.

RS: How good was Biletnikoff,    first of all, and, secondly, what was that pattern that you two worked to perfection? It    was perfect timing. He ran downfield, faked to the inside, drove off the defender, broke    to the sideline and the ball was right there.

KS: Well, Freddie was a great,    great player. I mean, his numbers speak for themselves. He’s a Hall of Fame player. If you    get into that situation, that institution, you’re ranked among the greats of all time. I    think he is that, and I think that he did it with a little less ability than most. I don’t    think he was as fast as most. He wasn’t as big as most, and he wasn’t as strong as most.    But he had a tremendous heart, and was a really smart player who understood what people    were trying to do to him. He had a great, great set of hands, and he knew what people were    trying to do to him. He was a smart player and he was just a great, great    “money” player. When you look back, and you look at the games he played, he    always stepped up when there was a lot of money on the table, when it was a big game, and    it was a big match up against Denver or Kansas City in the division. You look at the AFC    Championship games, and he was the MVP in the Super Bowl that we played in. Anytime that    you had to win, anytime that you needed big plays, and there was a lot of money on the    table, riding on the game, then Freddie always played well. He was a great, great player.

It was a real privilege to have a combination of receivers – a    tremendous possession guy like Freddie to make big plays on third downs, a tremendous    tight end in Dave Casper, who worked the middle of the field against linebacker and    safeties and that sort of thing, and then a little guy with tremendous speed on the    outside in Cliff Branch. (He was a) 4.2 type of guy, a 4.2 (seconds) 40 (yards), a guy who    could fly. So, you had all of the tools. The play that you talk about, the pattern that    you talk about, that Freddie ran so well: We had a couple of them when the ball was thrown    on the outside. We had a real deep comeback route where he would run, push the guy off 19,    20 yards, and come back and catch the ball at 15, 17 yards. And then we had one where he    would break to the inside and get the guy turned to the inside and break and go back to a    corner. This was called the “short corner.” And he ran both of those things to    perfection because he had tremendous ability to cut and stop on a dime. He could cut sharp    patterns and that sort of thing. He was fun to play with.

RS: (Laughing) You know, I    actually remember him dropping ONE ball.

KS: (Laughing) Well, you know,    we’re all gonna drop one, we’re all gonna throw an interception, we’re all gonna do that    sort of thing. That’s something that he certainly didn’t want to do. You’d never say    anything to a guy who drops one. He wants to catch it as bad as you want him to. I always    remember him as being a great, great clutch player.

RS: He certainly didn’t drop many,    did he?

KS: No he didn’t.

RS: Anytime the ball was near him,    he just snagged it right in. If you were faced with a third and one in a Super Bowl, the    last minute of the game, and you had to hand the ball off to somebody to pick up that    touchdown running the ball, who would you prefer to hand that ball off to?

KS: We had guys that specialized    almost in that sort of thing. They were very, very good. First of all, we were a good    short yardage team because of a tremendous offensive line. You know, when you run the ball    behind Hall of Fame players like Art Shell and Gene Upshaw on the left side, and a 10-year    center in Dave Dalby, and George Buehler was just a real horse, and John Vella was just as    tough as a nail, and a really good pass blocker and run blocker. We had good people to run    behind. And when you run the ball with guys like — Pete Banazak was the smallest of    the bunch, from a fullback standpoint, at only about 220, 218, but really quick off the    ball (and) smart. (He) understood blocking combinations and that sort of thing, and knew    when to cut back and when to make his move. He was a smart runner. And Mark van Eeghen    was, you know, a little bit bigger at 225 pounds, 226, 228, somewhere in there, but really    quick off the ball, and really hit the line awfully fast, and was really good at that sort    of thing. Mark Hubbard, 6-2, 240 — much bigger than the rest of them — tough,    big legs, and big determination, a lot of heart. We had guys – any one of those three    on third and one — you felt really comfortable in handing them the ball.

RS: I loved to watch Banazak play.

KS: Well, he was a smart player.    He was an undersized fullback. Like I said, he was only 215, 218, something like that. (He    was a) good cutback runner, good, smart runner who understood the blocking combinations on    the play that was called and knew what to look for, and he was kind of our short yardage    guy, our third and one, third and two guy, or inside the five-yard line, third and goal,    second and goal — that sort of guy. He was very good at that because of his knowledge    of the game and because he was really quick off the ball. He had a great start.

RS: Let say you had the same type    of this situation, say from seven or eight yards out. Who would you want to pass the ball    to, Biletnikoff or Casper? Which receiver would be your preference in that situation when    you had to get that pass caught?

KS: You know, I was fortunate to    have a group of guys. You don’t go into the game saying, “I’m going to throw the ball    to this guy; I’m going to throw the ball to that guy.” You go into the game saying,    “I’m gonna let the defense dictate where I throw the ball.” And you have to have    the whole set of receivers, and we did. Like I said earlier, we had a possession guy, a    big tight end for the middle of the field, and great speed on the outside. (As a clutch    third-down receiver, there was) nobody better than Freddie Biletnikoff. There were very    few tight ends any better than Casper. And Cliff had so much speed that they played so far    off of him that you worked things in front of people with him. We threw the ball to all of    those guys in all the situations. We were really fortunate to have a great offensive line    that gave you the opportunity and the time to do that sort of thing. To be able to throw    the ball to great, great receivers, you can do some damage.

RS: Most people don’t remember    this about your career, but you were the quarterback at the end of the game in 1972 in the    Immaculate Reception game. You actually ran it in. What was it, 30 yards out? You    scrambled and ran it in to put the Raiders ahead 7-6. Is that correct?

KS: Yes, that’s correct. I came in    (during) the second half. Daryle Lamonica started the game, and I played the second half,    and Casper came in and played. It was really his debut when he got to play and catch some    balls. He and I hooked up. It was really the start of our relationship as    quarterback-receiver. Yeah, they came on an all-out type of blitz, where they bring all    the linebackers, and they bring a safety, and somehow you get outside of that, you    scramble outside of that, and there’s no one out there because all of the cornerbacks and    the safeties have all run off covering receivers. There’s nobody there. And so I ran the    ball in and we scored, and we went up 7-6. And then Pittsburgh got the ball back with a    minute and four left. And then Bradshaw goes incomplete on first down, second down, third    down. Fourth and 10, and he throws the ball over the middle and Frenchy Fuqua and Jack    Tatum get there simultaneously and the ball ricochets off one of them and Franco catches    it jogging along, and it’s a weird, strange set of circumstances. It’s one of those plays    that will live on forever. It’s one of those plays that every playoff time and during the    year, you’ll see it replayed over and over on TV. It’s just a wonderful play to be    remembered as a really unique set of circumstances in that game. You know, it was not good    for us because we lost and they basically picked our pocket. But for a game to be    remembered off of one play, I don’t know if there’s any better than that one.

RS: One of my favorite players on    the team, defensive end Tony Cline, missed Bradshaw by inches on the pass rush. I was    growing up in northern West Virginia and I listened to the game on KDKA radio out of    Pittsburgh. The game wasn’t even televised in the area. It was just devastating. I    couldn’t even watch it. I had to listen to it on radio! It was certainly a memorable game.    Later on, it seemed as if you were in some memorable games that turned the other way: The    Holy Roller game, the Sea of Hands game. What was your thinking during those great plays?

KS: The play in San Diego when I    threw the ball out there on the ground — it was just a common sense type play, that I    think most quarterbacks would probably have made. I think it was third down. I think there    were 10 seconds or eight seconds left, you know, probably not enough time to get off    another play. The common sense school of thought is, “Don’t get trapped with the    ball. Don’t get sacked.” I mean, if you get sacked, you lose. Interception, you lose.    Incomplete pass, you’re probably going to lose. So, you can’t let those things happen. So,    coming out of the huddle, you say to yourself that very thing: “Don’t get trapped    with the ball. Don’t take a sack. Sack, you lose.” So when the guy got to me —     he was a former Alabama linebacker named Woodrow Lowe — and Woody Lowe got to me. In    the course of the sack, (I think to myself) “You can’t get sacked with it. Roll it    out there. Roll the damn thing out there and shake the dice, and hope that something good    happens,” and it did. Pete Banazak dove at it and knocked it down inside the five,    and Casper kicked it into the end zone, and fell on it. You know, it was just another one    of those plays that will always be relived forever when you’re talking about wild plays,    crazy plays, crazy finishes. That one just happened to bounce our way.

RS: (Laughing) You guys caused    more rules changes. The “not being able to fumble the ball forward,” the    “use of stickem” rules. You kind of stretched the rules a little bit, and then    they changed them on you.

KS: Well, that’s probably a good    rule. It was a good reason to change the rule. It keeps people from doing that very thing.    The last play of the game, if you don’t think you have an opportunity to get another play    off, you just throw the damn thing up in the air or roll it out and hope something    happens. You know, it’s probably not the way the game should be done, so they make that    rule change. It’s a common sense play that I think most quarterbacks would have made in    that situation. Just throw the damn thing out and the football bounces funny and maybe it    will bounce your way. And it happened to do that.

RS: The Sea of Hands was the    “John Vella play,” isn’t that right?

KS: Well, John Vella’s guy,    basically John’s man forced me to do what I did. Vern Den Herder was the defensive end for    the Dolphins. I think he beat John on a pass play, and he beat him to the outside or the    inside, I’m not sure. He forced me out of the pocket and I started to run, and he    dived at my legs and tripped me up. In the course of falling down I threw this    end-over-end dying duck back into the corner of the end zone. Basically I saw a black    jersey there somewhere. I didn’t even know it was Clarence Davis. I just    knew that there was a Raider receiver in that area. The ball probably should have been    intercepted, but Clarence wanted it worse than they did, and he took it away from two or    three people, and Clarence just made a wonderful play out of the whole thing.

RS: It was a wonderful play. Ken,    do you consider yourself a Raider, a Saint or an Oiler?

KS: Well, that’s kind of a no    brainer. For whatever name I made as an athlete, as a football player, as a quarterback,    it has to be as a Raider. I mean, if you look at playing 10 years in one spot compared to    two years in Houston and playing three years in New Orleans. For whatever quarterback I    am, it has to be that 10 years that I spent in Oakland.

RS: Well, I pretty much figured    that, but for the sake of Raider fans around the world, I just wanted to hear you say it.    The last question, Ken: Why do you think you’re not in the Hall of Fame? Your numbers,    your completion percentage, your ability to win the big game, your ability to drive a team    in the last minute — probably no other quarterback in the history of the league was    your equal. You’re one of the best quarterbacks ever. Why aren’t you in the Hall of Fame?

KS: Well, I don’t know. I’m not    the person to ask that, you know. I don’t know what the criteria is. I don’t really know    how it’s done or who votes on that sort of thing. I don’t have any idea. All you can do is    go out there and play, and play as hard as you can, and let the cards fall where they may.    I don’t have any idea why those things happen, or why you’re not in there. It’s not    something that I think about an awful lot unless somebody brings it up. I mean, if you    should be there, then eventually maybe you will be. It would be a great honor, but like I    said, it’s not something I think about an awful lot.

RS: Well, I tell you what. If you    find an e-mail address or phone number of anybody who’s voting on the Hall of Fame, we’ll    get some Raider fans around the world — maybe a couple of hundred thousand fans     — to send them some e-mail and call them because you certainly deserve to be in the    Hall of Fame. If there is anybody out there who isn’t in the Hall of Fame and deserves it    more, I don’t know who that would be.

KS: Well, that’s nice of you to    say that. I don’t have any problem with it. I mean, I had a wonderful career. I think that    anytime you’re blessed to play with the guys we’ve been talking about, and playing for    John Madden and Bum Phillips and guys like that. It was an awful lot of fun. They let you    be the kind of player you want to be on the field, and the kind of guy you want to be off    the field. I don’t have any problem with my standing in the football community. I had a    great career and we won — we won a world championship. I was paid the way most    quarterbacks were paid. I don’t have any problem with it. If it happens, it happens. If it    doesn’t, then I’m content with where I’ve been and how I got there.

RS: Well, you were certainly one    of my favorite players, and I know you’re the favorite player for a lot of the people who    will be reading this interview in the Raider Nation Journal. It’s been an honor,    Ken. Raider Nation Journal is written by Raider fans for Raider fans around the    world. We’re very proud to have interviewed you today. Thanks, Kenny.

KS: Thank you, Randy.

You are prohibited from republication, retransmission,    reproduction, or other use of any text, graphics, or photos on any page on this site.    Raider Nation and Raider Nation Journal are trademarks of Raider Nation, Inc. All other    images and trademarks are properties of their respective owners.     Copyright (c) 1998 Raider Nation. All rights    reserved.

The Legend Continues


More pics from the archives of the Original Raider Nation…………

mvc-009f mvc-014f mvc-020f mvc-021f rich1

Autograph signing with Jon Ritchie at the Raider Locker Room.

villapiano vsquared

John Vella and Phil Villapiano showing off their Super Bowl Rings. Another autograph signing at John Vella’s Raider Locker Room. From the Raider Nation archives.




Raider Nation Brand Identity – The Original Design

scdThese are the original draft designs from initial concept to final design which made it as the official logo of Raider Nation.

2013-03-17 16.59.44 (1)

I originally went to a t-shirt screen printer in Berkeley thinking where else would you go to get a far out wild design done the right way. Big mistake as it turns out they were good at concert graphics but simple sports designs were just not their thing.

From these drawings you can see the skull and bandana went through several iterations until it was done right. Once the design was finalized there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be popular. The design incorporated all the base attributes which Raider fans identified with – skull and crossbones, being a team for the nation, and portraying the rogue mentality.

2013-03-17 16.58.42So, these original draft designs document the true origin of Raider Nation as this became the iconic symbol for the website and all merchandise associated with Raider Nation.

2013-03-17 16.57.04

Raider Nation – Bruce Allen Interview

Another great interview from the archives. This with Bruce Allen and was conducted during the Jon Gruden era.

scd AD

He sits at the right hand of one of the true football gods, Raiders’ owner    Al Davis.
Bruce Allen doesn’t get the publicity afforded a head coach or a high-profile NFL owner    such as Davis, but he is just as important to the Raiders organization. As the team’s    “senior assistant,” Allen handles a variety of duties for the franchise, from    negotiating player contracts and managing the team’s salary cap, to coordinating marketing    and community relations projects and answering media inquiries. The son of the late George    Allen, record-breaking coach of the Redskins, he brings a passion and work ethic to the    job only equaled by the Raiders’ new head coach, Jon Gruden.
Probably no employee, other than Davis himself, knows more about the day-to-day operations    of the Oakland Raiders than Allen. An articulate representative of the Silver and Black,    Allen spoke to Raider Nation Journal’s Randy Shillingburg on May 5 about the team’s draft    and prospects for the 1998 season. Following are excerpts from this phone interview which    probed into the inner workings of pro football’s most dynamic organization:
RS: What are you working on today, Bruce?

BA: We’re working on a number of things. We’re looking to fill out our    80-man roster and we’re also looking at some marketing and community relations activities.
RS: Which players are we looking at today? Can you tell?

BA: No, we don’t do it that way. As you know, we like to keep our    objectives quiet until they’ve been conquered.
RS: But you are talking to some players?

BA: Yes we are.
RS: Will the Raiders be active (in free agency) after June 1?

BA: If the right players become available that we feel can help us. With    our new coaching staff — they have spent an extensive amount of time implementing their    new terminology and their new schemes to our players since February. It can be difficult    for a new player to come in late in June or early July and get up to speed that quickly.    It is a complete change in terminology for us, and it’s something that needs a lot of work    and repetition. The players are still here working on it.
RS: If I would call the Raiders office about 4 o’clock in the morning, would I reach Jon    Gruden?

BA: (Laughing) If you had his direct dial, you would. Some days he gets in    late, around five.
RS: (Laughing) He’s sleeping in those days?

BA: (Laughing) Usually you can get him between four and five pretty    easily.
RS: It sounds as if he’d be a tough guy to try to keep up with.

BA: Well, he’s got so much energy, and it’s creative energy. We feel    fortunate to have landed Jon here, because he’s brought some adrenaline to the team that    has been needed.
RS: Almost everyone has alluded to the fact that returning this team to its rightful place    among the league’s elite will require a major rebuilding job. Does the team have a    timetable with a series of goals?

BA: Our timetable is to be as good as we can be each week. There is some    great history that shows quick turnarounds in this new salary cap era. We’re just going    (to) try to play one game at a time. We open with Kansas City, and Jon has all of his    focus on that game and (to) do the best we can. When the coaches came in here, they wanted    to have these early mini camps. In fact, we had one before the draft even, and they were    pleased with our talent. Offensively, we have some explosive weapons that excite the    offensive coaches, but defensively we also (have) a nucleus that can be built around with    some solid, young talent.
RS: What does Jon Gruden bring to the Raiders?

BA: He brings intelligence. He brings passion. He brings discipline, and    he brings energy.
RS: What does Bruce Allen bring to the Raiders?

BA: Definitely the passion and the ability to look at any possible    contractual problem from different angles and be able to solve it. As with everyone in the    organization, that burning desire to win.
RS: What do you think the chances are of having Charles Woodson signed before training    camp starts? Do you get the feeling that both Charles and his agents want him to be in    camp on time?

BA: Well, in talking to Charles, you feel that. There’s no way to predict    that far off. Last year, we were fortunate that Darrell Russell signed the day camp    started. He was the first of the top six draft choices to sign. None of those other draft    choices signed for, I don’t think, for another week or so. We’ll work at it and attempt to    compensate him fairly and come up with a deal. It takes two to make an agreement.
RS: What is it like to work with Jon Gruden? What are your impressions of him? Do you feel    that the team has turned around under his leadership?

BA: Results are what turn around a team. Chemistry is an often-used    phrase. I’ve only seen teams that win that have good chemistry. That (having team    chemistry) will be when we get on the field and outscore our opponents. I don’t want to    put too much on Jon too early. But are we headed in the right direction? Absolutely.
RS: Who have been your biggest influences in football?

BA: Well, my father was probably number one and number two. After that, I    would probably say a lot of his players, who I grew up as friends to, and Al Davis. Al is    every coach’s idol in that he was a Coach of the Year, successful coach, but he ended up    owning a franchise. I don’t think — now that George Halas and Paul Brown are gone — that    we’ll ever see this again in sports. The value of the franchises has gotten near a billion    dollars.
RS: What does Al Davis bring to the Raiders? Of course we know his knowledge of the game    and all of that, but what else does he add to the team?

BA: His incredible experience at doing every facet of an organization —    working in every facet of the organization — is invaluable. His ability to see the big    picture and clearly project what our future holds is really kind of amazing. Some of the    new coaches call him Karnac. Some of the owners in the league at the last league meeting    called him E. F. Hutton. He had predicted that television income was going to double —    two years ago. Everyone sort of laughed at that and sort of thought he was just talking.    And then it happened. He has great insight and great vision. He is the person that lights    this flame in everyone around this organization. When he comes by — not intentionally and    not directly — but his burning desire to succeed motivates everyone in this place.
RS: He’s an extremely loyal person, from everything that I’ve read. He’s the type of boss    who, once you prove to him that you have the same passion, he has extreme loyalty to you.

BA: You know, it’s funny. John Madden says that if he had (only) one phone    call to make, he’d call Al Davis. He actually gives you that loyalty before you’ve entered    the Raiders organization. He won’t ever let me explain some of the things he does for    people in need, or people that are looking for assistance of some kind, whether it’s    someone in the community, or a former Raider, or a former coach who just coached in    college. His generosity would shock people.
RS: That’s what I had heard. I remember hearing a story one time that he picks up the tab    whenever he enters a restaurant and sees any of his players there.

BA: That is minor compared to some of his acts of goodwill. If anyone that    he knows is sick or their family has a problem, somehow he finds the time to research    extra medical help and help people. When my wife was going into premature labor, Al Davis    was the person calling the doctor before I even got home to take her to the hospital.
RS: (Laughing) I can just see some doctor at Cedar Sinai Hospital or the Mayo Clinic    handing the phone to another doctor: “It’s Al Davis on the line for you.”

BA: (Laughing) That’s right — making sure that we have the right doctor.    It’s incredible how widespread his generosity is, but it’s also because he believes in    people, and he likes helping people who are less fortunate — not only less fortunate in    terms of money but also less fortunate in terms of knowledge.
RS: It sounds as though you enjoy working with him.

BA: I love it. I really do. The relationship is more than just football,    although that’s the centerpiece of it. I enjoy asking him questions from World War II    history to great leaders in our world, current events, political events, propositions that    are on the ballot, and hearing his analysis of it, and then making side wagers as to which    side is going to win. I haven’t won many of them.
RS: What was it like being in the war room during the draft? What was everyone’s reaction    when Charles Woodson was available and the Raiders selected him?

BA: It was easy on the Woodson situation because we had a definite feeling    that it was either going to be Andre Wadsworth or Charles Woodson, and we were going to be    happy either way. Maneuvering and getting everybody’s opinion on who the next player we    wanted — that was exciting. And then when we were able to complete the trade with Tampa    and get Mo Collins — you would have thought it was Cinco de Mayo in the draft room. It    was a great celebration.
RS: Was it nice to not only get a great player (Collins), but also beat San Francisco to    the punch?

BA: Beating San Francisco just means that their scouts evaluated him in    the same way that we did. We know that there was a team ahead of San Francisco that was    going to draft him.
RS: Really?

BA: So, it made it necessary to trade to the spot we did in order to get    Mo. But, once again, that goes into the preparation by all of our scouts and coaches, and    under Al’s leadership, making sure that we know everything there is possible to know about    a draft situation.
RS: What was the reaction when the Raiders picked up Leon Bender?

BA: We were hoping that he would last until that spot. That supplemental    pick we got from the league, we could not trade. We were concerned about the two spots    above where we were selecting. Our happiness was small when compared to the happiness once    we saw him at mini camp. He’s a big man whose explosiveness off the ball is rare.
RS: He doesn’t have the greatest 40 time, but he is apparently extremely quick.

BA: Yeah, extremely quick. Other than Wadsworth, I don’t know if there was    a quicker big man in the draft.
RS: Do you think he’ll be a star in this league if he works hard?

BA: It’s too early to say that. We have two quality defensive tackles in    Darrell Russell and Russell Maryland, but this gives us a third man in the rotation that    should be able to help us for many years to come.
RS: What was the reaction in the war room when Jon Ritchie was available?

BA: We wanted Jon, and we knew that some other people wanted Jon. We had    an offer to trade down, but the coaches were looking to grab (him) as a fullback. We    decided to take Jon right there. Many people (in the organization) feel this way probably    after the first mini camp: He was everything we were hoping he would be.
RS: Do you think he’ll be a good short-yardage runner?

BA: Oh, the great part about Jon is that he doesn’t care if he ever runs    the ball. He’s a blocking fullback who has very soft hands, which is important in Jon    Gruden’s offense. He (Ritchie) can do that (short-yardage running), yes. We were really    looking for a lead back for Napoleon (Kaufman) and Harvey (Williams).
RS: I think that one of the sentences in my column this week about Ritchie is,    “Aren’t unselfish players great?”

BA: (Laughing) Yeah.
RS: It sounds as though he doesn’t care if he gets the ball two or three times a game as    long as he has a chance to knock a couple of linebackers, a couple of defensive linemen    and a couple of cornerbacks on their ass.

BA: I don’t know if he cares about getting it that one time a game. He    said that coming in and that’s his attitude, which is refreshing.
RS: This draft was kind of an attitude adjustment. The team picked players who are a    little cocky, who have the feeling that they want to be part of a team — not so much the    individual glory or anything — but that they really enjoy being a part of a team and    making a contribution.

BA: When you look at our first three choices, they came from Michigan, the    national champion; Florida, last year’s national champion; and Washington State, this    year’s Pac-10 champion. So, we added some players who are accustomed to winning, who know    what it takes to win, and are driven to win. That’s what we’re looking for here. At the    end of last season, we knew that we could go one of two ways. We could go back into free    agency and try and pick up some players, but the players that were out there really didn’t    excite us. We felt we got the best corner in free agency in Eric Allen via trade. We    decided to concentrate and spend our money and time in the draft, and we ended up with    three high draft choices and really three first round choices. We’re as happy as we can be    about those guys.
RS: If the defense last year would have given up one less touchdown per game, which still    would not have put it among the league’s leaders or even the division leaders, the team    would have finished at 9-7. The Raiders were blown out the last few games of the year when    the season was essentially over. Do you think that an 11-5 or 12-4 season is possible or    even realistic to think about at this point?

BA: We’re not in the prediction business. As I stated, we’ve got to focus    on beating Kansas City. We play them there in a Sunday night game as our opener. The    beginning of our schedule is a wake up call for coach Gruden. Our defense was number eight    in the NFL in 1996. We finished last (for) last year and really, personnel wise, all we    did was improve it with the addition of Eric Turner and Darrell Russell. I think we need    to get some confidence back. We need to get our aggression back, and I think having (new    defensive coordinator) Willie Shaw gives us a chance to do that.
RS: Tell us a little bit about Willie Shaw. What would you like to tell Raider fans around    the world that will give them confidence that he is going to turn this defense around?

BA: Well, there are two things. One, at age 19, he was a sergeant in the    Army. Number two, the New Orleans Saints last year had the number four defense in the NFL.    Now that’s an impressive statistic, but when you couple the fact that the New Orleans    Saints had the 30th ranked offense, and turned the ball over 55 times, it almost becomes    statistically impossible to have the number four defense. That and his proven record    within our division. When he was with the Chargers, they went to the Super Bowl. Those few    points really should give people comfort and it gives us great comfort.
RS: He turns around defenses quickly. He turns vanilla-type defenses into ball-hawking    defenses that create a lot more opportunities for his offense.

BA: He does it because he has a great rapport with players, but a very    disciplined rapport. People know that he’s the coach who’s in charge. We’re pleased to    have him. If Jon is in here at four, Willie is having that second cup of coffee around    here.
RS: (Laughing) So Willie is staying overnight, too?

BA: (Laughing) Yes he is.
RS: It sounds as if things are turning around, or are in the process of turning around. I    know that people who are writing for and reading Raider Nation Journal are some of the    most rabid fans you’d ever want to meet. My second son, believe it or not, his name is    Todd Davis. I’ll just give you one guess as to who he was named after.

BA: (Laughing)
RS: Todd Christensen and Al Davis. I’ve been a Raider fan for a long time. I mean a long    time.

BA: I visited the site (Raider Nation). The reason you all got a hold of    me is that I visited the site, and I was reading (it). Our fans are the greatest. No    matter what survey the league puts out, the Raiders stand tall internationally as really    the flagship of the NFL. We spread across every race and nationality. It’s amazing to the    other teams when they see our popularity. It’s something we’re proud of, and it’s    something that we have to live up to. It’s based on the great players, and the great    coaches of the past, the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. We know right now that we’re challenged to    live up to the greatness that has been built up here. And that’s what we fight for. We    like it. It’s a great pressure to be under.
RS: When you look at the great players, how can you not be in awe when you have Howie Long    and Ben Davidson, Willie Brown and George Atkinson, and Jim Otto. Just being around those    people, you almost have to have goose pimples anytime you see them.

BA: Al Davis received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the    NFL Alumni (Association) for the way he treats former players. I believe we have 14 former    Raider players working within the organization, as well as what he’s done for players    outside the organization. And we feel that is our duty to take care of those players and    those former coaches. Coach Madden is still a consultant. Tom Flores works in our    broadcast booth. We owe them a debt of gratitude for what they’ve created, not only for    the Raiders, but for the NFL. That type of feeling is special, but when you’re standing on    the sideline in a pre-game warm up next to George Blanda, Willie Brown, Fred Biletnikoff,    and Al Davis. I don’t know where else you can do that but with the Raiders, and it’s    special.
RS: Can you tell Raider fans any scoop today, or are you going to save it for Ann Killion?

BA: (Laughing) No, I’m not gonna — I’m certainly not gonna save it for    her. We’re just going along with our business. The one great part is this off season    program — for the four years I’ve been here — has the most players involvement of any of    them. As I’m sitting here right now, I can see the offensive line out in the field. That’s    exciting.
RS: Who’s out there today?

BA: All.
RS: All?

BA: All of them, except the rookies can’t be here until June. They’re all    out there.
RS: So you’ve got Wisniewski . . .

BA: And Lincoln (Kennedy). I see (Pat) Harlow. I see Rick Cunningham. I    see Barrett Robbins. There’s Tim Kohn. (Adam) Treu. And Scott Whittaker. Everybody’s here.    And then we signed Darryl Ashmore, who was with the Redskins last year, for some depth.
RS: He was drafted originally by the Rams, wasn’t he?

BA: Yes he was.
RS: Have you seen any young players that you think that we should keep an eye on — that    maybe they have a chance to be something special?

BA: We drafted somebody last year, Calvin Branch, who was a good college    running back, and we converted him to corner. These coaches have moved him to safety. I    don’t know if this will be his breakout year, but maybe the following year. He’ll make a    significant contribution on special teams this year. I think in another year you’re going    to see another one of these Raider projects (Branch) become a very good player.
RS: What about Scott Whittaker?

BA: Scott is battling for our starting right guard spot. He and Tim Kohn    are (competing for the starting position). I think that’s why they both are here. Each one    of them is trying to get the edge on the other, which is great. Scott has a chance to be    our starting right guard this year.
RS: That’s great. I’ve certainly enjoyed this, Bruce.

BA: Well, we’ll do it again during the season.
RS: What do you think would be the possibility of talking to either Al Davis or Jon Gruden    sometime?

BA: Jon, we’ll probably try and schedule, and I don’t think you’ll get Al.
RS: Even for a long-time Raider fan?

BA: Possibly, but he might want to do something in June. I’ll mention it    to him. Remember that there’s a guy named Larry King who calls once a month, trying to beg    to get him on also.
RS: (Laughing) Larry doesn’t get him?

BA: (Laughing) No.
RS: (Laughing) Well, let Randy Shillingburg get him.

BA: (Laughing) We’ll work on it, Randy.
RS: Thanks for talking with me, Bruce. It’s been a lot of fun.

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