There were so many times we had a chance to win championship games and go to the Super Bowl, but it seems that every time during whatever game there was something that went against us. It was frustrating at times and disappointing. We had great enough teams to be able to just keep coming back every year and knock on the door and we finally did it. That year, we had a veteran team, a lot of Hall of Famers plus a lot of guys that should be in the Hall of Fame. After that first loss of the year (48-17 to the New England Patriots), we regrouped, started trudging ahead and knocking games off one by one and winning. Our focus was getting to the end of the year and getting to the Super Bowl, which obviously we did. We were just a great team, offense, defense, special teams and had great players on all three of those units.
The running backs were all tough, good players. They were all guys that had been with the team a period of time so we weren’t dealing with young guys in that backfield. All of them could run the ball and they all had different roles. Clarence Davis was a big gun for us breaking off big runs. Pete Banaszak was great with the short yardage stuff and Mark van Eeghen was like the one in-between. They were also all great pass protectors.
With Kenny Stabler, you couldn’t ask for anybody better to run the team. He knew how to handle the personnel on the field and knew when to get the ball to different receivers. With Cliff Branch, obviously, he could run by anybody. Dave Casper could do the same inside, and he was tough and a great blocker. We really complemented each other. You had three different types of guys out there on the field.
We had a great offensive line with all of those guys contributing. With Art Shell and Gene Upshaw, that side was always solid and they were going to get it done for you. The rest of the line, good ballplayers, we were a balanced offensive team. We had a lot of weapons, all the weapons were different. Everybody had the talent to do something to make an impact and make good plays on offense.
We had great special teams. They were just outstanding. Adding Carl Garrett was a big plus, talk about bringing somebody in for a specific role and he played the role well. With Hubie Ginn, he always did a great job for us. With Ted Kwalik, Mike Siani and Morris Bradshaw, they were great receivers to have and they were also outstanding on special teams. Kwalik could fill in at tight end and he was a great special teams player.
Beating New England in the AFC Divisional Playoff was a big win for us. The thing about Raiders teams, we never forget. All the way down from the players to the coaches and the administrative people, we have great memories. We’re not going to get burned twice. We had a lot of resilience to beat people if they beat us no matter what year it was. From the first of the year to the end of the year is long time. We were a team to be reckoned with.
In the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defense was unbelievable. You take what Willie Brown, George Atkinson, Jack Tatum and Skip Thomas, what that whole group did. They were tough guys, Hall of Fame guys. That secondary, if they weren’t the best, they were just as good as anybody. They had that consistency. When Pittsburgh came in, defensively, we were just dominating.
The week of the Super Bowl, being down in Los Angeles, which can be a dangerous place to be for a whole week, we were a veteran enough team, Head Coach John Madden gave us a lot of leeway, we treated the practices just as if we were in Alameda. It was a good, comfortable atmosphere. We didn’t change practices. We didn’t go crazy thinking we had to do more in the Super Bowl. All we had to do is be a tough, consistent team like we had been all year. John was always great at keeping things low key and keeping everybody from getting out of line.
All we had to do is what we had been doing all year and not lose focus. Everybody just played their game. Like Al Davis said, with the “Will to Win.” I was surprised to be named MVP. Anybody could have been named MVP. You look at Clarence’s performance, the offensive line’s performance, Dave’s performance, the defense’s performance, Kenny’s performance. If it was up to me I would have made Kenny MVP.
We had been through a lot of frustrating years, not in the regular season, but the frustrating times were when we got into the playoffs. We were always determined. When you got on that field you were going to get a team that was going to beat you, a team that was out there to beat you and be physical about it. To be able to go and win, with Art and Upshaw and the rest of the offensive line, and the guys on defense, it happened, we took advantage of it, we went out there and played a helluva game. You’re a Super Bowl winner. That’s it, we won a Super Bowl.