60th Raiders Season: The AFL leveled the playing field

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By former offensive tackle Dan Archer

When I was in college, I was very naïve and never thought I’d play pro football. I was kind of a late bloomer and all of a sudden I started getting calls and I knew people were interested in me. When the American Football League (AFL) had the draft, I was a redshirt, I played five years at Oregon so I was in the redshirt draft. I was actually skiing on Mt. Hood on the day when I was drafted so I knew very little of what was going on. When I came back, my roommate said, “Gee whiz, the Redskins and the Raiders have been calling you.” It was Ron Wolf who gave me a call at that time. He said, “We’re very interested in you, and it looks like you have a choice between going to Washington, D.C. or Oakland.” I said, “Ooh, that’s going to be a hard choice.” I was being facetious, of course.

I ended up with Oakland. Actually, I had an agent and he kind of guided me in the direction of the Raiders. I came in late along with Gene Upshaw. Both of us were in the National Guard and we came in the same day and got picked up at the San Francisco Airport. There was a lot of stress at that time because of the Vietnam situation. I really didn’t know what to expect except I knew I was in halfway decent shape, and so was Gene, since we had been running for the past four months in combat boots. It was very interesting and I was very welcome and just kind of blown away by the whole experience.

Al Davis was an amazing person. He was a wonderful guy, very warm. I took my son to one of the first reunions and didn’t know what to expect. I was with the Raiders for only one year before going to Cincinnati in the expansion draft. He took my son Chris by the arm and walked him around the room and introduced him to everybody. When I ran into Al at the airport some time later on, he came up and said, “Hi Danny, how come you’re not wearing your [AFL Championship] ring?”

I look back at it, the kinds of players we had, the characters. In rookie camp the first year, another rookie and I, I think it was Duane Benson or Bill Fairband, were walking off the field with Fred Biletnikoff and he had a bad practice and he says, “I’m going to get cut, I know I’m going to get cut, It’s probably going to happen tomorrow. I’m going to get cut!” Here’s probably the greatest flanker that ever played the game and he’s talking to two rookies about getting cut. It was just funny.

I think we had seven or eight Hall of Famers, including John Madden, who was linebackers coach that year. There were a lot of greats, we had Gene Upshaw, Jim Otto, Fred Biletnikoff – it was an amazing assembly of people. The Mad Bomber, Daryle Lamonica and Warren Wells came in that year too. It was amazing what he could do, we had a good line, we had good running backs, we had great receivers, everything came together that year, everything gelled.

Super Bowl II, they didn’t call it the Super Bowl at that time, it was the AFL-NFL Championship game, I think it was Vince Lombardi’s last game as coach of the Green Bay Packers and looking back that maybe made it more significant. We played a pretty good game but we had a fumble which was kind of where everything turned. Other than that I think we played pretty well.

I went to the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1968 expansion draft. As you can imagine, you go from the Super Bowl and having played in Oakland and then you end up in Cincinnati, in August, in Wilmington, Ohio, in the humidity. It was an amazing change. The Raiders were pretty loose with their players and then you go to Paul Brown who was a coat and tie type of guy, very strict, and had a totally different management style. Estes Banks and I were talking recently about how different that was. Mentally it was a very difficult transition.

The American Football League did very well and had a huge impact. Everything was more or less equal to the NFL, especially when the New York Jets won Super Bowl III. It leveled the playing field for both leagues. It happened really quick. We had a great team in 1967, I think everybody knew it, we had great players, we almost made it to Super Bowl III. I think everything equalized very quickly within three or four years after the melding of the two leagues into the NFL.

We had some great guys and they’re still great today. I think the Raiders are probably one of the classiest teams and organizations, and all the players I’ve talked to say that no other team that they’ve been on has these alumni get togethers to the extent that the Raiders have and they’re always first class events.

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