Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Super Bowl Moment X: Marcus Allen adds the cherry on top at a time when Al Davis was crazy like a fox instead of just...crazy

And they said before the draft that he was too slow...

The very brief disclaimer: this isn’t a list that’s ranked in any order other than chronological…so don’t judge too much. It’s Super Bowl moment number 10 on the list of the top 25.

The Oakland Raiders are one of the most unique teams in the entire world. No other franchise embraces being the bad guys quite like the Silver and Black. NFL films even composed a special song for the Raiders that can make even the most devout pacifist want to pillage something. They also have a ridiculously over-the-top poem that makes poetry sound mean (sorry I couldn't find a better link to the second one...anything that's that badass in my opinion CANNOT include a picture of Kerry Collins but whatever nothing's perfect.)

So in 1983 when famous Raiders owner and 2010 suspected corpse Al Davis decided to move his team from Oakland (its historic home) to L.A, it surprised no one. After all, the Raiders were seen as the bad guys everywhere else in America except for Oakland, so why not alienate them as well?

Davis fought a very bitter, public fight with NFL commissioner Peter Rozelle (a man who he’d never seen eye to eye with since Davis was involved in the old AFL-NFL fights twenty years before). The business of actually playing football, something the Raiders always handled quite well in those days, seemed in jeopardy as the team was caught in a particularly awkward position (with their home in limbo).

But the team that Davis had constructed over the course of two decades thrived on adversity. In fact, most of them were probably so crazy that they didn’t notice the change from the stadium in Oakland and the Coliseum in L.A. As linemen Howie long put it: “It was dysfunction…function.”

With men like Ted Hendricks (a 6’7” linebacker nicknamed “the mad stork” because he once road onto a practice field on horseback while wearing a vintage German helmet), Todd Christensen (who to this day resembles a mustached undertaker) and Cliff Branch (who famously would tell his coach that he just knew he could beat his man…during the national anthem before he even knew who his man was), the Raiders certainly had the right collection of characters to win even in tough times.

And that summary of their team barely scratched the surface. There was Lyle Alzado (“Three Mile Lyle”), who was crazy even by Raider standards and had once fought Muhammad Ali without shaming himself. Then there was Lester Hayes, who may have hated his nickname (“the molester”) but did nothing to make himself look normal by following his pregame routine of covering himself in Stickum.

And don’t forget Matt Millen, the star middle-linebacker, who followed his coaches instructions to a tee (even if it was to cheap shot Eagles receiver Harold Carmichael on the first play of the game: “Don’t worry about the flag, just hit him as a hard as you can”. You can watch it by skipping to 6:03 here.)

It was all in step with basic Raider rules. Apparently (according to Millen), rule number one was "Cheating is encouraged". Rule number two? "See rule number one." This was their mentality...badass.

Yet the most talented player on the Raiders was probably their running back from the University of Southern California, Marcus Allen.

“It was fun being me” said Allen. He was a star already in Southern California and certainly enjoyed the lifestyle (hmm star running back, early 1980’s, lots of money, what could he have possibly been doing?)

Allen was extremely productive on the field though and justified his high flying reputation.

So as the Raiders found themselves in Super Bowl XVIII, they knew who to go to.

They were facing the defending champion Washington Redskins who had scored a then-record 541 points during the regular season. Raiders Coach Tom Flores and his defense weren’t impressed.

As Redskin quarterback Joe Theisman said, “They handed us our asses on a tray…and the tray was bent.”
Leading 28-9, the lead looked safe. One play though, put it out of everyone’s mind.

Late in the third quarter, the Raiders called 17 Bob Trey O. It was a run play to the left for Marcus Allen. It appeared to be getting blown up in the backfield as Redskin strong safety Ken Coffey stood in Allen’s path.

But this wasn’t some ponderous fullback. This was Marcus Allen. And as NFL films announcer John Fascenda declared (in probably the best call in NFL films history):

“On came Marcus Allen, running with the night.”

Allen reversed fields, doing just about everything you’re taught never to do as a running back. He found a whole and exploded 74 yards for a touchdown. It was one of the most electrifying single plays in Super Bowl history.

And more importantly for the Raiders, it iced the game (which they won 38-9 for their third Super Bowl trophy).

(Afterward in the locker room, one of the great moments in Al Davis’ life transpired when Pete Rozelle had to hand his arch-nemesis Al Davis the Lombardi Trophy yet again. The most beloved bad guys had triumphed…and made sure to rub everybody’s noses in it.)

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