Michael Sam’s name once again entered the forefront of the national media last week when former Super Bowl winning head coach Tony Dungy made some anti-Sam comments surrounding the distraction the first openly gay NFL draft pick may bring stating that because of the distraction “stuff may happen.”
Dungy was criticized for his stance by some, but also defended by others who see the potential extra media attention Sam brings due to his sexual preference as being a very real negative. However another legendary coach with ties to the Oakland Raiders had a different take when asked about whether or not Al Davis would have drafted the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
John Madden was asked by Sports Illustrated on whether or not his former colleague in the late, great Al Davis would have taken Sam and the former head coach of the Raiders had an expected interested take after stating that Davis would have taken a chance on the Mizzou product regardless of the attention he has brought since coming out.
Madden feels that coaches should be able to take a group of individuals and be able to mold them into a cohesive unit regardless of differences, something that the successful head coach did quite well during his career with some infamous Raiders rosters that were filled with an unique cast of characters. Something that he feels NFL coaches should be able to do with Sam, noting that first issue is making sure the team fits in on the field and not whether or not social issues will cause problems.
“Yes, he would have,” Madden said (when asked about Davis selecting Sam). “He would have brought anyone to the Raiders who would have helped the team…But I think that’s a coach’s job. You have players from all over and then you have to take them and mold them into a 53-man unit plus an eight-man practice squad. You have to be able to use them and get them to work together. If they do those things, it will be fine. Sometimes we jump to social or other issues and we forget the first one which is fitting in, learning the defense, and adding to the defense. All those things come first.”
It comes as no surprise that John Madden feels this way, as it comes as no surprise that Madden believes that Davis would have drafted Sam. When Madden was a part of the Raiders organization the team made several strides in taking on players that other teams wouldn’t when the AFL was making steps towards social equality for black players before the merger and continued to do so in the National Football League while also finding players who would give the team great success at the same time. The Rams hope to do that with Sam, a player who fell to the seventh round largely thanks to the distraction he possessed as well as a bad combine. Whether that happens remains to be seen, but Madden feels that if Davis was around there would have been a good chance that the Raiders would have taken the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the late rounds of the draft this year.