An Ode to Oakland: The Top Ten Moments in Oakland Raiders History

Oakland Raiders
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Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson in his final home game at Oakland Coliseum.
Oakland Raiders safety Charles Woodson in his final home game at Oakland Coliseum. /

In light of the news that the Oakland Raiders tenure in the city they’ve called home for 44 seasons is coming to an end, here are the top ten moments in franchise history — Oakland era only.

“The Autumn Wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea,
With a rollicking song, he sweeps along,
Swaggering boisterously.”

The winds out of the Bay Area of late have been more akin to a tornado, a swirling epicenter of intrigue, drama, suspense, and ultimately, devastation. After a decades long struggle to seek an adequate stadium solution, Mark Davis has finally and officially committed to take his franchise into the desert.

The lure of Las Vegas, of a brand new state of the art stadium wrapped in all the glitz and glamour that the shining opal of Nevada can offer, has proven too great a temptation to resist.

By 2020 at the latest, the Oakland Raiders will officially be the Las Vegas Raiders.

Inches upon inches of column will no doubt be dedicated to scrutinizing the wisdom of Davis’ move, what it means for Raiders fans, not to mention the brand itself. The Raiders’ relocation is a cruel twist of fate to the city of Oakland. Just as the team seemed poised for greatness, a resurgence or even renaissance if you will, the Raiders will breakup with the city that birthed them.

The Raiders have, and I argue, always will have, an unbreakable spiritual connection with the city of Oakland. Sports teams the world over have connections just as strong with their urban homes. What is so unique about the Raiders, however, is their ability to perpetuate an identity that personifies their city. Oakland.

As a city, Oakland was perennially in the shadow of its “big brother” across the bay in San Francisco. Yet, unlike San Francisco, Oakland was at its core, a blue collar city. Historically, Oakland did not enjoy the same economic growth and prosperity as San Francisco, often suffering from inner city poverty and crime in the latter half of the 20th century.

It’s a makeup that was well suited to the Raiders. A tough, hard-nosed and hard hitting football team that didn’t care what you thought of them, much in the same way the denizens of Oakland didn’t really care what San Franciscans (or anyone else for that matter), thought of them.

Similarly, the coaching philosophy and general operations undertaken by the Raiders in Oakland were ones that manifested a type of renegade attitude. Of an organization that dared to be different, that welcomed the idea of bucking the trend or even bending the rules. Whether it be in the team’s use of the then revolutionary bump and run coverage, Al Davis’ hiring of the first ethnic minority coach in football history in Tom Flores, or even the mysterious wet patches that would appear in the Coliseum’s turf in the 70s that would always slow down opponents.

In the same way that the likes of Jack Tatum and George Atkinson would buckle their chinstraps on a Sunday and hammer into opponents in the Coliseum, so too would Oakland residents buckle their seat belts and hammer down the lids of their lunch pails in the early hours of the next morning. The mythos of the city of Oakland is forever tied to the mythos of the Raiders and Vice Versa.

The Raiders departure from Oakland is a melancholy tale of love and legacy. For a team that so personified the city it represented, it is inevitable that people point to the heartbreak of the fans in this moment. It’s in the fans that the great irony of the Raiders move is underscored. The Black Hole will always be in Oakland. But in a few short years time, that Black Hole will not be the fans themselves, but rather the space the franchise has left in the heart and in the identity of the city that was home to the Silver and Black.

Like with all heartbreaking love stories though, the saying goes that it is better to have loved then lost than never to have loved at all. So it is with the Raiders’ move, that some semblance of comfort may be found in examining a history that is rich with triumph and endeavor, but a history in which the ink is quickly drying.

Honorable Mention: Charles Woodson’s Final Home Game

The Coliseum knows few modern day heroes like it does Charles Woodson. Undoubtedly one of Raider nation’s favorites, the former Heisman Trophy winner gave his all to Oakland during his two periods with the team. Initially drafted fourth overall by the Raiders in 1998, Woodson enjoyed a stint with the Packers from 2006-12 that saw him earn a well deserved Super Bowl ring.

The custodian returned to the Bay the following year amid much fanfare, and even at an incredible 39 years of age, was still playing at an exceptionally high level in 2015, his final season. Woodson’s outstanding leadership, commitment to his craft and love for the Black Hole made for an emotional farewell game against the San Diego Chargers in Week 16.

The scene was already set for what would be a magical night, as the first winds of Christmas Eve rolled across the Bay Area from the sea. The game itself was an entertaining spectacle from the get-go as Woodson emerged from the tunnel, smoke billowing behind him and hands formed in the Oakland “O” symbol, and tens of thousands of fans reciprocated in the stands amidst the cold air.

The Raiders and Chargers traded blows all throughout the first half, and Latavius Murray became the first Raiders running back in five long years to record a 1,000-yard season. At the close of the third quarter and with the Chargers up by a touchdown at 17-10, Denico Autry dragged Philip Rivers down in the end zone for a crucial safety.

The drama, however, had only just begun. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Chargers kicker Josh Lambo connected on a long field goal to seemingly make the game 20-12. However, Khalil Mack drew a defensive holding penalty and the drive continued. The Chargers appeared to score a massive touchdown from a long Rivers pass that was later overruled by the booth and subsequently, they were faced with another fourth down.

Coming back onto the field, Lambo then proceeded to push the much closer and easier field goal to the left of the uprights. On the Chargers next possession, Malcolm Smith forced a fumble from Melvin Gordon which was returned to their 7-yard line by Autry, before Carr and Crabtree connected on a fade for an all important touchdown with a successful two-point conversion.

The Chargers would tied the game with the aid of Lambo, and the final home contest of Charles Woodson’s career was sent to overtime. The length of the game actually meant that in some time zones, viewers were already watching the nail biter on Christmas.

The timing was appropriate. On their first overtime possession, Seth Roberts hauled in a pass from Carr that had bounced off his hands and was suspended in mid air, taking off down the sideline and deep into the Chargers territory. On the play, Roberts resisted the efforts of a Chargers defender to drag him down for some time, pumping his legs in a scene of utter will and ferocity. In the words of Greg Papa, he dragged defenders “like a sled” ready to deliver the ultimate parting present for Woodson.

Woodson entered the huddle on offense on the next play, a gadgety gimmick designed to have him throw the game-winning touchdown pass, but Woodson widely tucked and ran out of bounds when there was no option. Whilst the play didn’t work, Seabass converted on a short field goal and the Chargers turned the ball over on downs on the following possession. It capped off an incredibly magical and memorable night at the Coliseum, and one that will be remembered for as long as football is played.

Without further adieu, here the top ten moments in Oakland Raiders history.

10. The Raiders Return to Oakland in 1995

Stadium issues have been at the heart of every relocation experienced by the Raiders, and this one was no different. Unlike previous moves, however, this one was met with jubilation as Al Davis brought the Raiders back to the Bay Area after 13 years in Los Angeles.

L.A. was a city that certainly enhanced the Raiders brand, yet even in their Super Bowl run in 1983, the Raiders would often play in front of a scattering of empty seats at the Memorial Coliseum.

In 1995, the Raiders’ first game back was against the St.Louis Rams in an exhibition contest, yet even for a game that didn’t count, the stadium was absolutely shaking. Even the players themselves were filled with a sense of intoxicating intensity at the kickoff, with every tackle greeted with explosions from the crowd as if it were a touchdown.

The sheer excitement was infectious at the ground, and it was a symbolic moment that reunited the Raiders and their spiritual home. Davis’ decision to move back to Oakland is one that will forever emphasize the unbreakable bond that the Silver and Black will always have with the Bay Area.