The Oakland Raiders are relevant once again with a promising young quarterback in Derek Carr under center and arguably the best defensive player in the league, Khalil Mack, leading the charge on the other side of the football. Adding to their potential return to prominence, the team has brought back Jon Gruden after of moving to Las Vegas.
Although the team has gone through a rough stretch since Gruden’s first stint with the team, the Raiders franchise is as prestigious as it gets in the NFL. The team has three Super Bowl titles to their credit with two of them won with head coach Tom Flores patrolling the sideline in Oakland and Los Angeles.
Flores led the team to two titles as the first Mexican-Amercian head coach in the NFL and has plenty stories about his time with the franchise. Flores shares those memorable moments in his latest revision of his book co-written with Matt Fulks, Tales From The Oakland Raiders Sideline.
During a recent interview with ClutchPoints, the 80-year-old Raiders legend talked about his book and much more about his time with the iconic NFL franchise, including coaching Bo Jackson for one season, working with the always controversial Al Davis, and what made John Madden unique as a head coach.
Ryan Ward: What was the experience like reliving all these great Raiders memories in the book, Tales From The Oakland Raiders Sideline?
Tom Flores: “Well, it’s actually a revised book. I wrote this book a few years back and revised it with more current guys. Since I wrote the book originally, a few people have died. [George] Blanda passed away. Al Davis passed away.
“It’s always fun. It’s like getting together. The way we wrote it, Matt Fulks and I, it was like we were together in the locker room talking about the past. As you’re talking, something comes up, and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah! Forgot about that. Let’s talk about that.’ You can’t get it all in, but we tried to keep each story short enough to keep the interest up.”
What was your favorite part about revising the book, Tales From The Oakland Raiders Sideline?
TF: “The memories. The great memories. I did limit it to just Raiders players. All the ones that were Raiders players; my years with the Raiders. I had a few with some of the Raiders players I played with. Hank Stram, who I played for two years with at Kansas City. People like that who I thought were memorable people. Every one of them had a quality that I admire.”
What about John Madden? What would you say that makes Madden a unique individual coaching wise if you were to compare him to coaches in today’s game and in the past?
TF: “Well, it was a different era then. We were one of the thoughtful teams that allowed our quarterbacks to call their own plays. You don’t see that anymore. You don’t have anybody that comes into pro football that has ever called a play in their life.
“Everything is a little different in that respect. Game plan is a little different. It’s a passing league now. I thought John’s strength was that he was a dynamic guy. Demonstrative, if you want to use a proper word because he was up and down that sideline, and he did great with the game planning. Directed the game well. Managed the game well. Got everyone into position. Gameday he was at his best.”
Al Davis was also a unique individual. What was it like working for Davis for as long as you did?
TF: “It enjoyable. Then it was not enjoyable [laughs] because a lot of the stories that you hear about him are not all true, but they’re pretty close to the truth because he was very demanding. He demanded of you and also demanded of himself. He worked hard with you, and he didn’t just yell or scream, but when he left, he was still working to make our team better.
“He was just a very forceful and brilliant guy. He had so much vision for the future and where the league was going. A lot of it came through.”
What was an unforgettable lesson you ever learned from Al Davis that you still carry with you today?
TF: “I remember one time he told me, ‘The same guys that help you win if you keep them around too long will, unfortunately, help you lose.’
“And I looked at him and started thinking. When you’re playing, you never think that way. You want to last forever. You want your friends to last forever on the team, and when one of them gets traded or gets released, it’s sad, but that was true because it’s the same in almost anything you do in life. Eventually, your expertise or your strengths, weaken a little bit for whatever reason and you’re not as good as you were. That’s just the facts of life. Football based on two things: did you win or did you lose?”
You coached both in Oakland and Los Angeles for the Raiders. What was the biggest difference between the two spots?
TF: “There wasn’t any difference when you got on the ground of the facility in the office in preparation and all that. There’s no difference there because you’re still preparing to play with the players that you have.
“The difference was off the field. Off the field, it was like night and day. Oakland to Los Angeles, and there’s only so much you could control when a player in your facility, so that was the big difference. The games on Sunday were approached a little differently by the L.A. crowd.
“Fortunately, we won when we got down there right away. That was huge. We were the big guys on campus there. It’s a different type of crowd. It really is. There is so much to do in that part of the country that if you’re not playing well, ‘Ah, we’ll go to the beach instead or we’ll play golf or something.’
“In other cities where it is 10 degrees outside, what else you going to do? You don’t go to a game you can watch on TV. You’re not going to go outside. You’re not going to go to the beach or play golf. That’s for sure [laughs].”
You’ve won a total of four Super Bowls. Which one would you say is your favorite?
TF: “Super Bowl 15 because that was my second year in coaching as a head coach. I took over a team that needed to be rebuilt. We were struggling early in the season. We had traded [Ken] Stabler. He was our security blanket. I didn’t really want to, but it was time for him to go. He wanted to go, and we resurrected [Jim] Plunkett. [Gene] Upshaw and [Art] Shell still had a year in them. We had guys that had maybe a year or two of football left. Good players. Bobby Chandler, Burgess Owens, and Cedric Hardman from other teams. The best they had which was pretty darn good.
“We put it all together and won it the hard way as a wild card. First wild card ever to go all the way, and we played Cleveland where it was 39 below chill factor. They were one of the favorites to go to the Super Bowl that year. Ended in San Diego in the championship game in a wild and crazy game.
“By the time we got to New Orleans, we had peaked at that time, and the way did was great. I thought it was great. [John] Matuszak was still around. We lost some players since then, which is kind of sad.”
Bo Jackson. You coached Bo for one season. Have you ever seen any player in the NFL or athlete in the sports world today that reminds you of him?
TF: “No. Not yet. To be honest with you, I was not looking forward to it because we were not a great team. We had fallen a little bit. We needed to rebuild. We still had some great players. Marcus [Allen] was still there, but our quarterback situation was so-so. The future was to rebuild and here he comes right in the middle of the season and that’s not when you want a guy to come in.
“What am I going to do with him and Marcus both? But the very moment he stepped on the practice field and showed what he had, the entire team just went, ‘Whoa!’
“He was awesome. There was nobody on that whole field that didn’t feel his presence. He was without a doubt an instant star. No question.”
Do you have a story about coaching Bo Jackson that maybe not a lot of people know?
TF: “Well, Bo was a very private guy. A very private person. Family man. Treated the game as a business. Very proud and I didn’t realize how great a competitor he was because he didn’t take mediocrity very well. I mean, he was Bo Jackson [laughs]. His commercials say he doesn’t do that.
“He would not say much, but he would just smile as he ran over you. 230 pounds that ran like lightning.”
Anything you’d like to add about the book, Tales From The Oakland Raiders Sideline?
TF: “If you’re Raider fan, you’ll enjoy the book. If you’re a historical fan and know the history of the Raiders and are not a fan, you still might enjoy the book. It’s fun. It’s a football book.”