Broncos-Raiders rivalry lives on
By John Elway
Special to NFL.com
Shanahan became the head coach of the Denver Broncos in 1995, there have
always been two games on the schedule each year that make the hair on
the back of his neck stand up: the Raiders games.
that's nothing new. The Broncos-Raiders matchup has always been a great
rivalry in the AFC West. Dating all the way back to 1960, the AFL's first
season, the Raiders have always been the Broncos' archenemy.
to say this rivalry has been a streaky one. There was a stretch from 1965
to 1971 when the Raiders won 14 straight in the series. But heading into
this Monday Night Football game in Oakland, the Broncos have won 11 of
the past 12.
when you have a series in which one team is dominant over the other, that
might take away from the enthusiasm of the rivalry. But the history of
the Broncos-Raiders series is something that has never died. It's still
a huge, huge game.
teams I faced early in my career had some great defensive players. Ted
Hendricks was still playing. Howie Long, Greg Townsend and Matt Millen.
Lester Hayes and Mike Haynes formed as good a cornerback combo as there
was in the league at the time -- always tough to throw against. Free safety
Vann McElroy was really one of my nemeses. He did a good job of reading
young quarterbacks, so I always had a tough time against him.
was a holdover from the "bad-boy" Raiders of the '70s, and he
certainly was intimidating. "The Stork" was 6-foot-7, one of
the tallest guys to ever play linebacker. But when you factor in his reputation
on and off the field, I remember looking over the line of scrimmage at
him in my rookie year and thinking he was 7-foot-5!
It was always
tough playing the Raiders because of their bad-boy image and their "mystique."
You knew going into a football game against the Raiders that you had to
be ready to take a few shots that you don't normally get against other
teams. That was their image and they did everything they could to live
up to that. And they also liked to talk a lot.
was fairly even in the mid-'80s. Then it really got heated up with Mike
time I've ever talked to Raiders owner Al Davis was when I recommended
Shanahan to be the head coach of the Raiders in 1988. It was one of the
hardest things I've ever had to do, because Mike was not only my offensive
coordinator at the time but also a good friend. But Mike was ready to
be a head coach. It was what he wanted and I really thought he would be
a great head coach. That was the only time I talked to Al Davis, telling
him the kind of job I thought Mike would do for the Raiders.
So Mike became
head coach of the Raiders in 1988 -- and that heated up the rivalry not
only because of my relationship with him, but also because several of
our coaches went with him.
We were 1-2
against Shanahan's Raiders. Our first game against him was one of the
poorest games I've ever played. We were down 24-0 and we ended up losing
30-27 in overtime. That was a tough pill to swallow.
But it didn't
work out for Mike with the Raiders, and they fired him after four games
of the 1989 season. I really don't know enough to comment about what happened
between Mike and Al Davis, but I know he never felt like he had a chance
So Mike returned
to the Broncos as an assistant -- and that upset Davis to the point that
it set off a lawsuit between the two teams. Needless to say, that added
more fuel to the fire.
After a three-year
stint as offensive coordinator with San Francisco, Mike came back here
as the head coach in 1995. And Mike's experience with the Raiders transcended
down through our team -- if for no other reason, that's why playing the
Raiders was always a big, big game for us. And that's why the Broncos
have won 11 of the last 12 against the Raiders.
at last season: Oakland won the AFC West with a 12-4 record, yet they
lost two games to the Broncos.
changes when he talks to his team about playing the Raiders. That fire
in Mike's eyes has never dimmed, and there are still enough veterans on
the team that have been here since Mike took over. And they understand
how much this game means to Mike.
then you have the fans -- the fans will always hate the Raiders. You put
it all together, and that's what makes it such a great, great rivalry.
I'm not sure
that old Raiders "mystique" of the '70s and early '80s is still
there, but you always take a lot of pride in beating them -- whether they
are 7-9 or 12-4. You always felt good after a game when you beat them.
are playing great football -- they are probably the team to beat in the
AFC right now. So if the Broncos can win Monday night, it would really
put them back in the hunt and give them the confidence they need for a
second-half run. They can't afford to lose to the Raiders, because that
would put them three games behind Oakland with eight games to go.
big game in this classic rivalry.