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Chargers' days with Al Davis set stage for Raiders rivalry

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Jul 14, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Scott Zucker USA TODAY

    Fifth in a series exploring the histories of all 10 AFL franchises as the NFL celebrates the league's 50th anniversary.

    If the AFL sought to present itself as the perfect embodiment of the 1960s — a hip, wide-open alternative to the stodgier NFL — perhaps no team better represented that ideal than the high-flying San Diego Chargers.

    Under innovative head coach Sid Gillman and a staff that included Chuck Noll, Bum Phillips and, perhaps most telling, Al Davis, San Diego featured a new breed of passing attack that was unheard of in the pre-Kennedy era. Gillman, who coached the NFL's Los Angeles Rams, ran what Hall of Fame receiver Lance Alworth calls "the original West Coast offense."

    Alworth was the Chargers' biggest name. He led the AFL in receiving yards and receptions three times each and remains the franchise's all-time leader with 9,584 receiving yards

    The backfield also featured Paul Lowe, who led the AFL in rushing in 1965. Hall of Fame tackle Ron Mix anchored a strong offensive line.

    "It was the most explosive offense I'd ever seen," Mix said recently from his San Diego law office. "We were doing things that weren't done by other coaches: running halfbacks into pass patterns, using (multi-) receiver (formations), running pitches to the back around end.

    "The scheme was aided by tremendous football talent. At any moment, you could expect to see Paul Lowe, Keith Lincoln or Lance Alworth exploding for a touchdown."

    That quick-strike approach helped the Chargers to the AFL Championship Game five times between 1960 and 1965. But they walked away with only one title, a 51-10 drubbing of the Boston Patriots in 1963 when San Diego's offense paced the AFL in points scored and yards gained.

    Alworth and Mix agree that the defense played by teams such as the Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers hindered their ability to win numerous titles. Alworth also feels injuries played a major factor in his team's failure to win multiple AFL crowns.

    "I had been hurt in the previous game, I found out years later," Alworth says of a knee injury that hampered him in the team's 20-7 loss to the Bills in the 1964 title game. "I had torn an ACL."
    Mix has other ideas about why the Oilers bested the Chargers in 1960 and 1961.

    "The Houston Oilers had done a great job of putting together a team and had gotten NFL players," Mix says of a club that signed NFL veteran George Blanda as its quarterback and halfback Billy Cannon, winner of the 1959 Heisman Trophy. "They bought the championship."

    While the Bills and Oilers gave the Chargers problems in the postseason, their biggest rivals were situated just up the coast in Oakland. Davis' defection to the Raiders in 1963 helped set the stage for a decades-long rivalry.


    "Sid Gillman created the rivalry," Mix says. "To Sid, the ultimate act of disloyalty was to leave his coaching staff. ... Before Al got to the Raiders, we used to beat them by 40 points a game. He took great pleasure in turning that around. Not because it was (his former team), but because the Chargers were the gold standard at that time."

    Alworth makes it clear that Davis also fueled the rivalry. "He would give us heck every time we played," he says.

    But Alworth admits that he owes much of his success to Davis, who recruited him out of Arkansas and converted him from running back to receiver. Alworth calls Davis "a very knowledgeable guy, a great judge of character and athletes."

    While the offense got all the attention, Mix says the defense played a huge role in San Diego's success.

    "The defense was really overlooked," Mix says of a group that was consistently ranked near the top of the AFL. "Every time (they took the field), it was three-and-out. Chuck Noll, Jack Faulkner and Bum Phillips were outstanding coaches."

    But AFL battles aside, Mix admits that the biggest rivalry in those days was with the NFL. He talks about being drafted by the powerful Baltimore Colts and recounts how their offer fell far below San Diego's.

    "I told (Colts owner) Carroll Rosenbloom about the Chargers' offer, and he said, 'Go ahead, take it. That league's going to fold anyway.'

    "That's how they viewed it. When they lost Joe Namath to the Jets (who outbid the St. Louis Cardinals for the QB), that's when they finally started paying attention."

    Both Mix and Alworth got a taste of the NFL after the 1970 merger. Following a brief retirement, Mix received an offer from, of all people, Davis in 1971. He said playing for his longtime rivals was not that difficult. "Guys are the same on every team," says Mix, who started four games in his lone year with Oakland.

    Alworth, a Houston native, had a different experience after joining the Dallas Cowboys, also in 1971. Upon arriving, Alworth was brought in to meet with head coach Tom Landry.

    "He said, 'Look, the reason I traded for you was to block,' " says Alworth, who averaged 55 receptions per season over his nine years in San Diego but caught 49 balls total in two years with the Cowboys. "He said, 'If you block, we'll win the Super Bowl.'

    "And we did."

    The Chargers are still awaiting their first Super Bowl title. But San Diego will always retain a championship legacy from its days as an AFL powerhouse.
  2. Aggieman

    Aggieman I bleed blue and gold

    Aug 14, 2008
    That was a really great read for the night. **** the Raiders! :turdspuke:

    BOLTS4LIFE Banned Banned

    Oct 13, 2006
    There are two things I respect about Al.

    1.) He's at all the training camps. Face it... not all NFL CEOs do that. He truly is a fan of the game as opposed to just being in it for the business.

    2.) Turning the Retards into this decade's laughing stock. I think Warren Sapp said it best with "Al Davis does know football but 70's style football." :bolt:
  4. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Good read, JL. :tup:
  5. TheLash

    TheLash Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2006
    really enjoyed that:tup:
    • Like Like x 1

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