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How much have the players changed?
"They've changed," Davis says. "There's not so much of this 'I'll do it because the coach says to do it.' They're smarter. You tell 'em why, and if it makes sense, they 11 do it."
Is Al Davis bitter over the strike?
"I was on everybody's side, the players', too. But there was lack of reason. Guys talk about freedom, but none of us are free. I'm not free from this job. They've got equal opportunity. What else can you ask for?"
Al Davis believes in winning, and he doesn't understand the athlete who questions that motivation.
"Football is a game you play to win," he says. "Otherwise, like they say, why do we keep score? You play, you win, the money comes; and the recognition, if that's what you want. I didn't make up those rules. That's the way life is."
There was still the question about John Madden's recognition after all this winning since 1969.
"If I were coaching this team," Davis concedes, "it would probably have a different personality. I'd go for more discipline. John can laugh with the guys. He's probably more conservative than I would be. I might throw more, go more for the big play, although John likes the big play. We'd be different is all I'm saying. We're a good blend. We bounce things back and forth, but he's the coach. Not many people realize it, but he's one of the best when the game's in progress, staying cool and making the right decisions. I get the credit for making him the coach. That's all."
So why have the Raiders gone to the Super Bowl only once?
"Two or three times I thought we had the best team, maybe. We throw a pass, which turns out to be a lateral—and a fumble—and the Jets take us and go on to beat Baltimore in the Super Bowl. We beat Kansas City twice, they beat us in the playoffs and then they whip Minnesota. People say we might have beaten Minnesota worse. Franco Harris does that thing. We might be in the tougher conference. The American wins five out of the last six Super Bowls. I think I see more good teams in the American."