The Raiders' offensive system is almost unique nowadays in that quarterbacks call their own plays. "You have no idea what our huddle is like," Christensen says. "[Running back] Greg Pruitt will come in, for instance, and he'll say, 'Tom wants 19 flip.' [Tackle] Henry Lawrence'll say, 'Nan, that won't work.' I'll say, 'Jim, you're the QB.' Jim'll say, 'Henry's right. Forget it,' and he'll call something else. Do you know how valuable it is for a team to have a huddle like that? As John Madden says, 'The coaches are the theoreticians. The guys in the huddle are the combat troops.' "
In Al's early years the Raiders ran a trap-blocking offense, but now there's very little finesse and much straight-ahead power. The overall offensive concept has something to do with that. The Raiders look for big pass blockers when they're drafting offensive linemen, guys who function better as straight-ahead run blockers. The turf figures, too. The Oakland Coliseum became their home field in '66, and the ground there was naturally heavy and soggy, built for big linemen. It was tough to run a trap-block offense, as Pittsburgh does on its artificial turf. And though they've moved to L.A., the Raiders still play on grass.
Davis points to another key to his offensive operation—the split end, almost always lined up left. "It has been the hub of our attack," he says. "We've only had five in 21 years—Art Powell, Bill Miller, Warren Wells, Mike Siani and Cliff Branch. That's our deep threat position."
As for the myths that surround Davis and the Raiders, let's examine some of them.
Myth: Davis will do anything, but anything, to win.
Reality: Davis has calmed down, at least in his on-the-field operation. In the old days he was wild. He sneaked a construction crew into Shea Stadium in the middle of the night and set up a heating unit by his team's bench for the '68 championship game against the Jets. His workmen once interrupted a Jet practice in Oakland and started rolling tarps on the field. When the AFL and NFL were battling and the race was on to sign players, he once phoned Syracuse guard Walt Sweeney at 3 a.m. E.S.T. "What did you do that for?" LoCasale asked him. "Just so he'll remember me," Davis said. "He'll sure as hell remember the guy who woke him up at 3 a.m." His move to L.A. earned him many enemies among owners and league people, but longtime Davis watchers say he has mellowed. "Three Super Bowls plus Tom Flores have done that," an associate says. "Tom has been a great influence on him."
Myth: The visiting team's locker room really was bugged, as Svare said. And Davis has recording devices concealed throughout the NFL.
Reality: No one knows. Davis laughs at the Svare outburst. "Ah, hell, it wasn't in the light fixture," he says. Former Raider p.r. man Lee Grosscup once said, "I don't know about the locker, but you can bet that every office is bugged."
Myth: There are Al Davis spies everywhere.
Reality: Oh, he had 'em in the old days. Once, when the Jets were riding the bus back to their hotel after a Saturday practice in Oakland, Weeb Ewbank looked around and spotted Raider scout Maury Schleicher in a rear seat. Trembling with rage, the Jet coach had the driver stop the bus in the middle of Route 17, and Schleicher was ejected. Now? "I want to be candid with you," he says. "We do have contacts at every level, on every team. We have people in the USFL we call, too. Look, you're not going to stop communicating. If you think you are, you're crazy."