The day was Oct. 9, 2011 and the Denver Broncos were set to square off against the San Diego Chargers. The P.A. announcer asked for a moment of silence for longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who had passed away the day before at the age of 82.
It took about five seconds for someone to yell it; quite frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t sooner. Maybe it took the belligerent Mile High crowd that long to realize “wait a minute, we hate those guys.” At that moment, I knew the rivalry was still going strong.
Whether or not you think it was a tacky move by the Broncos’ faithful or not, that shout summed up the feeling around Denver when discussing any and all things silver and black. We hate the Raiders.
So even though I respect what Al Davis was able to accomplish for the game of football, after his passing there was always a part of me scratching my head wondering when I could go back to making fun of him like I had every moment that he was alive.
The question is, why? Why has this rivalry grown through the years to the fever pitch we see today? Why is there so much vitriol coming from both sides?
Certainly in my own lifetime, things became more heated with the arrival of Mike Shanahan, whose own personal disdain of the Raiders and Davis seethed into the hatred of the general population.
Before that, there was Tom Jackson’s infamous line to John Madden, “It’s all over, fat man! It’s all over!” in the waning seconds of a 30-7 Broncos victory in 1977 that pushed the upstart Denver team to a 5-0 start and dropped the Raiders to 4-1.
Personally, I think for Denver fans it was the two decades that preceded that moment, as the Broncos managed only two wins in 28 contests against the Raiders. In fact historically, this rivalry has been pretty one-sided in general.
So as the Broncos meet the Raiders again this Sunday, here are some numbers to think about:
42-59-2 – The Broncos’ all time record against the Raiders. Not pretty by any means, but largely skewed by Oakland’s 29-10-2 record over the 1960s and 1970s, the first two decades of the two teams’ existence. Since that time, Denver’s record is much more favorable.
32-30 – A winning record against the Raiders since 1980? I’ll take that, plus the Broncos have the most-dominant decade during that timeframe in the 1990s (13-7). The problem is…
1 – The 1990s are the Broncos only winning decade against the Raiders, with Oakland jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the decade count and a 3-1 lead during the 2000s. This is more indicative of sustained success over time for the Raiders than anything else, which is somewhat ironic considering there are very few franchises that live basking in the glory of success in the distant past more than the Raiders do. Now for some good news:
19.3 – The average number of points given up by the Broncos to the Raiders over the past decade, well below the league average, not to mention the average numbers given up by the Broncos’ porous defense over that time. Oakland is averaging 20.3 points per game this season.
25.7 – The average number of points scored by the Broncos offense this year. Oakland is giving up 29.3 per game this season, including 264 yards per game through the air good for 26th in the NFL. However…
4 – The Raiders have won the last four games in Denver. The Broncos will have to reverse that trend if they plan on avoiding a 1-3 start to the Peyton Manning era.
Despite all of the drama surrounding the play on the field the last 20 years, perhaps that last stat is most indicative of why this rivalry is still alive. The fact is that the Broncos have always struggled to beat the Raiders, and it is all the more frustrating to fans when it’s a bad Raiders team that marches into the mile high city and leaves with a victory.
By all indications, the Broncos should be able to lay a beating to their hated rivals on Sunday, but it’s never that easy is it?
For fans, it’s difficult to want a victory so badly, especially against a mediocre team, but to still be powerless to influence the outcome. The best we can do is head down to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Sunday afternoon and be as loud as possible.
So if you’re going to the game, make sure you shout at least one “Raiders suck!” chant for me, and take comfort in knowing that no matter the outcome, Tom Jackson was wrong. This rivalry is far from over.