On game day, Raider head coach Eddie Erdelatz was still shuffling players right up until the 8pm kickoff. The biggest news was that Babe Parilli would start over Paul Larson at quarterback. Parilli and Larson were competing to be Tom Flores‘ understudy, as Erdelatz had indicated he would only carry two quarterbacks on the roster in the regular season, but Parilli wasn’t ready to accept second place yet. “I’m going to try and play some football for Oakland. I wouldn’t be here if I had lost my enthusiasm for the game,” he said.
After three games, with a 1-2 record, the Raiders were a definitively middling team. All three games were close and the team’s point totals on both sides of the ball were near the league median. The Raiders had significantly outscored their opponents in the first and fourth quarters, but the reverse was true in the middle two periods and they had yet to score at all in the third. Yes, it was the preseason and this was all meaningless, but the Raiders were thought to be under a real handicap because of their late start and to see them play competitive ball was both a relief and encouraging.
Overall, the Raider play calling on offense was balanced, with a 98 to 104 run/pass ratio, but the running game was lagging behind at this point, with the team averaging less than 3.5 yards per carry. Only Jack Larscheid, with his 6.3 yard average, was anything more than workmanlike in the run game. Billy Lott and Buddy Allen were given the lion’s share of the work in the backfield, but Lott’s pass catching ability gave him the advantage when it came to competing for a starting spot. Tony Teresa was the only other runner getting a serious look, but he, too, was more effective catching the ball and, in fact, was going to get his reps in at the flanker spot going forward, at least until tight end Gene Prebola returned from injury.
As for the quarterback spot, there was no competition. Eddie Erdelatz had to all intents anointed Tom Flores the starter and, despite his recent injury, he would presumably get his job back as soon as he returned. In the meantime, Babe Parilli and Paul Larson would fight over the scraps.
The biggest area of uncertainty, though, was at wide receiver. Prebola was the tight end, by default, and Charlie Hardy seemed to be taking the split end spot as his own, but the other side was still up for grabs. Teresa was working there for now, but the team’s long-term plans for him were still unclear. He had thrown a few halfback passes and was adequate catching passes coming out of the backfield, but he was woeful in the running game, averaging just a couple of yards per carry and was often stuffed behind the line.
On the offensive line, only 5’9″ Don Manoukian was mentioned with any regularity in press dispatches, so it was hard to tell what was going on there. It was clear, however, that the offense was still very much a work in progress.
The Raider defense was in the same boat. They were good at getting the ball from their opponents—eight turnovers in three games—but they were giving up a lot of yards otherwise. Opponents were averaging nearly a yard more per run and better than six yards a clip through the air, and the Oakland rush had sacked opponent quarterbacks only once for a paltry five yards.
On the defensive line, end Carmen Cavalli was getting the most attention, but it was clear that the unit wasn’t getting it done. Among the linebackers, Bob Dougherty and Tom Louderback seemed to be doing a fair job, but still needed to get stouter against the run. And in the secondary, cornerback Joe Cannavino was rising above the crowd in pass coverage and was showing a nose for loose balls.
Erdelatz appeared to have settled on linebacker Larry Barnes to do the placekicking. He was true on extra points and was okay so far on field goals as well. Halfback Wayne Crow had laid claim to the punting job with his 45-yard average. The return and coverage teams were performing within expected norms.
The consensus among observers was that the Raiders had beaten expectations so far. They held their own in preseason losses against the Texans and the Chargers, teams that were thought to be title contenders and, above all, they hadn’t embarrassed themselves. And it was clear that many people thought they would. They were about to face a pretty stern test of two games in five days, but they were also in a position to get a good feel for the players who, to this point, hadn’t played all that much. After that, they would have two full weeks to get ready for the Oilers in the regular season opener.
It was one of those late August evenings in San Francisco where the first hint of autumn chill reminded everyone that summer doesn’t last forever. A stiff breeze off the water was present as usual, but there was a thick fog filling the bowl of Kezar Stadium that refused to budge. It was hard to know if it was the weather that kept people away, or if it was simple disinterest, but just 6,521 curiosity-seekers came out to watch the Chargers play the Raiders in the first meeting of these California rivals.
It had been an uncomfortably hot day in Sacramento but by game time the sun had gone down and the temperature had dropped into the mid-70s. A pleasant breeze took any remaining heat off the air and clear skies promised a perfect evening for football. It was under these conditions that the Oakland Raiders and New York Titans took the field at Hughes Stadium, on the campus of Sacramento City College. Just 9,551 paying customers filled the 22,000-seat facility to see the 0-1 teams get acquainted for the first time.
Raider quarterback hopeful Tom Flores continued to make a strong push for the starting job in a morning scrimmage today. The former Pacific Tiger dispelled doubts about his once-injured throwing shoulder by hitting on a couple of long touchdowns, one each to Eddie Macon, who was trying his hand on offense, and to Tony Teresa, who made a tough catch in traffic.
Head coach Eddie Erdelatz was impressed. “The team gets better with each workout and is still on the upgrade,” he said. “Flores is calling the plays well and knows what to do in most situations.”
Aside from the scrimmage, the team put an emphasis on the kicking game. Linebacker Larry Barnes continued to improve as a placekicker, connecting on an extra point and a 32 yard field goal.
After practice, Erdelatz and his staff hopped aboard a plane bound for Los Angeles, where they would scout the Chargers in advance of their preseason contest next weekend in Sacramento.
Seven months, almost to the day, following the awarding of a franchise to Oakland, the Raiders assembled to play their first game, against the Dallas Texans at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
The day dawned chilly and windy, with a drizzling rain that fell all morning. As game time approached, the rain stopped and the temperature climbed into the mid-60s, but the weather was still raw for the Bay Area in July, and as the stands filled, it was clear the team was not going to reach their attendance goals. By the 1:30pm kickoff, just 12,000 or so showed up to watch (later corrected to 10,882).
Now that two-a-days were done the players had time to indulge in a little team promotion. With an afternoon practice scheduled, the Raiders bused from Santa Cruz to Jack London Square in Oakland to participate in a “Welcome Raiders” parade. The front office expressed satisfaction with their local popularity in general and said tickets for the Texans game, a benefit for the Children’s Hospital of the Eastbay, were selling briskly with more than 20,000 already sold, according to PR man Gene Perry.
Head coach Eddie Erdelatz said the team appeared to have been inspired by the event and looked particularly crisp and spirited during their workout. Only non-contact blocking and tackling drills were performed, as the coaches hoped to prevent further injuries before the game.
Their hopes weren’t realized, though. Middle linebacker Tom Louderback, who was practicing with a bruised shoulder, exacerbated the injury and was pronounced doubtful for the upcoming contest. On the other hand, the Raider quarterback picture brightened immeasurably when Tom Flores was able to return to practice following treatment of his pulled calf muscle and third-stringer Bob Webb was seen on the field as well.
Looking ahead, the team provided a provisional depth chart for the game that included few surprises, aside from the absence of Flores and Webb. On the offense, Chris Plain and Don Churchwell were at tackle, Lou Byrd and Ron Sabal were at guard, and Jim Otto was at center. At the ends were Alan Goldstein and Gene Prebola. In the backfield behind Paul Larson were Buddy Allen, Tony Teresa, and Billy Lott.
On defense, the front four consisted of Carmen Cavalli and George Fields at the ends, Joe Barbee and Ramon Armstrong on the inside, Louderback at middle linebacker, flanked by Billy Ray Locklin and Bob Dougherty. In the defensive backfield were Joe Cannavino, Alex Bravo, Eddie Macon, and LC Joyner. Larry Barnes was the placekicker, while the punting job was up for grabs among Barnes, Wayne Crow, and Bob Fails.
With the first preseason game just ten days away, the Raiders were still far from deciding on a first-team quarterback. Both Tom Flores and Paul Larson were proving to be highly accurate passers in practice and were making the coaching staff’s decision as difficult as possible. A favorite target of both men was Tony Teresa, the former San Jose State quarterback, who had recently moved from defense to offense. Head coach Eddie Erdelatz said the move was only temporary and was intended to give Teresa experience at multiple positions.
It wouldn’t be a camp report without injury news and today was no exception. Middle linebacker Tom Louderback and defensive end Larry Barnes each sustained mild shoulder bruises and would probably have light duty for a few days. More seriously, end Ron Beagle and defensive lineman Jim Woodard were entering their second week off with no end in sight. But on the plus side, halfback Jack Larscheid had fully recovered from his hamstring pull and guards Don Manoukian, Charlie Kaaihue, and defensive lineman Charley Powell were expected back on the field any day.
American Football League commissioner Joe Foss was in town today to visit the Raiders’ training camp in Santa Cruz. Upon inspection, he said the facilities were on par with what he had seen during his visits to other teams. He was also satisfied with the team’s season ticket sales, saying the reported sale of 8,500 was in line with other teams: well behind the Chargers at 18,000, but far ahead of the tail-enders like the Texans.
In player news, further examination of third-string quarterback Bob Webb’s knee revealed that the injury was not as severe as originally thought. Initial reports suggested he had torn cartilage and would need surgery, but now the team thought he could be back at practice in a week.
Meanwhile, head coach Eddie Erdelatz was still moving pieces around on the depth chart. With Marv Lasater gone, Erdelatz moved LC Joyner up to take his place. Newly-signed Tom Louderback was shifted into the starting middle linebacker spot formerly occupied by Larry Barnes. Barnes would now put in his work at left defensive end. On offense, Erdelatz moved second-teamer Brad Myers from halfback to fullback.
Most of the news out of Raider camp was about injuries. While the team had revised its estimate of the time Jim Woodard would be out downward to about a week, end Ron Beagle was facing the possibility of calling it quits due to a knee injury of his own. Beagle had hurt the knee a year earlier while playing for his service team at Camp Lejeune and had had surgery, but the old injury had flared up in camp and was not responding to treatment. Beagle worried that his time was up. “A pro club doesn’t carry an injured player too long,” he said, “It just isn’t financially sound.”
Head coach Eddie Erdelatz, who had coached Beagle during his days at the Naval Academy said he would “give him every opportunity, because when he’s right he’s tops.”
While Beagle considered his future, two more players left camp voluntarily. Brothers Clark and Dave Holden left together without giving a reason, but it was generally thought they were going to be in the next batch of cuts anyway.
On the practice field the coaches made a minor adjustment in the offensive lineup moving Billy Lott from halfback to Dean Philpott‘s fullback spot and installing Ray Peterson in the vacant halfback slot. Meanwhile, tryouts for the placekicking and punting duties continued and had come down to a competition between linebacker Larry Barnes and defensive back Bob Fails, both of whom were showing well in practice.