Working with the Oakland Raiders in the 1970’s I had an opportunity to learn from some of the greatest football minds in the business. I recall being present in meetings where the discussion would center between Al Davis and John Madden on what was the most important position on the field.
Most often, these debates would occur prior to the National Football League draft while the Raiders were plotting on where to focus in the upcoming selection of college talent. Davis contended that having great cornerbacks was essential to a winning team. Madden leaned on the offensive line as the top priority.
Now, what was true for both these football greats was that a top flight quarterback was as essential to win in the NFL as oxygen is to survival. During my years not too much time was spent on that part of the equation because the Silver and Black were secure during my tenure beginning with Daryle Lamonica, George Blanda and then Ken Stabler.
In their discussions Madden would contend that if he had a solid offensive line he could control the game, while Davis would cackle and say without a solid corner all your work on offense could be erased with one pass. Also at most of these meetings was Ron Wolf, player personnel director, who didn’t offer his opinion in the debate on most important position but was always on top of the next great batch of athletes available in the draft and it was he who was always at the center of the Raiders success.
Wolf balanced need and talent and guided the Raiders to be the first team in NFL history to make a special teams player the first pick in the draft, selecting Southern Mississippi punter Ray Guy in 1973. Guy is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a spectacular 14 year career in Oakland that included three Super Bowl wins. Davis, Madden and Wolf are also enshrined in Canton.