"Holy Toledo!"

April 8, 2015

Before The Day Ends, remembering Charlie Sumner

Filed under: NFL, Oakland Raiders — Bill @ 3:04 pm

Contributed by Craig Parker, author of “Football’s Blackest Hole: A Fan’s Perspective”

How sad it was to hear of Charlie Sumner’s demise. It is too easy to play armchair analyst with Al Davis’s head coaching decisions. We could name the coaches who held the coveted head coaching positions. However, it might help look at the year more than the name.
1988. Mike Shanahan. That was the year. Charlie Sumner was 57 as that Raider season began, soon to become 58. He had achieved Raider martyrdom in a myriad of Raider contests (the 1984 AFC Wild Card Playoff game in Seattle is here mercilessly forgotten), except with Al Davis–who ranked head coaches just above linebackers in terms of respect. That, and the fact Charlie Sumner would not, could not follow eight paces behind Al Davis when playing golf. In fact, I imagine he told Al where he could stick his golf clubs.
I have heard that Charlie never wanted the Raiders’ head coaching job, but I do not buy it. Everybody wanted that plum. I wish Charlie Sumner would have been handed that crown to wear for even a short time. I surmise that he would not have been able to do Al Davis’s bidding or keep Al’s hours. Just because he never was given the opportunity to be the Raiders’ head coach does not mean he didn’t deserve it.
His defenses could stop Earl Campbell, Chuck Muncie, and John Riggins. Of the four Raider defensive players in the NFL Hall of Fame, he coached three of them to Super Bowl rings. In an age of misplaced hyperbole and unwritten accolades, this much is true: Charlie Sumner remains–after John Madden and Tom Flores, both Super Bowl champions–my favorite Raider coach.
If I had an adage, it would be:
After coaching the Silver and Black in three decades of triumph and defeat, Charlie Sumner died at age 84 in Hawaii. And that’s not a bad way to go.

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