Sunday will represent a bittersweet moment for the Oakland Raiders. It’s the last NFL game to ever be played in the Coliseum. Oakland has been the home to countless legendary players and many epic games. It may not be the prettiest looking field or have the nicest facilities, but there’s no doubt it was the perfect home for the Raiders. The team will be welcoming in the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Coliseum’s swan song.
Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone is all too familiar with the Raiders’ home as he was a draft choice by the late Al Davis in 1986. Though he never played for the silver and black, he has made many trips to the Black Hole.
“Oh, yeah,” Marrone said in a conference call Wednesday, via The Athletic’s Vic Tafur. “When I was with the Jets and we would go out there, we’d always warm up and I had the offensive line with me and I had a bunch of veteran guys who we’d warm up in the one corner of the end zone and for some reason there was one guy, he was all over me. Like he was killing me. Not the players, me.”
Oakland fans are far from friendly. It just takes one rowdy fan to get many more going and no one is safe.
“And the players would come up to me and go, ‘Coach, you going to take that sh** from that guy? Like, if he did that sh** to me, I would go up in the stands. You need to go up in the stands, you need to confront that.’ And I’d be like, ‘Shut the hell up, would you? We’re just going to go ahead and play.’ But I just remember those times and the playoff game up there when I was in New York and just how crazy it can be and it’s a special place.”
That was far from Marrone’s last memory and it still hasn’t sunk in that this will be the last one.
“I remember going up there back in the day and you look over at (the) pregame warmup and Mr. Davis would be down on the sideline,” Marrone said. “A lot of the old Raiders would be there, and so I think for me there will be a point I think, ‘Wow! I can’t believe the Oakland Raiders are moving.’
“I think it will be an emotional day for a lot of people there and I had a good relationship with Mr. Davis. When I was the head coach at Syracuse, we’d meet every year and there will be a lot of emotion knowing… the finality of it being the last game for sure.”
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Marrone Was Close With Al Davis
One thing the Raiders have done as well as any team in sports is keeping their legendary players connected with the franchise. Even players who weren’t necessarily pro bowl-level talents still found lots of love within the organization. Though he didn’t play for him, Marrone kept a relationship with Al Davis.
“Mr. Davis had a great relationship with all the players,” Marrone said. “Didn’t matter whether you were from — top to bottom of the roster, and we were in LA at the time, but then obviously you move on. I got released and when I became the head coach at Syracuse, we reconnected again and I would go up to Oakland and meet with him once a year and those memories, that’s something I would share with my son and I’m sure my son will share with his children and on and on and on.
“Because I think he’s one of the greatest men that I’ve ever met and I think he’s had one of the greatest influences on our game. Just a really, really special guy and a real caring guy and he took care of a lot of people. He was always good to me.”
Davis was always a blunt man and that never changed. Marrone remembered the first time he met with Davis after he became the head coach at Syracuse.
“I walked in,” he said, “(and Davis) said, ‘If you’re coming here and looking for me to donate money, you’re in the wrong fucking place.’ That was exactly what my intention was, so right off the bat he just threw it right out there.”
Davis is synonymous with the Raiders and his Oakland Coliseum should get an epic send-off on Sunday.
“Yeah, I mean he knew everything about me and he knew everything about everyone around me,” Marrone said. “Or, you could bring things up and talk about the origins of scheme, whether it be the vertical passing game with him and Sid Gillman. You can talk about Paul Brown’s influences, (Bill) Walsh’s influences, the way he came up. His experience at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, his experiences when he was a student at Syracuse University. So even near the end, obviously, he was very, very sharp.”