Al Davis Telegram Confirming 1967 Willie Brown Trade
The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.
The two-sentence telegram from 1967 confirmed perhaps the greatest swindle of Al Davis’s career: The Raiders acquired future Hall of Famer Willie Brown (along with QB Mickey Slaughter) in exchange for Rex Mirich and a third-round draft choice.
It was a small price to pay for one of the premier cornerbacks of all time. Brown had already been a star during his four seasons with the Denver Broncos, but in Oakland he was a perfect fit for Davis’s preferred bump-and-run style and a cornerstone of the Raiders’ first two Super Bowl teams. Brown, who would play 12 seasons with the Raiders, repaid Davis with his own big steal in Super Bowl XI: an interception of Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the fourth quarter, which Brown returned 75 yards for a touchdown to cement the Raiders’ first Super Bowl title. The Brown trade represented Davis at his best—his unique capacity as a coach, a GM and an owner allowing him to out-smart the rest of the football world.
Davis was a rebel, suing the league and winning; and he was progressive, too, hiring the first Latino head coach (Tom Flores), the first African-American head coach of the modern ear (Art Shell) and the first female chief executive (Amy Trask). But as Davis’s health declined, so too did his golden touch. After a loss in Super Bowl XXXVII, the team perennially missed the playoffs through Davis’s death in 2011, at age 82. The glory years fade further into memory as the franchise struggles to redefine itself post-Al Davis, but his genius cannot be extinguished.
— Jenny Vrentas
Telegram photo courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame