Al Davis never got over Raiders' Super Bowl loss to Bucs, Greg Papa says

Al Davis never got over Raiders' Super Bowl loss to Bucs, Greg Papa says

Editor’s note: Sports Uncovered, the newest podcast from NBC Sports, shines a fresh light on some of the most unforgettable moments in sports. The fifth episode tells the story of "The Mysterious Disappearance that Changed a Super Bowl," chronicling Barret Robbins' absence from Super Bowl XXXVII.

Al Davis hated to lose, no shock for someone synonymous with “Just win, baby.” The Raiders' longtime owner and football chief enjoyed plenty of success, building a perennial playoff contender with three Lombardi Trophies in the case.

Davis’ last chance at a fourth particularly hurt, especially after the Raiders got robbed by the Tuck Rule and lost in the AFC title game the two previous years.

A 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII wasn’t painful just because of built-up frustration.

There were several factors at play.

The first, and most obvious: The Raiders got trounced.

The pre-game setback (and massive distraction): his Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins wasn’t available after going on a bender the two days before -- Robbins's mental health made things more complicated than it originally seemed -- in a story that broke not long before the game. 

The real stinger: they lost to Jon Gruden, a head coach that Davis traded to Tampa Bay roughly a year before.

All that influenced a disastrous day at the office for Davis. It's discussed in great detail on Thursday’s episode of NBC’s “Sports Uncovered” podcast, which focuses on Robbin’s disappearance and its root causes, while looking at all reasons why the Raiders lost that Super Bowl.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Part of that analysis was Davis’ reaction to the end result. As you'd expect, he took it to heart.

NBC Sports Bay Area’s Greg Papa called Super Bowl XXXVII on the radio and was entrenched with the Raiders leading up to the game. The former, longtime voice of the Raiders was close to Davis and knew how much this loss hurt the late Raiders owner.

“Al was a sore loser to the highest level,” Papa said. “He didn’t tolerate losing. It just wasn’t part of his mentality … He was a fierce competitor, so whenever he lost, you could see it all over his face. He was a sore loser; a pissed-off loser, but this look on his face, it was the kind of look if someone told you that you had terminal cancer, your wife or husband was going to die or had died.

“It was just the look on his face. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the most painful expression. I honestly thought, he’ll never get over this. He’ll never -- even if they come back next year and win, he’s never going to get over this game.”

Papa knew that losing to Gruden exasperated that sentiment. Tampa Bay made an insane offer for Gruden: two first-round draft picks, two second-round picks and $8 million. For a coach. That’s insane, and Davis took an offer that would've been hard to logically refuse. The popular coach hoping for a contract extension with the Raiders was shipped across the country, only to lead his new team to victory over his old one. Locking horns and eventually losing to an ally-turned-motivated opponent was particularly difficult.

“I really believe he changed forever after that game,” Papa said. “He was never the same person. His body began to break down. … And he became maniacal, increasingly maniacal, about trying to over--, you know, to change it. To the day he died, I don’t think he ever got over that loss.”

Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs' insane one-handed catch shows potential

Raiders rookie Henry Ruggs' insane one-handed catch shows potential

It's no secret how fast Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs is. With his 4.27 40-yard dash speed, he's in the end zone in the blink of an eye.

The Raiders were enamored with Ruggs' speed, and rightfully so. That certainly played a big role in the Silver and Black selecting the former Alabama receiver with the No. 11 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. But it wasn't the only reason. 

Ruggs had some of the best hands in the draft, and he proved that with an insane one-handed grab for a touchdown early on in Raiders training camp. 

It's easy to see why the Raiders fell in love with Ruggs before the draft. He tallied 86 receptions for 1,487 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns his final two years for the Crimson Tide. Ruggs should have a big role in the offense, and the hope is he connects right away with quarterback Derek Carr. 

So far, so good. 

Ruggs should be used all over the field as a rookie, as the Raiders find ways to get the ball in his hands. And it appears he will start off in the slot. 

[RELATED: Raiders rookie Edwards compared to two Pro Bowl wideouts]

“We’ll start with Ruggs III in the slot and do some things with Ruggs III," offensive coordinator Greg Olson said to reporters last week, via Raiders Wire. "But those guys (Ruggs and Bryan Edwards) are very multiple in what they can do and that’s the goal is to be able to move all of them around to different spots; the one, two or three position at the wide receiver.”

Whether it be on the inside or outside, Ruggs will play a big part in the Raiders' offense right away. His ridiculous one-handed grab was just another preview of what's to come.

Raiders could turn to rookie Javin White to fill need to linebacker

Getty Images

Raiders could turn to rookie Javin White to fill need to linebacker

With every word that an NFL coach utters these days, it would be naive not to think there is a calculation factor to almost everything they say, especially when offering unsolicited insight into a specific player.

So it was worth noting that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden singled out UNLV rookie Javin White on Thursday when assessing the Raiders’ linebacker situation.

The rebuilt unit added two prominent veterans in free agency last March, and both Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski bring experience, proven production and much-needed pass coverage ability as three-down players.

But there is an open position alongside them at weakside linebacker, and with no clear-cut favorite to claim the job, Gruden and his defensive staff will spend the next three weeks assessing a handful of candidates before declaring a winner.

Read more at the Las Vegas Review-Journal