Cornerback Lester Hayes provided one of the most iconic images in Raiders history before Super Bowl XV. Squatting on the sideline, helmet in hand, Hayes declared to NFL Films: "Super Sunday what a day . . . And we’re gonna win. We are going to win. No question."
The Silver and Black we’re underdogs and had dropped a 10-7 regular season game to the Dick Vermeil-coached Eagles. Nevertheless, they thoroughly dominated in the championship game.
Hayes, who struggled with stuttering, made one clear decisive statement that defined the Raiders’ cocky, swaggering, rogue attitude for years to come.
Fast forward to 2016 and the team appears to have a new vocal leader in linebacker Bruce Irvin.
Since signing with Oakland, Irvin has been splashed across the media. He grabbed headlines for lobbying Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle to join the team and has been quoted repeatedly professing his knowledge about what it takes to be a Super Bowl caliber defense and that the Raiders have all the makings.
There’s not much to argue against on that point because Irvin has played only on top 5, and No.1 defenses since entering the league as Seattle’s first round pick in 2012. He has brought that swagger with him to the Raiders.
"They didn't bring me here to be a follower," Irvin said at OTA's this week. "I'm a very outspoken guy. You guys will learn that about me. I'm coming to be a leader. I'm not stepping on any toes, but if I have something to say, I am going to say it."
Despite the fact that Oakland went 7-9 last season with a middling defense and was among the worst the season before, Irvin has been making some big talk. His gift of gab may be a necessary piece to the puzzle.
Great teams need players who step up and take the lead. The dominant Ravens defense had Ray Lewis as its vocal and spiritual touchstone. The Super Bowl champion NY Jets had Joe Namath and the Super Bowl victory "guarantee."
Given Irvin hasn’t played a down wearing the uniform, his talk falls right into the unwavering Raider-esque bravado of players from another era. Think about it, Oakland hasn’t been in a playoff game since 2002 and yet brims with confidence heading into the 2016 season. For another organization that might be folly. For the Silver and Black it’s has become a vision quest.
And Irvin’s soapbox declarations appear to be spreading like a virus, infecting others. The once-reserved All Pro linebacker and defensive end Khalil Mack has now been quoted in the media as throwing down the gauntlet at the Super Bowl champion and No. 1 defensive unit Broncos.
Mack recently told Yahoo! Sports; "If you look at that Broncos defense, they're one of the best defenses in NFL history last year. They did a lot to make the quarterback uncomfortable. We can do those types of things and still put our own little twist on it. We can be that good. . . We have the talent now, and we can disrupt the way they do and be that dominant if we max out and put it all together."
One man’s confidence can boost that of another, and another, if he can back it up on the field. Obviously Irvin has already established he can lead on the field during his first four years in the NFL.
With a fervor rife in the air, when Irvin says, "We’re on the way up," those words resonate in a different and much deeper fashion with Raider Nation. The faithful may hear something more like this in the back of their collective minds.
Editor's note: Levi Damien contributed to this article.