While talking to former Raiders’ great linebacker Phil Villapiano for our feature on the best Raiders’ team never to win a Super Bowl, our conversation veered to the college-like atmosphere of NFL teams in that era.
The Raiders maintained their standing as an elite NFL team for most of the 1970s, even winning the Super Bowl to end the 1976 season.
For the most part, the core of the Raiders’ roster was the same for much of the decade ... that doesn’t happen anymore as there is major turnover on a yearly basis for almost every NFL team.
But the 1970s’ Raiders were able to grow together, almost like an extended college program. The big reason for that, of course, is that there wasn’t free agency in the NFL back in those days.
Even if there was free agency, Villapiano, now 71, doesn’t think many players would have left the franchise.
“We had the best setup in the NFL,” Villapiano said. “We were good, but we all had so much fun together. I really don’t think many of us would have left in free agency.”
On the other hand, Villapiano said he does think the Raiders would have been a top destination for free agents around in the league.
Villapiano said he often had players from other teams ask him how they could get to the Raiders. One player in a particular was Villapiano’s good friend, defensive lineman Lyle Alzado.
“Lyle would call me all the time, saying “Philly, tell Al [Raiders’ owner Al Davis] to get me there,’” Villapiano said.
Alzado finally found his way to the Raiders in 1982 and played the final four years of his career for the Silver and Black. However, he and Villapiano never played together, as Villapiano was traded to Buffalo in 1980 and he played his final four seasons with the Bills.