What’s in a name: Fathers and sons who have played (and coached) for the Raiders
Two of the biggest names in the Las Vegas Raiders’ 2020 draft class were clearly proud of their heritage — Henry Ruggs III and Lynn Bowden Jr.
But, despite their generational suffixes, Ruggs and Bowden won’t be adding their names to one of the team’s most exclusive clubs anytime soon: those Raiders who have truly epitomized the word “family.”
Among the team’s quirky personnel traditions — including signing castoff first-round draft picks (see “Mariota, Marcus”) or taking a chance on a bad attitude surrounded by physical talent (see “Burfict, Vontaze”) — one truly exemplifies the Raider Nation’s passion for history.
Fathers and sons who have worn Silver & Black.
Of course, the most important father-and-son combination is now represented upstairs in the luxury boxes, as the legendary Al Davis passed the team on to his son, Mark, after his death, and Mark Davis has filled the role of owner capably since 2011, including spearheading the move to Las Vegas for the 2020 season.
But the Raiders also have a long tradition of giving opportunities to second-generation members of the franchise, whether on the field as players and coaches, or elsewhere in the organization.
(Photo: The Oakland Coliseum saw several father-and-son combinations in Silver & Black.)
Fathers and sons on the field
LB/coach Marv Marinovich and QB Todd Marinovich
The first second-generation Raider may have been the most infamous: quarterback Todd Marinovich, the team’s first-round draft pick in 1991. Marinovich was the son of Marv Marinovich, who played in one game for the team in 1965 and served as an assistant coach and the team’s strength coach from 1968-70. The younger Marinovich, groomed from birth by his father to be an NFL quarterback, started only eight games (plus a playoff game) over two seasons with the team before drug and injury problems derailed his career.
RB Charlie Smith and RB/TE Kevin Smith
Charlie Smith rushed for more than 500 yards five times in his seven years with the Raiders from 1968-74, starting 65 of his 95 career games in Silver & Black after he was drafted in the fourth round in 1968. When the running back left the team (returning for a brief cameo in camp in 1976), he was third in its history in rushing yardage. While Smith was listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds, his son, Kevin Smith, was listed at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds when the Raiders drafted him as a fullback in the seventh round in 1992, and eventually bulked up to 265 pounds for a move to tight end. The younger Smith bounced on and off the roster for three years, playing 14 games with one start from 1992-94.
DE Tony Cline and TE Tony Cline
Another father whose accomplishments outstripped his son’s in Silver & Black, Tony Cline was a defensive end who started for all six years he played for the Raiders, opening 57 of his 72 games with the team and registering numerous turnovers in an era when few defensive stats were kept. Cline, a fourth-round pick in 1970, died in 2018 at age 69. His son, a tight end also named Tony Cline, was a fourth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1995, and spent three years with that team before signing with the Raiders in 1998. However, the younger Cline failed to make the squad in camp, and never played a regular-season game for the team.
LB Gerald Irons and DE/LB Grant Irons
Gerald Irons was a teammate of Cline’s on the Raiders’ defense from 1970-75, first joining the team as a third-round pick in 1970. He ascended to the starting lineup in his second year, and wound up starting 56 of 77 career games in Silver & Black. Irons’ son, Grant, was a defensive end who joined the Raiders as an injury replacement during the disastrous 2003 season, then found himself moved to outside linebacker the next year as new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan shifted the team to a 3-4 defense. It was a role neither the 285-pound Irons nor another converted DE, 280-pound Tyler Brayton, were well-suited for. Nevertheless, Irons stuck around until 2006, starting four of 26 games.
OT Bruce Davis and LB Bruce Davis II
Bruce Davis, the elder, spent nine years in Silver & Black as an offensive tackle, playing in 121 games with 76 starts between 1979 and 1987. Davis overcame an 11th-round draft pedigree to succeed Hall of Famer Art Shell as the team’s left tackle in 1981, and started for six-plus years — at one point playing in more than 100 consecutive games — before being traded in mid-1987. On the other hand, Bruce Davis II got into only 10 games for the Raiders from 2010-11, and did not register a single start. The younger Davis had a better start to his career, as a third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but bounced around the league, getting into only 15 games in a four-year career.
S/KR George Atkinson and RB/KR George Atkinson III
George Atkinson was a beloved member of the “Soul Patrol” defensive backfield for the hard-hitting Raiders of the 1970s, playing in 138 games with 126 starts over a decade with the team from 1968-77. Atkinson picked off 30 passes in Silver & Black from his strong safety spot and also served as a dangerous return man. Atkinson’s Raiders story has a sad ending, however, as his son, George Atkinson III — who played five games with the Raiders in 2014 as a running back and returner — died in 2019 at age 27. George III’s twin brother, Josh, who like his brother had played college ball at Notre Dame, had died in 2018, as had their mother.
DE Greg Townsend and DE Greg Townsend Jr.
Greg Townsend was one of the Raiders’ greatest pass-rushers, setting a team record for career sacks in the 1980s and 1990s that still stands. He racked up 107.5 sacks over his 11 years with the team from 1983-93 (plus a comeback cup of coffee in 1997) as a designated pass rusher and eventual starting defensive end. Townsend started 90 of his 174 games in Silver & Black, teaming up with players like Hall of Famer Howie Long and Sean Jones and hitting double-digits in sacks seven times. His son, Greg Townsend Jr., never actually played for the Raiders in the regular season, signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016 but failing to make the squad.
Fathers and sons on the sidelines
The Raiders have also employed plenty of father-and-son combos on the coaching staff, often with younger generations following their elders into the game. The most recent entry on this not-all-inclusive list is the combination of once-and-again head coach Jon Gruden and his son, Deuce, a child during his father’s first stint with the team from 1998-2001, who now serves as an assistant strength & conditioning coach.
Others include Gruden’s first offensive coordinator, and successor as head coach in 2002, Bill Callahan, and his son, Brian, who served as quarterbacks coach in 2018. Another Gruden assistant in his first go-round, defensive coordinator Willie Shaw, shared the sideline with his son, David Shaw, who was a quality control and quarterbacks coach from 1998 to 2001 (outlasting his father on the staff) before becoming a successful college head coach.
Another father-and-son duo on the same staff was offensive line coach Mike Tice, who worked for Jack Del Rio from 2015-2017, while his son, Nate, joined the staff for the last two years, the second as a quality control coach.
Although Jim Fassel eventually became an NFL head coach, he was the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach in 1995. His son, John Fassel, served as first an assistant special teams coach and then the special teams coordinator, from 2008-11, and remains a highly regarded assistant. From time to time, coaches have employed their sons in various team capacities, with Art Shell III working in player personnel during his father, Art Shell’s, second time coaching the team in 2016.
The Raiders’ longest-lasting father-and-son combination is in the equipment room, where Dick Romanski, Al Davis’ original equipment manager in 1963, was succeeded by his son, Bob, in 1996 after a lengthy apprenticeship. Dick Romanski stayed with the team for several years as his son’s assistant, retiring after the 2011 season. He died in 2015. Another of his sons, Jeff Romanski, works in the Raiders’ front office.
Finally, while former defensive back Kent McCloughan’s son, Dave, never wore the Silver & Black during his NFL career, he eventually joined his father in the team’s personnel department. On the other hand, former Raiders tight end Ken Herock was long gone from the personnel department by the time his son Shaun signed on as (former) General Manager Reggie McKenzie’s director of college scouting.
Brothers on and off the field
Any list of bloodlines wouldn’t be complete without mentioning brother combos, with another not-all-inclusive list of notable siblings including:
Defensive back and scout Calvin Branch played for the Raiders on-and-off from 1997 to 2005, getting into 60 games, spending time in NFL Europe and even working in the front office while rehabbing an injury. After his playing days, he joined the player personnel department again in 2007, and remains there to this day. That 2007 season, his younger brother, Colin, signed with the Raiders after four years with the Carolina Panthers, but failed to make the squad.
Brother linebackers Kevin Burnett and Kaelin Burnett both actually donned Silver & Black, even taking the field together in 2013. Kevin started all 16 games during his lone season in Oakland, while Kaelin played two years in the Bay, 2012-13, getting into 22 games as a reserve.
And when Reggie McKenzie — a Raiders linebacker from 1985 to 1988 — rejoined the team as general manager from 2012 to 2018, he brought his twin brother, Raleigh (a Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle), on board as a scout.
Skip Peete, who spent 1998 to 2006 as Oakland’s running backs coach under four different head coaches, never played for the Raiders, but his brother, Rodney Peete, was a backup quarterback on the team in 2000 and 2001.
Chuck Pagano was a defensive assistant with the team in 2005 and 2006, before eventually become a head coach with the Indianapolis Colts. His brother, John Pagano, helped out with the defense more than a decade later, in 2016 and 2017.
(The original “Wiz,” star 1990s left guard Steve Wisniewski, is not the father of former second-round pick Stefen Wisniewski — he’s the younger lineman’s uncle.)
And others …
Of course, not every famous Raider who has fathered football-playing sons has seen them don the Silver & Black. Hall of Famer Howie Long’s two sons, Chris and Kyle, for instance, both became NFL stars for other teams, while tight end Don Hasselbeck’s two boys, Matt and Tim, quarterbacked different clubs, as well.
Conversely, other Raiders players have been part of football families from other teams, like current quarterback Derek Carr, brother of onetime Houston Texans No. 1 pick David Carr. Some are brothers, like Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, whose brother Kabeer racked up 74.5 career sacks (to Akbar’s two); others are sons of NFL alumni, such as defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr. And former reserve defensive back Tevin McDonald is both the son of an NFL safety (Tim) and brother of another (T.J.).
Plus, a couple of former Oakland Raiders had famous family members in another California industry, as running back Justin Fargas got his “Huggy Bear” nickname from his father Antonio’s most famous acting role, and tight end Mychal Rivera is brother of “Glee” actress Naya Rivera.
(For the curious, no, ’60s teammates Gus Otto and Jim Otto aren’t related.)
Did I miss any two-generation Raiders? Let me know!
(Editor’s Note: As we work to reboot and redesign the Raiders Research Project for 2020, early-year content may not reflect the final plans for the site in terms of both functionality and content. Please bear with us. ~ Ace)
Sources: Raiders.com, Raiders media guides, Pro-Football-Reference.com, Wikipedia, Las Vegas Review Journal.
All photos (except as noted) by Bob Carr Photography; used with permission.