It cost the Bolts a championship, and almost “killed” Ted
By John Burress
OK post three, time to view with a critical eye. Honeymoon’s over!!
September 10th, 1978. We’re in our usual seats in “Lower View,” home side, about the 48-yard line. Raiders vs. Chargers. 10 seconds left, Raiders have the ball on the 14-yard line. Tommy Prothro is still the head coach and the team is 1-0 after a big win in Seattle.
Ken Stabler drops to pass, Woody Lowe gets him by the jersey, ball’s thrown forward into the ground, Pete Banaszak flips it toward the end zone, Dave Casper kicks it in and falls on it. Add the extra point. Raiders win 21-20. Memorable play aptly named the “Holy Roller”, but disaster for the Bolts.
So many moving parts…both Stabler and Banaszak threw the ball forward with incomplete passes, referee Jerry Markbreit was booed at every subsequent San Diego appearance just like Eli Manning is booed now. Raider announcer Bill King on Oakland’s KGO radio made a magnificent call, never to be forgotten. From “Madden’s big butt” to “there’s nothing real in the world anymore.” We’ve all heard the call over and over and it still hurts!!! But I’m glad I was there.
Watching Ted Giannoulas grab his chest, stumble, fall backwards, kick a couple of times and go still was a sight to see. He wasn’t really hurt, just acting like he was shot…in a chicken suit. The KGB chicken, San Diego chicken or Famous chicken was all Ted. I never met him (yet) but wish I had. Could he possibly be as funny in person as on the field? I doubt it- seems impossible. Those droopy eyes made the suit and the antics were classic.
He’s about my age and apparently still going strong. We’ll just leave it at experienced, not old. It seems the Phillie Phanatic got at least some of his material from the chicken. A compliment to Ted.
Anyway…moving on, how did the Holy Roller cost the Bolts a championship? Simple and not so simple. The simple part is this, the Oakland loss was the first of four in a row that year. The Chargers would come back to a 9-7 record and be tied for 2nd in the division, but not good enough for the playoffs. If my recollection is correct, a win in the Holy Roller game gets them to 10-6 and a playoff berth. Even if they lose in the first round, the experience would have been invaluable since the next season, 1979, they go 12-4. That season they go on to lose in the first round to a banged-up Houston Oilers team. If they had won that game and they then host a Pittsburgh Steelers team they clobbered in the regular season, who knows what would have happened?
The not so simple? Four games into the ’78 season (Holy Roller season),before the 12-4 season , the Bolts fire Prothro and hire Don Coryell. If the Chargers had won the Holy Roller, would they hire Coryell? Doubtful. So what becomes more important, beating the Raiders or hiring Coryell? Tough call. My opinion? I think this exchange a few years after the late 70’s/early 80’s AFC championship games sums it up…my Dad turns to Pat sitting behind us and asks, “Would it be worth it to have a lesser offense in order to get to a Super Bowl?” Pat answers, “Not a chance, we got to see something few have ever seen”. I guess that’s pretty much my thought, especially since we can’t change the past and none of that great offense happens without Don, may he rest in peace.
Remain in San Diego, Chargers. Too many memories to cram into a moving van.