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Obituaries / John Rauch, 1927 - 2008

Coach led Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl

June 12, 2008|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

John Rauch, the former Georgia quarterback who coached the Oakland Raiders to a berth in the second Super Bowl, died Tuesday at his home in Oldsmar, Fla. He was 80.

His wife, Jane, said Rauch died in his sleep, possibly because of a heart problem.

Rauch was 33-8-1 in three seasons as the Raiders' coach, from 1966 to 1968. He also was head coach of the Buffalo Bills for two years.

"Our hearts go out to his family, who we knew well," the Raiders said in a statement. "John Rauch gave us several great years as an assistant and head coach for the Oakland Raiders, and he took us to our first Super Bowl in 1967. They were memorable years for the Raiders, and they will never be forgotten and they should not be forgotten."

Rauch was a Raiders assistant coach for three years before he was named to follow owner Al Davis as head coach after Davis became commissioner of the American Football League.

"Any time you follow Mr. Davis as head coach, everybody will have all eyes on you watching what you can do," said Raiders defensive backs coach Willie Brown, who played for Rauch in 1967-68 on his way to becoming a Hall of Fame cornerback. "John did quite well, no question about it."

Brown said Rauch proved he was willing to serve his players on and off the field. "When I got traded to the Raiders, he was the head coach, and my wife got sick," Brown said. "This was training camp. I said, 'Hey, coach. I have to go home. My wife is sick. She has nobody out here; she doesn't have a car. I have the car.' So he called his wife, and she took my wife to the hospital. It's the little things like that that stick in my mind."

Davis hired Rauch as an assistant coach in 1963. Rauch's promotion to head coach occurred three years later.

Rauch, who had John Madden and Bill Walsh as assistant coaches, led the Raiders to a 13-1 record in 1967 and a berth in the Super Bowl, where they lost to Green Bay. Rauch was named American Football League coach of the year. He led the Raiders to a 12-2 record in 1968 but left to coach the Bills in 1969, with Madden replacing him as Raiders coach.

"I had a problem with management there," Rauch said of the Raiders in a 1999 interview with the Tampa Tribune. "When I got an opportunity to go someplace else, I took it. Whether I made the right move remained to be seen."

Despite having a team built around star running back O.J. Simpson, the Bills went 7-20-1 under Rauch. After leaving the Bills, Rauch coached the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League. He was also an assistant coach with Philadelphia, Atlanta and Tampa Bay in the NFL and with the USFL team in Tampa Bay.

Rauch was born Aug. 20, 1927, in Philadelphia. He was a four-year starting quarterback at the University of Georgia from 1945 to 1948 and the first player in college football history to start four consecutive bowl games. He set the NCAA record with 4,044 career yards passing while leading Georgia to a 36-8-1 record and two Southeastern Conference championships.

He was the second pick in the 1949 NFL draft, but the Detroit Lions traded Rauch to the New York Bulldogs for running back Doak Walker, the No. 3 pick from Southern Methodist. Rauch played three years before becoming an assistant coach at four schools, including Georgia from 1955 to 1958.

Rauch, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004, retired from football in the '80s and worked in insurance.

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news.obits@latimes.com

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