HOUSTON — The question is what will happen if the New England Patriots win Super Bowl LI on Sunday and — a laugh is permitted — quarterback Tom Brady and team owner Robert Kraft receive the trophy from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Nothing out of the ordinary, if history means much. It would be an old production with new performers.
Goodell’s four-game suspension of Brady and the ensuing criticism from Kraft were given a tidy label, “Deflategate,” that echoed through the 2016 season.
Yet there wasn’t any more acrimony between the two sides — probably less — than there was 33 years ago between Raiders managing general partner Al Davis, a gadfly of the most extreme, and commissioner Pete Rozelle.
After Los Angeles beat Washington, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII on Jan. 22, 1984, in Tampa, the Vince Lombardi Trophy was awarded to the Raiders without incident.
There was no hesitation from Rozelle and no posturing by Davis — although that does look like a sneer on his face in one photo.
“No way was it going to be an issue,” then-Raiders coach Tom Flores said Tuesday. “There’s no way people were going to degrade the moment. I’m sure that will be the situation Sunday if the Patriots win.”
They’d already had a rehearsal of sorts, Super Bowl XV, when the Raiders, still in Oakland and trying to shift to Los Angeles, beat the Philadelphia Eagles.
Davis, who prided himself on military history, called that win the Raiders’ finest hour, echoing the words of a 1940 speech by Winston Churchill.
Flores, 79, lives in Palm Desert, California, and is a radio analyst for Oakland Raiders games.
From 1982 through 1994, the Raiders played in Los Angeles, having moved there despite Rozelle’s attempts to keep them in Oakland — which was why owner and commissioner were enemies.
“We knew how Al felt,” Flores said. “The media spent a lot of time on it, but Al never brought it up to the team before the game.”
Jim Plunkett was the Raiders’ quarterback for Super Bowl XVIII as well as Super Bowl XV.
“Knowing how much Rozelle did not want to do it,” Plunkett said Tuesday of the ceremony, “things went pretty smooth.”
Plunkett, 69, lives near Stanford University, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1970 before the Patriots made him the first pick of the 1971 draft. He does pregame radio for the Raiders.
“The players knew all about it, and we sort of chuckled under our breath when Rozelle said all those nice things about Al, giving him credit,” Plunkett said.
That wasn’t easy after Davis won a 1983 antitrust court case that cost the NFL roughly $50 million and enabled the Raiders to shift to Los Angeles.
The late Ed Sabol, founder of NFL Films, called the Super Bowl trophy presentation Rozelle’s finest moment. “He never flinched,” Sabol reportedly said.
Plunkett, understandably, identifies with Brady and the Patriots — the rebel against the establishment, as it were — just as Davis rebelled against Rozelle.
“With everything that’s happened,” Plunkett said, “Brady and the Patriots still got to the Super Bowl. This whole season more than anything has been a reflection of Tom Brady.”
Who, interestingly enough, grew up in San Mateo, a few miles from Stanford.
The comments between Davis and Rozelle were not memorable, except one. Davis grasped the trophy and for the first time gave what was to become his mantra: “Just win, baby.”