Millen, a rookie on the 1980 Raiders team that defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 15, knew what the Silver and Black needed on defense. Not only did he have low impressions of Long, but he quickly sent his newest teammate a nasty message explaining why he didn’t belong.
Matt Millen thought the Raiders wasted a draft pick on Howie Long because of Long’s skin color
By 1981, the Raiders had long enjoyed a reputation for smashmouth football and brutal hits. Decades before the league penalized players for taunting and celebrating, Raiders players forced quarterbacks into the turf and sent running back’s helmets flying to the sidelines.
Millen, a 6-foot-2 linebacker who played at Penn State, didn’t think Long, a second-round pick from Villanova in 1981, was the right fit for the Raiders’ defense and culture. In Straight Outta L.A., Ice Cube’s 2010 documentary on the Raiders’ stint in Los Angeles, Long recalled a conversation he had with his new teammate that year.
“Matt Millen made the comment when I got off the bus that they’d wasted a draft pick [because] I was white. Walking into that locker room out of Villanova, where there’s a priest on every floor, it’s obviously a different kind of feeling. First day of practice, you’re going in [a] pit drill, one-on-one drills, against [All-Pro offensive tackle] Art Shell. It became real apparent, real quick, to me that we weren’t playing Delaware.”Howie Long
Long, who laughed when he shared that story, turned out just fine even without having priests at the training facility. He tallied 7.5 sacks as a rookie in 16 games off the bench in what proved to be a frustrating 7-9 season for the Raiders.
Long quickly became one of the greatest players in Raiders history
Pro Football Reference uses a metric called approximate value (AV) to determine how valuable players were. As of October 2021, Long’s 119 AV ranked seventh in Raiders history.
At 6-foot-5 and 268 pounds, Long had the size and skills to create havoc at the defensive end spot. He totaled 91.5 sacks across 13 seasons and 179 regular-season games and added another four sacks in the playoffs.
Long broke out for 13 sacks as a starting defensive end and earned first-team All-Pro honors for the first time in 1983. The Raiders, helped in large part by star running back Marcus Allen, routed Washington, 38-9, in Super Bowl 18.
Millen, who had a sack in the Super Bowl, likely realized by that point how wrong he’d been. The two standout defenders played alongside one another through the end of the 1988 season. Millen joined the crosstown San Francisco 49ers ahead of the 1989 campaign and won a third ring several months later.
Long and Millen are teammates once again at Fox Sports
Millen played his final snap in 1991, and Long followed him two years later. Both eventually landed at Fox Sports, with the former Pro Bowl linebacker serving as a game analyst later that decade. Long was an inaugural member of the Fox NFL Sunday studio show that premiered in 1994.
After a disastrous stint as the Detroit Lions’ general manager, Millen returned to broadcasting in the mid-2010s. He’s currently serving as a color commentator on NFL games for Fox and contributing to the Big Ten Network’s college football coverage.
Long is still in the studio and enduring the likes of Jimmy Johnson and Terry Bradshaw each week. The Raiders, by the way, are still searching for their first Super Bowl title since Long and Millen beat up on Washington’s offense nearly 40 years ago.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.