ATLANTA — 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.
Rauch's wife, Jane, said Rauch died in his sleep, possibly due to a heart problem.
Rauch was 33-8-1 in three season as the Raiders coach from 1966-68. He also served as head coach of the Buffalo Bills for two years and was an assistant coach with Philadelphia and Atlanta.
"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 — no easy task — after Davis became commissioner of the American Football League.
"Anytime 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. "He had learned from Mr. Davis the necessary things to be a coach. Mr. Davis was pleased with it, I was pleased with it. He took us to the Super Bowl. All the players loved him. We all stood behind him and played hard for him."
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. When the head coach's wife will do something like that for you, it shows something."
Rauch, a native of Philadelphia, was not a highly regarded high school football player when he arrived at the University of Georgia in 1945, but Bulldogs coach Wally Butts noticed Rauch in a flag football game.
Rauch became a four-year starting quarterback from 1945-48 and was 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.
Rauch 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 four years before becoming an assistant coach at four schools, including Georgia from 1955-58.
Davis hired Rauch as an assistant coach in 1963. Rauch's promotion to head coach came 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 AFC coach of the year.
He led the Raiders to a 12-2 record in 1968 but tensions with Davis were the apparent reason he left to coach the Bills in 1969, O.J. Simpson's rookie season.
"It was tough anytime your head coach leaves," Brown said. "It was tough. He did what he had to do. We knew that no matter who they put in that position it would be tough to follow the guy who just took us to the Super Bowl."
Rauch was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.