It Could Be Worse: In Defense of the Oakland Raiders

Joe ParksContributor IMarch 21, 2008

In column after column from the likes of Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle to John Clayton of ESPN, the same refrain is heard:

The Oakland Raiders’ organization has devolved into utter chaos and is the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL, possibly in the league’s entire history.

A few sports experts have even ventured that the Raiders might just be the worst franchise in ALL of sports.

References to Al Davis' age and competence abound, while armchair diagnoses that Davis may be suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s based on his free agent signings.

The tendency has been to blame Al Davis for everything short of 9/11. Now the angle is that Davis spending money like a drunken sailor. However, as recently as 2006 the standard line was that Davis was too cheap and refused to pay what it takes to land big time players. Isn't this a contradiction?

Has he spent his money any more foolishly than say, Daniel Snyder? No. But you don't hear the same rhetoric when it comes to Snyder. The sports media lambasted Davis' mercilessly for bringing in Randy Moss, yet were strangely quiet when Jerry Jones signed Terrell Owens.

Owens has left two teams in ruin and a third limping as he made his way to Dallas, leaving the figurative smoking corpses of quarterbacks and coaches in his wake. San Francisco still hasn't recovered. Moss whined and quit on his team, but Oakland is no worse off now than before he came to town.

Saying the Oakland Raiders have the worst ownership in the NFL is not remotely accurate. One need look no further than the York family in San Francisco for evidence.

The incompetence of the 49er organization has been astonishing. From allowing Terrell Owens to dictate who the head coach should or should not be to hiring Dennis Erickson to signing Nate Clements to drafting Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers, the Yorks have blundered at every turn. The San Francisco 49ers have been trying to duplicate the success of the late Bill Walsh in the 1980's with little success. Having gone through four head coaches since Walsh's retirement, all of whom dealt with Bill Walsh looking over their shoulders as a "special consultant" until cancer prevented him from doing so.

Likewise, the Ford family in Detroit has presided over a losing team for close to 50 years. That is not an exaggeration. The Detroit Lions have never been in the Super Bowl and have not competed for an NFL Championship since the 1950s.

The idea that Matt Millen has done a better job than Al Davis is ludicrous as well. Yet the Oakland Raiders are considered a worse franchise than Detroit.

It also bears remembering that Hall of Famer, Barry Sanders retired in his prime because Detroit refused to trade and he knew they would never be a winning team even with him carrying them on his back. He has been proven right.

Experts love to point out the Raiders’ playoff drought over the last five seasons, but rarely mention the Cardinals’ 10-year draught and only making the playoffs once in the last 32 years.

Furthermore, then-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue was forced to intervene on behalf of the league because Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell was not paying top dollar for decent players and was instead pocketing the money he received through the shared revenue agreement.

In what way are the Oakland Raiders a more dysfunctional organization than the Cardinals or the Lions, or the Atlanta Falcons for that matter? Michael Vick? Bobby Petrino? The Atlanta Falcons traded forst round  picks with the Chargers in order to ensure they were able to select Michael Vick. The Chargers drafted LaDanian Tomlinson who has been league MVP for the past two seasons, scoring more points than most NFL teams on his own. Michael Vick, meanwhile will be serving a prison sentence soon. Fortunately Bobby Petrino never accepted Al Davis' offer to become head coach in Oakland. Petrino was touted as the greatest college coach of all time (see Nick Saban reference above. Also take note of same being said of Steve Spurrier.) He was hied to coach the Falcons, yet began looking for another  job before the mid-point of thhe season.By November 2007 he had accepted the job at Louisville rumored to be the next stop for Raiders coach Lane Kiffin. This is less dysfunctional than Oakland? On top of that, the ugly Michael Vick legal case came to a close with his being sentenced to serve something like 2 years in prison. Unbelievably, Atlanta is planning on bringing him back when he has served said prison term! Wow!

Then there is the travesty that was the Raiders' 2006 season.

Every citizen of the Raider Nation knows the all the gory details: 2-14, 72 sacks, Art Shell vs. Jerry Porter, Tom Walsh, blowout losses, Andrew Walter. All these sad facts led to the 2006 Raiders being labeled as the worst team in the history of the NFL by the media.

Say that to yourself again. The WORST team in the history of the National Football League. I don't even need to point out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finishing 0-14 in 1976 or 2-12 in 1977.

All one needs to do is look back to this past fall and the 2007 Miami Dolphins, who are another team not getting credit for being a bigger disaster than Oakland.

They started 2007 by having their head coach, Nick Saban, humiliate them by publicly committing to the team while he was negotiating a contract to coach in the college ranks. Saban had been touted as the greatest coach to ever come out of the college ranks. 

After hiring Chargers offensive coordinator, Cam Cameron to become their head coach, the Dolphins proceeded to enter negotiations to pay concussion-prone Trent Green an astronomical amount of money while giving Kansas City the farm in the process. During this process, they managed to humiliate their then-multi-millionaire starter Daunte Culpepper by barring him from their practice facilities yet refusing his requests for a trade.

The season itself unfolded like a nightmare for Dolphins fans as they bumbled to a 1-15 record under the guidance of the incompetent Cameron.

Raider fans heard commentators slag the Raiders every single day of the 2006 season as the worst team in the league with no hope of recovering. On all the NFL pre-game shows, Oakland was referred to as the laughingstock of the league countless times that year.

But in 2007, you never heard anything like that regarding the Miami Dolphins. Anywhere. In fact, some still referred to the Raiders as being the worst team in the NFL.

Al Davis was vilified for the team he fielded in 2006; he deserved what he got. The Dolphins and their ownership received sympathy for their struggles in 2007. The fact is that the 2007 Miami Dolphins were a far worse team than the 2006 Oakland Raiders, but nobody called them out.

Neither team deserved to be referred to as the worst in history. That title still belongs to Detroit, while Tampa still holds the title of worst season in history, and the Cardinals still claim the worst ownership.

Yet Oakland has been tagged with all of the above.


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