In Defense of Al Davis

Dom MitchellContributor IMay 19, 2009

ALAMEDA, CA - SEPTEMBER 30:  Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis speaks during a press conference to announce the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin of the Oakland Raiders at thier training facility on Septemer 30, 2008 in Alameda, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Over the last few seasons since the Raiders last Superbowl trip in 2002 and especially since the 2009 Draft, a growing chorus of NFL writers and fans have claimed that football has passed Al Davis by.

He is, they say, at 79, too old to be the owner and general manager of a professional football team, blinded by a commitment to speed and size which has led him to fall in love with players like James Jett and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

They may have a point, Michael Huff was just one of the most recent apparent busts taken with high picks since Nnamdi Asomugha and Sebastian Janikowski. It is also true that the seemingly annual coaching carousel has made life very difficult for the team, and they have been outperformed, even by the Lions, since 2002.

Time will tell how the picks of 2009 will pan out, whether Heyward-Bey and Mike Mitchell will silence their critics or whether the Raiders will be proven wrong.

The truth is though, even if Al Davis has slipped in recent years (and its not a given, with the Tom Cable led Raiders looking at having a top 10 or top-five running game in 2009, the league's best CB and punter and a passing game with considerable potential) he at least had it at some point.

This is an owner/GM who won three Super Bowls, started the great coaching careers of John Madden and Tom Flores, drafted a myriad of Hall of Famers (most recently, Tim Brown who is arguably the second greatest NFL reciever of all time) and presided over one of the proudest franchises in the league for over 40 years.

Many teams (Cardinals, Lions et al) and ownerships (49ers under the Yorks, Jets under Johnson to name two) have never won a Super Bowl (or been to one in a long, long time, other than the Cards) while Davis won three and went back there just seven years ago.

In those seven years, nine teams have been to the Super Bowl. But of course, this is Al Davis, so the fact that he is equal to 23 other owners in not having been to the Super Bowl in seven years means less than the fact that he has struggled to build a strong team since then. No-one calls out William Clay Ford as vocally as they do Davis.

So, in the end, maybe Davis has lost some of this sparkle, only time will tell. But how about giving the man with three Super Bowls and one of the highest winning percentages of all time the benefit of the doubt.