The Overscrutinized Al Davis
In the last few months, no scratch that, in the last few years we have all been forced to listen to what has felt like every analyst, sports anchor, and sports writer moan about Raiders owner Al Davis. They have complained he is too old, football has passed him by, and my personal favorite he mettles with coaching decisions.
How can one mettle with a team when the signature on the checks bears their name, but guess that is just me?
With each passing gripe the notion has grown that this man has no clue what he is doing and he should sell the team to someone who could build the Raiders the right way.
Well count me as one of the cats that A) believe Mr. Davis knows what he is doing B) believes that he is the perfect leader for the Raiders and C) thinks that you clowns need to just focus on Brett Favre and whether he is going to where Levi’s or Lee’s today.
The negativity has grown increasingly annoying and there should be more respect for a man that has meant so much to Pro Football.
Sports Illustrated gave Davis the dubious distinction of being crowned the worst owner in the NFL. A decision that is based solely on the recent incidents the Raiders have been a part of.
Let us ignore the fact that Davis was the first modern day owner to hire a black head coach; let us ignore the fact that the Raiders have played in a Super Bowl in four of the last three decades tying them with only the Giants and Steelers; and let us ignore the fact that he is in the Hall of Fame NOW.
We can place our focus on why the Raiders have struggled in the last six years, the real reasons and not the media driven reasons.
The first reason would have to be poor quarterback play. The Raiders have not had a quality leader under center since Rich Gannon retired. Just like the Cowboys now, the Steelers before Big Ben, and the Eagles pre-Donavan McNabb, the Raiders are being held hostage by poor quarterback play. How does the owner bear the burden on this one. Davis did not pass on a Super Bowl winning quarterback for some scrub.
The owner did not run any good quarterbacks away and did not pass on any in the draft that have had Super Bowl success. Since 2002 there have been only five quarterbacks that have played in the Pro Bowl or Super Bowl. Of those five Davis had a realistic shot at two -- Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers (Rivers has not played in the Pro Bowl but he is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback).
Instead, the Raiders took Robert Gallery who was supposed to be a Hall-of-Fame tackle. Gallery struggled from the outset, but has finally found a home at guard, which speaks more about coaching then it does about Davis’ ability to evaluate talent.
The Raiders finally did get a highly rated quarterback in Jamarcus Russell, but the jury is still out on the LSU product. The fact still remains that a large portion of the Raiders' struggles can be traced back to the quarterback play, which can be said about most teams who have been consistently bad in the NFL.
When the quarterback is sour the team will not be sweet.
The second and third reasons always seem to be present whenever teams have more then two consecutive losing seasons. These two reasons are poor coaching and horrendous play on the field.
Players are not living up to their potential or in some cases they are not playing at a high level once they sign with the Raiders. This could be because they simply do not care once they get there. I tend to believe the players are overvalued and the coaches will not or can not play the individuals who are ready to ball. This has created a cycle of subpar play and caused the Raiders to maintain their firm grip on last place.
Davis can be held to task for his coaching decision, but he was only wrong about Art Shell. Lane Kiffin is regarded as a very good football coach who just happens to be a whack job and the jury is still out on Tom Cable.
Many franchises have missed on head coaches and have paid the price for it, so to single out Al Davis reeks of agenda. When dealing specifically with free agents the Raiders are far from the only ugly girl in the room, the Redskins get decent to suspect play from most of their free agent pick ups and those players are recent pro bowlers. The list goes on and on the Giants with Sam Madison, the Eagles with Jevon Kearse, or the Seahawks with Deon Branch all these teams have missed with free agents.
So again, why is Al Davis the only owner called on the carpet for his misses?
To say Al Davis should be given the benefit of the doubt may be asking a bit much for people who want everything in a microsecond and are not willing to wait for the finish product. Yet every team in the NFL goes through ups and downs, hence the phrase “you win some and lose some, it’s in the game”.
However, he at the very least deserves our respect and the same type of treatment as any other owner. Nobody ever told Sinatra to “wrap it up B” and nobody should be telling Mr. Davis to either. There is something to be said about cats that pay their dues and it should always be said with respect.
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