It is pretty well known throughout the NFL, that Al Davis owns, runs and is the Oakland Raiders. He has called the shots in practically all aspects of the organization for decades. I believe Jamarcus Russell may have changed this.
I know many who look at the title will wondering what is on this guy’s mind? Did he have some of Jamarcus’s “Purple Drank”? Well, with the turn of events that have taken place over the course of the past 3 years, I have come to the conclusion that the failure of Jamarcus Russell, may have single handedly transformed and penetrated the steel casing surrounding the persona of the Great Al Davis, which I believe will benefit the Raiders organization for years to come. This may be a bit dramatic, but it’s just an assumption.
The Stage is Set
Jamarcus Russell was selected 1st in the NFL Draft of 2007. Al Davis believed that he had found the Franchise Quarterback that would lead the Raiders back to their Commitment to Excellence. After staging one of the longest holdouts in NFL history (he didn’t sign until the first week of the season), Russell signed a six year contract worth $68 million, with over $30 million guaranteed. Al Davis is ecstatic.
Prior to the draft, Lane Kiffin made it clear to Al Davis that he didn’t want to draft Russell. He didn’t think he was the best player in the draft and felt that Russell wouldn’t be able to help the Raiders for years to come because he was so “raw”. In a letter, Davis informed Kiffin: “I do realize that you did not want us to draft Jamarcus Russell. He is a great player. Get over it and coach this team on the field, that is what you were hired to do. We can win with this team,” Kiffin disagreed and sat Russell for as long as he could. As we all know, this was a major contributor to the firing of Kiffin. Davis wanted Russell to play and he was reinserted during 3 of the last 4 games of the 2007 season. His performance was terrible. Davis witnesses the multitude of interceptions, fumbles and unwarranted sacks.
Tom Cable replaces Kiffin during the 4th week of the 2008 season. Russell starts in both the 2008 and 2009 season. His stats are the worst in the NFL for starting QBs. In 2009, despite Davis’s support for Russell, Cable sat Russell after leading the Raiders to a 2-7 start. Cable spoke very negatively about Russell, particularly of his lack of accuracy, poor decision making, and ineffectiveness. Cable moved to start Gradkowski on a permanent basis. After going 3-3 with Gradkowski and Frye, Cable later would insinuate to the media that with an average quarterback, the Raiders would have been a playoff team. After watching Gradkowski’s performance during the Bengals and Steelers games, it would be difficult for Davis to argue.
Given what happen to Kiffin, Cable had to know that making the move and statements like this could cost him his job. Regardless, Cable stuck to his guns and did what he thought was best for the team. Rumors begin to swirl throughout the media about the firing of Tom Cable.
( Though it may unrelated, I think the story that surfaced that Cable had broken the jaw of assistant coach Randy Hanson caught the attention of Al Davis and made him respect Cable in a different light. Al is a smash mouth type of guy, Cable became that…allegedly. )
I think the combination of the these factors and several others, may have contributed to Al Davis releasing the tight grip he has on the team functions and trusting the coaches and personnel that he has in place.
This year’s draft was like nothing the NFL has ever seen from the Raiders. There isn’t a media agency anywhere that wasn’t blown away by how well the Raiders drafted this year.
Al Davis is known to base his picks off of who has the best performance at the combine. So for the Raiders to draft by “need” instead of “speed”, shows an incredible change in the Raider philosophy.
Practically every sportscaster, speculator, fan, etc..., had the Raiders drafting the athletic Bruce Campbell with their 1st round pick, because he fit Davis's formula. Instead they pick up the best LB in the draft in Rolando McClain and shock the entire NFL. The draft was so uncharacteristic of the traditional Raider draft; questions arise whether Al is still in control, was he sleeping? If he ever had doubt of his coaching staff’s perspectives, I think these factors are major contribution to the fact that Al Davis may finally be listening. (And still got Al's pick in the 4th round, how couldn’t he be happy with this?)
After the draft, Coach Cable indicated that the team, the coaches and Davis “are on the same page”. For the sake of the future of this organization, I do hope this is all true.
Jamarcus Russell was someone who Al Davis thought would bring the Raiders back to their greatness. After firing Kiffin, going to battle with Cable, seeing improvement in the team with Gradkowski, experiencing one of the best off-seasons in at least 10 years, acquiring Campbell, watching Campbell take Russell’s spot, then watching Russell get arrested, I think all of these occurrences had to have an impact on Davis’s outlook of his decision making ability. We are all hoping.
Al Davis is unquestionably one of the best minds that the NFL has ever seen. He took a laughing stock of a team to 12 divisional championships and 3 Super Bowls over a period of 4 decades. Much has changed in 50 years of football. I believe Al Davis has just recognized that it’s ok to change with the times in order to get what he wants….to win!