They're the crazy grandpas and uncles that most American families are quite blessed to have.
There they sit, at the Thanksgiving tables and in the beat-up recliners, telling ridiculously exaggerated stories about the 60s and their close calls with greatness—the same stories, year in and year out, always met with the same subversively ironic "Really?" as if it were the first listen.
"Really, Grandpa? You saw Rock Hudson in a bathroom?"
Time has made them extremely particular in their tastes, so much so that if Grandma dares to try a new recipe for apple pie, she's in for a stern lecture with a rationality level only open to curmudgeons.
Al Davis is football's crazy uncle, always skeptical of the new generation, always thinking he can do better himself merely by following some mystical laws of football success.
Unfortunately, like most crazy olden men it's flown past the point of quirky fun and sunken into the realm of sadness.
Today, news has surfaced again that Davis is thinking of firing Lane Kiffin. While Kiffin's results have been less-than-stellar, Davis hired the young man a mere eighteen months ago. Few with any football acumen had any faith in the Raiders doing significantly better than 4-12 last season.
In Mid-August, Davis was quoted in multiple sources as saying, "He's not the guy I hired."
Really, Al? I'm pretty sure that Kiffin is exactly who everyone thought he was eighteen months ago—except you. Pretty much everyone thought he was a young, talented coach who might have long-term NFL potential but would get no such opportunity with your older self holding the leash.
Since Tom Flores left the Oakland sideline, the Raiders' head coaches have averaged less than two and a half years on the job. Prior to 1987, the Raiders had had two head coaches (Flores and John Madden) over the previous nineteen seasons.
The results of that stability? Three Super Bowl wins, eight division titles, and a record that made them one of the winningest franchises in sports history.
What happened to the Al Davis who won?
He's still there, same as he's always been, and that's exactly the problem.
Just as Grandpa Joe may sit around and complain that gasoline used to be 87 cents and that women shouldn't be working as much as they do, Al Davis still thinks he can plug in respectable, offensive-minded coaches and garner instant success every time.
He thinks 10-6 is immediately attainable regardless of actual on-the-field talent.
Like an old basketball coach who refuses to play zone defense, he dislikes blitzing from the linebackers and secondary, instead creating pressure with only the front four. He rarely sees the advantage of being malleable with defensive schemes to take advantage of personnel.
Worse, he continually involves himself in the defensive gameplan with the same basic precepts that won football games in 1976, even refusing to let Kiffin fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
He just doesn't realize it's a different league today, and it's getting sadder to watch with every new hire. Each takes the Oakland job with the blind optimism that he can reverse the team's course only to continually crash.
Kiffin, just like Turner, Shell, Shanahan, and others has realized you can't change course with a ship that's stuck in time and guided by tautologies and crazy uncle-thought.
It now appears Kiffin has tried to get himself fired given his recent comments about having no control over the defense and his outspoken remarks about his owner, a distinct change of tone from his optimistic words about restoring the Raiders to glory just eighteen months ago.
In that respect, Davis is correct: Kiffin isn't the man he was eighteen months ago. He's grown and realized that, no, you really can't teach an old dog new tricks.
He's like the grandaughter's intellectual boyfriend who shows up at Thanksgiving and thinks he can take an older crazy male to task for his fallacies and scorn him for his bygone modes of thinking.
Yet, who's back at the table, year after year, eating the same dinner and serving the same anecdotes? Crazy Uncle Al. Instead of leaving everyone to do their part, he actually becomes more hands-on in his codger state because he's been in the world so long he knows everyone's jobs better than they do.
Callahan was mildly funny, since he actually did lose control of his team. The Norv Turner years were predictable in every conceivable way. Kiffin?
It's gotten boring and mildly sad.
"There used to be MEN coaching football games..."
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