Oakland Raiders' Front-Office Profile: John Herrera (and Friends)

Al's WingmanAnalyst ISeptember 25, 2008

Talk about stealth. It turns out John Herrera is no simple flash in the pan media-room enforcer. He's been around the Oakland Raiders' front office since season one of Al's arrival in Oakland (1963).

In the beginning, Oakland was not the ghetto it is today. In the early 1960s, Oakland was actually an up-and-coming mid-sized city.

In terms of football, the Raiders were not an overnight sensation, so when Al arrived in 1963, on his agenda was establishing positive relations with the community and raise awareness of the team.

Naturally, turning around the team's success on the football field was first priority, but Al Davis understood the value of having front-office people in place to handle the off-the-field issues, since they continually required attention.

In the very beginning, Al was wary of the press and their cigarette smoke, fedora hats, and such. But out of necessity, he decided he would co-exist harmoniously with the Bay Area media.

Whoever said Al was not a new age guy was dead wrong. He winced a little, but soon the northern California peace and love vibes of the 1960s put Al in a better mood.

However, Al was no hippy. Al wanted to be a tough guy like his football players. It's no secret Al never had the athleticism to be a tough guy on the gridiron, so he did the next best thing by moving into coaching and then management.

Still, Al's macho-man mentality shaped his destiny. The macho-man mentality is what makes football what it is. You shrug off injury and play with ferocity. You put it all on the line—forever, or don't you come back here you sniveling coward.

As Jim Otto found out, the pain of glory has a very steep price. Al recognized the sacrifices Jim Otto made for the Raiders and in his own way, rewarded Jim as a franchise hero. No argument there. Jim Otto is a legend.

Al has been good to John Herrera as well. John carries the same mojo, the same grit and mentality of old-school loyalty. You don't last that long in the Raiders' organization without being one of the team, for having ceaseless tenacity, for not caving in to the lying bastards of the media.

The media is smoking pot and making up stories about Al Davis. Sic 'em John!

But it wasn't always that way. The 1963 fedora crowd didn't quite know what to make of the cagey, not very forthcoming prodigy of Sid Gilman. But that inaugural and immortal 1963 season showed results. The Raiders were now a valid professional football franchise.

The press responded to success with accolades. Al won awards from the city and endeared himself to then team owners. Al was very generous in return, handing out gifts to the newspaper people who covered his Raiders. One year he gave out new color TVs. Whoever said Al has a bad relationship with the media obviously never got a TV set in 1960 something.

Everybody loved a good sponsor, and who better than Herrera Buick right on Broadway, Oakland, CA? You may think there's sarcasm afoot, but when it comes to 1960s cars, hoo boy, some of those nifty vehicles from the era sure are enviable.

So, Al became friends with Raiders sponsor Andy Herrera and sure enough, his young son John found himself summer employment, not chasing balls on the practice field but in the office where Al put him to work.

Not a bad gig if you can get it.

With the exception of a two-year stint in Saskatchewan as GM of the CFL Roughriders (early '80s), John Herrera has been a fixture in Raiders HQ throughout the entire Al Davis era.

Unfortunately, all we know of John (until now) is what we saw on video. We saw an angry John Herrera.

I'm sure everyone at some point has been ticked off and wanted to take care of biz the old fashioned way, Marquis of Queensbury rules and all that. But man, you just can't do that in a media room with rolling cameras. You do that in a bar if you really have to.

Now, Mr. Herrera is forever known as the Raiders bully PR guy. But hey, in the eyes of many, that's not a bad thing.

In all truth and fairness, the outburst by Mr. Herrera is forgivable. It's not that big of a deal really, but it is funny.

What is also funny, but at the same time ridiculous, is John's style of trying to stifle information.

I'm not a PR professional myself, but I know enough to not say, "It never happened," when in fact something did happen. Bad PR guys try to shoo issues away like waving your hand, use the force Luke.

In John's case, that didn't work, so he goes for the intimidation when all is lost. He had no further cards in his deck other than the Mafioso routine, which still cracks me up a day later.

No need to have any sympathy for Lane. If this had come out of the blue for no reason then yeah, Lane deserves some love. But, he started this war with the franchise owner.

1. Lane lacked the savvy to figure out how things are run at HQ. It shouldn't take that long to figure out if you can handle a job or not. High profile or not, Kiff walked into the job and tried to make things happen without regard for the boundaries and then got pissy through the media when things did not go his way.

Regardless of what Al represents, they chose to do business with each other. I agree with the company line on this one. If you signed the contract, then you live up to your contract, or you can end the contract if you are not happy.

2. He did not present his plan to replace Rob Ryan to Al before trying to assert control over his coaching staff. I think Al has been forthright in the past in that if you have a problem, you work it out in-house. If there are obstacles to that then you need to figure out how to deal with it before starting a media storm.

3. Lane continued a pattern of sharing information to the media. In January 2008, he was quoted, "where there's smoke there's fire," being the one comment in particular which seemed to set the dogs loose to where we are currently.

4. Lane in fact escalated his side-door hammerings through the media against Al and the organization, which seems to come pretty close to insubordination.

If insubordination were a clear-cut case, then the firing would have happened already. Al just does not want to pay for a buyout so that is the delay.

Lance, I mean Lane, is a nice guy. Anyone can see that, but this is mostly his fault, so he gets no sympathy. Once you realize your situation, all you have to do is look out for No 1. Quit or talk to Al. Figure out an exit strategy or a way to get your ideas heard, suck it up, and focus on other things or do something constructive other than speaking so glib to the media. That is what got him into trouble.

No one was happy with 4-12 in 2007, but it was not going to get him fired. If that did happen, so what, he would collect his $4 million.

The Raiders may not even win four games this entire season, and he still stands to collect $4 million, so yeah, this is about money. If it isn't, why put yourself through this? Quit! Quit and find a new gig. Go spend time with your family. Enjoy your financial freedom.

Stay and you have to deal with the blogger nation, the increasing media attention, and, of course, John Herrera, PR henchman—since Al has made himself so scarce these days.


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