It's really easy to pile on Al Davis right now. I'm fighting the urge to go down that route myself. Let's not absolve everyone else of blame here.
If you take a head coaching job under Al Davis, you know what the situation is going to be. You coach the players on the field. If the players fail, you'll ultimately get fired, but you take the experience and move on.
You're not going to pick the players. You're not going to pick all of the coaches. You're not going to have complete say on anything.
Someone like Lane Kiffin takes this job to prepare himself for future employment. There's very little chance of success, but you know that going in.
To pretend Kiffin is 100 percent clean here is naïve.
Kiffin either was or wasn't asked to resign over the offseason. He either did or didn't refuse, depending on whether or not you believe he was ever asked.
Since he was or wasn't asked to resign, while I have no doubt that he's been doing his best on the field to coach the team he was given, he has taken every chance to throw daggers at his owner.
He's questioned the talent level of his team publicly. He's openly mocked the front office. He's questioned his own coaching staff. From a PR standpoint, he's been a nightmare.
Given that a decent chunk of the job of a head coach is to be the face and voice of an organization, Kiffin has generally been a terrible employee since before the draft.
So, Kiffin deserved to be fired. He shares some of the blame.
But the Raiders' situation, every problem they've faced since they lost the Super Bowl back in 2002, can be traced back to an erratic, and perhaps completely insane, owner.
Certainly an out-of-touch owner, anyway.
Al Davis took a team that needed rebuilding and spent like it was a team ready to compete for a Super Bowl. He not only spent a ridiculous $70 million on DeAngelo Hall, but gave up a high 2008 draft pick (second-rounder) and an additional 2009 draft pick.
Gibril Wilson is a great player, but another $39 million for him? $40 million in guaranteed money to fix a secondary that, if you stack it up against the problems the Raiders had on offense last season, really shouldn't have been a priority?
Put it this way: If you're a bad team, and the 2007 Raiders were a bad team, you need to build through the draft. Because of Al Davis' questionable moves, they went into the 2008 draft with only five picks.
And only one pick in the first three rounds!
Al Davis is a victim of his own ego. He believes in the players he picks. He believes in them to a fault. He refuses to admit that he's wrong on players. He refuses to admit that someone else would do a better job building his team.
He refuses to relinquish control, even though his judgment has been significantly more and more questionable as the years have gone by.
He goes through coaches like they're going out of style, because he believes he's giving them championship talent. To admit he's giving them four-win talent would be admitting that the players he hand-picked aren't good enough. So when the team wins four games, he fires the coach.
When the next coach only wins four games, he fires him.
If only he could find a good head coach, right?
Of course, that in and of itself is part of the problem. No qualified head coach would work for Al Davis. Under any circumstances.
There are only two types of coaches who will take the Oakland job.
1) The Lane Kiffins of the world, who are vastly under-qualified and need the experience on their resume. They take the job because nobody else thinks they're ready and they need the experience.
2) The Norv Turners of the world, who have been fired elsewhere and have no other options. They take the job so they can help rebuild their reputation and land a better job elsewhere.
The Oakland job is a stepping stone to another job. That's all. As long as you're not already an established head coach, there's no real downside. Nobody expects you to win. Regardless of how bad you do, it's still experience.
And if you happen to win, even a small amount of games, you get all the credit.
The Raiders have some of the best fans in the world. I've given them a ton of crap in the past, because, frankly, they entertain me. But they're solidly behind their team. You won't ever find that stadium empty, no matter how bad the product Al Davis presents them gets.
Raider Nation deserves better. Raider Nation deserves a team without Al Davis.
Hopefully, Al Davis will learn that if he wants to "Just Win, Baby," he needs to just retire, baby.
The Raiders will be a pathetic, laughingstock of a franchise until that day comes. The Raiders need to find Al Davis' replacement, and they need to do it before he makes things so bad that Raider Nation gives up on their team.
Just win, as long as we do it Al's way, baby!
It's time to free Raider Nation from the incompetence of Al Davis' leadership. It's time to free them from two and four-win seasons. It's time to free them from rooting for the worst-run franchise in professional sports.
For the love of God, free Raider Nation!
I guess I did a pretty poor job not piling on Al Davis, eh?
This article was originally published 10/2/2008 on Sports-Central.org.