Al Davis Follies: Just Wince, Baby!
It's quite official now:
Al Davis is undeniably, certifiably senile—the absolute definition of a crazy old coot.
And it's amazing that he is still running an NFL team.
As long as the 79-year-old rebel without a clue is still in charge of the Oakland Raiders, the NFL will effectively remain short one franchise.
There's no way the NFL can fix this. Commissioner Roger Goodell has no authority over Davis, and Davis is such a rebellious, anti-establishment guy that he wouldn't accept any advice even if Goodell felt inclined to give it.
Davis has never really been a part of the NFL anyway. He has fought it at every single turn, and now he is driving his own franchise into the ground.
Davis' greasy-haired, silver-and-black, intimidating, Napoleonic reputation was built in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s, when his team won three Super Bowls and Davis came to be known for the motto, "Just win, baby!"
Aside from one other Super Bowl appearance in 2002, however, Davis' theme of "Commitment to Excellence" has been a running joke for 25 years. And since he let Jon Gruden go just before that 2002 Super Bowl season, at the end of which Davis' Raiders lost to Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Davis has run the Raiders so far into the ground it would take 10 backhoes to dig them out.
But Davis is the absolute worst these days.
Davis is obviously no longer committed to excellence because he meddles far too much in his coaches' business and refuses to establish any kind of continuity that might actually yield a winning record. Since 2002, when Bill Callahan led Gruden's players to the Super Bowl, the Raiders have gone 19-61, with no more than five wins in any season.
Davis has gone through four coaches—mostly poor choices—and never given any of them a chance to establish any consistency. He promoted Callahan, who rode the coattails of Gruden's offense to the Super Bowl and then alienated his veteran players by his second year and got fired. Davis then hired Norv Turner, who was fired after a 9-23 record over two seasons.
Then Davis really started to look crazy, bringing back Art Shell, who hadn't coached since Davis had fired him 12 years earlier. Shell went 2-14 in his lone season, with the worst offense in the league.
Realizing his mistake, Davis canned Shell again and embarked on a very weird coaching search that included two USC assistants and James Lofton, who once played for the Raiders but had limited experience as an assistant in the NFL.
Davis settled on Lane Kiffin, who was an assistant at USC. The 32-year-old Kiffin went 4-12 this season and reportedly wanted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Davis apparently took a poll of his players to see which coach they preferred, and Ryan was the winner. So Davis is trying to get Kiffin to quit; the old codger even went so far as to write up Kiffin's resignation himself, but the coach has refused to sign it and give up the guaranteed $2 million per year he will be due over the next two seasons.
It would be nice if Goodell could somehow step in and force Davis to sell the Raiders or even remove the Raiders from the NFL for gross negligence. But if he tried that, he would have to boot a few other teams, too.
So there's nothing Goodell can do but watch as Davis' senility sends the Raiders to the bottom of the standings and top of the draft every season.
Davis has long been an anti-establishment, silver-and-black sheep who did things his way, with no regard for the rest of the NFL or even most of the people in his organization.
It started when the Raiders were part of the AFL and he opposed the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Then, in 1972, he usurped control of the franchise from managing general partner Wayne Valley. Davis has since moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles and back again, suing the NFL multiple times for the right to move. Plus, his teams in the '70s were the dirtiest bunch of players around, using intimidation as a strategy, and Davis reveled in the reputation.
Davis has forever been one of the NFL's anti-heroes, and now that rebellious nature has been married to a senile mind—a combination that continues to drive a once-proud franchise into the ground, where it looks like it will remain until Davis himself is put in the ground.
Until that happens (or, less likely, until someone takes control from Davis), all anyone can do is "just wince, baby."
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