Al Davis Legacy: The 5 Best Reclamation Projects of his Oakland Raiders Tenure
Some of these projects turned out well. Others, like the trade for Moss, did not work so well. But Davis saw something in various players who were failing to perform and gave them a chance.
Something in the legendary owner's mind saw hope in Rich Gannon and gave him a shot. Other glimmers of potential never quite panned out.
Here's a look at Davis' five best (or maybe worst) reclamation projects.
5. Kamerion Wimbley
Wimbley wasn't necessarily a bad player in Cleveland, but he hadn't been overly productive since his rookie year in 2006 when he had 11 sacks. The 6'4" 255-pound linebacker wasn't strong enough against the run to justify his marginal pass rush production, and the Browns shipped him to Oakland for a third-round draft pick.
With the Raiders, Wimbley was playing in a 4-3 defense for the first time in his career. The former Florida State defensive end stayed at linebacker, however, and was utilized as a blitzer. In this role, Wimbley had his most productive season since his rookie campaign, accumulating nine sacks.
Wimbley was rewarded for his success when the Raiders gave him a five-year, $48 million contract in the offseason. The former 13th overall pick isn't this good of a player, but he has found his niche in the 4-3 defense.
4. Aaron Brooks
Brooks put together a few productive seasons with the Saints before dramatically declining. The former Virginia quarterback actually seemed to be improving, but struggled immensely in 2005 and was released by New Orleans.
Al Davis apparently liked what he saw in Brooks and signed him to a two-year contract. However, Brooks failed to improve in Oakland and threw just three touchdowns in eight games. He also averaged a meager 5.8 yards per attempt and threw eight interceptions.
Following the 2006 season, Davis gave up on his project and released Brooks, effectively ending the latter's career.
3. Daunte Culpepper
Culpepper was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 11th pick in the 1999 NFL draft. The Central Florida star was extremely productive in Minnesota until Randy Moss was traded following the 2004 season—Culpepper's most productive year.
After one failed season without Moss, Culpepper was traded to the Dolphins and eventually signed with the Raiders in 2007. Davis knew that Culpepper still had the insane talent that had gotten him to three Pro Bowls, but the former Viking simply couldn't produce anymore.
Culpepper played in seven games for the Raiders, throwing five touchdowns and five interceptions. The signing wasn't exactly a failure, but it wasn't a success either.
2. Randy Moss
Moss is arguably the most talented wide receiver of all time, but he will always be remembered for his struggles in times of difficulty. Through the first six seasons of his career with the Vikings, Moss seemed destined to go down as the best wide receiver in NFL history.
However, Moss struggled in 2004 and made his unhappiness very well known. He was then traded to Oakland for the team's first-round draft choice and linebacker Napoleon Harris.
Unfortunately for Davis and the Raiders, Moss struggled more than ever in his two years with the team. He did produce just over 1,000 receiving yards in 2005, but he only gained 553 yards in 2006.
Moss was often seen dogging it on plays and did not seem at all motivated to play hard. The superstar wide receiver simply did not care about playing football in Oakland.
Davis gave up on Moss in 2007 when he traded the former Viking to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round draft choice. Moss, of course, went on to break the NFL single-season touchdown record and once again dominate the NFL.
1. Rich Gannon
A fourth-round draft choice by the Minnesota Vikings in 1987, Gannon was nothing more than a journeyman quarterback. Prior to 1999, Gannon had started more than 12 games in a season just two times and hadn't been particularly productive when he did.
However, with Jon Gruden as the team's new head coach, the Oakland Raiders signed Gannon as a free agent in 1999. It is unknown whether it was Gruden or Davis who liked Gannon, but Davis wouldn't have made the move if he wasn't on board with the veteran quarterback.
By this point, Gannon had already been in the NFL for 10 seasons, but the former Delaware quarterback made his first Pro Bowl with the Raiders. Gannon would make three more Pro Bowls in Oakland and was also selected to three All-Pro teams. The journeyman quarterback even won the MVP award in 2002.
Gannon was horrendous in Super Bowl XXXVII, but his production cannot be denied. For whatever reason, Al Davis saw enough in Gannon to sign him as a free agent, and the move certainly paid off.
Of the many reclamation projects Davis has had, none have been nearly as successful as Gannon.