Part II – The Front Office
When you speak of the front office of the Oakland Raiders it could be described as merely Al Davis, the people he has surrounding him or the people that he feels can do the job.
I’m writing this again as if I was tasked with turning the team around and how I would go about it focusing on the front office.
We are all creatures of habit and Al has people around him that he feels can do the job more importantly he’s surrounded by people he trusts and who are loyal to him. Al Davis really needs to take a page of the Carl Peterson’s play book and resign
There is the Administrative staff headed by Amy Trask the teams Chief Executive who has done a solid job.
The guy who is the team’s second highest ranking member is John Herrera the senior executive. He is a Raider, a longtime member who has been wearing silver and black for well over forty years. He has had about three stints with the team.
John has been a fixture with the Raiders organization since 1963 and throughout the Al Davis era. Unfortunately, several people will only remember about him what is on video. People will remember him being angry with a member of the media and ready to handle it the old fashioned way.
This team has to make some major changes to right the ship so to speak, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution. Due to past performances or the lack thereof it is time for John Herrera to be replaced, he is part of the problem.
The Football staff is the part that needs the most help and the most changes. The most recent change; According to David White of the San Francisco Chronicle, Keith Rowen a former Raiders offensive line coach in 1997 and 1998, was recently added to the front office personnel department.
White cites league sources stating that Rowen’s title is Pro Player Personnel. He has a long history in the NFL (since 1984) as an assistant and position coach for the Browns, Colts, Patriots, Vikings, Chiefs and Falcons.
Two subplots became Dennis Green’s famous “They are who we thought they were” post game tirade and Rowen being demoted from being the Offensive Coordinator to an offensive assistant and him filling a grievance against the team. He was the Tight Ends coach for the Falcons in 2007.
This brings the question to mind; Is Rowen the Player Personnel guy Al spoke of hiring? Is he the defacto or in-house future offensive line coach once Tom Cable is fired and off to Seattle at the end of the season?
It appears that the NFL has gone back to the pre-Free Agency days where a franchise has to have all the necessary factors in place to be successful, and all need to be on the same page, the team’s owner, front office, coach, quarterback and other players to fill out the roster.
The Dolphins owner hired Bill Parcells as V.P. of Football Operations, he won’t coach anymore but he has his chance to buy the groceries and call the shots. His first move was hiring Tony Sparano as a first year Head Coach and the team is in a three-way tie for first place.
The Falcons owner hired Thomas Dimitroff as a first time GM, hired Mike Smith as a first time Head Coach and the team is in the playoff hunt.
However, both teams have turned things around, starting with excellent front office decisions. The Texans won a franchise best eight games in 2007. Their 38 year old GM, Rick Smith has quietly re-shaped the roster and the team is moving in the right direction at seven wins and seven losses with two games remaining.
I realize that the team is Al Davis life and winning is very important to him. He has to do some serious soul searching at this point, but if he isn’t going to resign or sell the team then he needs to relinquish control of the team.
The team can go after a veteran Gm or a young player personnel guy that can evaluate talent and easily make the transition to GM such as Scot Pioli, Nick Caserio, Jeff Goodman, Lake Dawson and Clyde Powers to name a few.
In the event Jacksonville wants to get rid of James Harris and use him as a scapegoat for the Jaguars disappointing season the team should express interest.
The team hired veteran pro player personnel evaluator Rich Snead in May of 2007 but with Al having his favorite players and continuing to meddle it is a wonder how much input Snead had in 2007 & 2008, my guess is none.
That has to change after another sub-par season. Snead previously worked for the team from 1990-1993, he replaced Mike Lombardi.
Al needs to hire a GM, President, Vice President, Director of Football Operations, Director of College Scouting and place the keys in their hands minus his meddling in every shape form and fashion.
It has become obvious that a new scouting department is needed as well. The draft is a crap shoot and a team can’t hit on every pick but the team has drafted poorly. Scouting throughout the college season is necessary to be able to select better more productive players.
The players selected in the first and second rounds should bring immediate help but the players selected in rounds three through seven is where you build your team.
This is something that Al Davis doesn’t want to do, I get it, he hasn’t done it before – I know. But it is for the good of the team, a team that is at rock bottom. A team that has double-digit losses for six straight years and potentially might not win four games this year.
Once the new regime is in place this new group needs to establish an identity for this team on both sides of the ball. A big factor for this group will be talent evaluation for new players via the draft and free agency that match the new team identity.
The bigger task is assessing the talent that is on the roster currently.
It will be costly and these moves will have salary cap implications but here is the short list of players that the team needs to part ways with Javon Walker, Ron Curry, Kwame Harris, Cornell Green, Jake Grove, John Wade, Marques Tuiasasopo, Andrew Walter, Sam Williams, Michael Huff, Terdell Sands, William Joseph and Kalimba Edwards.
There are a few free agents on the market in 2009 that could help turn things around, the team needs to resign CB Nnamdi Asomugha and P Shane Lechler.
The six free agents the team should target and go after are DT’s Albert Haynesworth, Kendrick Allen, OT Jordan Gross, C Melvin Fowler, C/G Duke Preston and WR Chad Johnson.