Some things never change.
Following optimistic statements about Jason Campbell and the Oakland Raiders by Al Davis in a recent interview on Sirius Radio, NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp couldn't resist the opportunity to accuse Davis of changing game plans at the last minute and being too involved in the coaching of the Raiders.
This comes amid some of the most optimistic media coverage the Oakland Raiders have ever enjoyed.
Why am I not surprised?
Sapp played for the Oakland Raiders for the last four seasons of his career. He averaged 32 tackles and 4.8 sacks per year. Not the Hall Of Fame numbers he put up in Tampa Bay, but solid nonetheless. However, it seemed he wasn't all that thrilled about being in Oakland from the get-go.
Since his retirement, Sapp has become a mediocre analyst for NFL Network and HBO Sports, and a fan favorite contestant on "Dancing With The Stars." Mr. Sapp is using his fame and visibility to bash Davis and the Raiders in many of the numerous opportunities he's presented with.
The question posed by anchor Rich Eisen on Wednesday's "NFL Total Access" was, "...are the Oakland Raiders a team that could be a surprise team in the NFL?"
Sapp's fellow analyst, Marshall Faulk, laid out several reasons that point to the Raiders being a team on the rise. Faulk cited personnel upgrades and the regression of their divisional opponents to make his case.
Warren's answer was filled with his negative feelings for the way Al Davis has done successful business for nearly 50 years, rather than the team's chances of winning again. The only player he named was JaMarcus Russell and he's not even on the team anymore.
To paraphrase Sapp: When you work on a game plan on Wednesday and Thursday, it's locked in your brain, then you show up for work on Friday after Mr. Davis has a chance to see it and approve it, and there's a whole new game plan. Until Al Davis stops "cooking the kitchen", it will be a long season for Raider Nation yet again.
Although the statement of a new game plan two days before a game will contribute to losing is true, all we have to prove that game plans were ever changed, or that Mr. Davis is the one actually changing them is Sapp's word. There is no other empirical data or first hand reports of this ever happening; only the word of a disgruntled former player.
I'm not sure I buy it.
This is not the first time Sapp has targeted Davis. He once referred to the Oakland Raiders as the most dysfunctional franchise in the history of sports. Really Warren? Are you referring to the current losing streak that started right around the time you showed up in the Raider locker room? Is that it?
Or, was it the previous 42 years in which the Raiders won more games than any other franchise, including three Super Bowl rings? That doesn't sound too "dysfunctional" to me.
In all that time, I don't remember a single instance of Al Davis, or anyone from the Raiders' front office publicly saying one negative word about Sapp when he put up a pedestrian 31 tackles and only two sacks in 2004.
It's just not how true professionals air their grievances.
I truly respect what Warren Sapp did as a player, but this is not the guy I want to point out to my young players and say, "that's a guy you should emulate." He's got a personal beef with Mr. Davis and he seeks opportunities to make Davis look bad, besmirch his name and the name of one of the most loved, (and hated) franchises in sport.
This is not the function of a journalist, which you claim to be.
I'm a big believer in the power of words, and this vendetta against the Raiders being carried out by Sapp goes against all the things I try to teach the next generation of player. One of my favorite sayings comes from my old high school coach, "If you win, the fans will respect you. But, if you conduct your life with dignity and respect for your opponent, the whole world will respect you."
Apparently, Sapp never heard that one.
This is just a run-of-mill case of sour grapes. Mr. Davis and the Raiders' organization have refused to respond to this blatantly bias media attention from Sapp. This, in most rational minds, puts them on the higher ground.
But, as Sapp and others have proven in the past, not all minds are rational.
So am I being too hard on Sapp? Not hard enough? Is Davis really changing game plans just days before game day? I'll let you decide and post it in the comments.
Speak out Raider Nation!
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