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’09 owner rankings, 17-32: Dysfunctional Davis

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    By Michael Silver
    Yahoo! Sports

    In a surreal scene broadcast across the NFL universe last September, Al Davis busted out a relic of a bygone era to try to convince people he hadn’t lost it. While conducting a long, rambling news conference to announce the firing of Lane Kiffin, the Raiders’ general managing partner used his trusty, possibly rusty, overhead projector to display an admonishing letter he’d written to the second-year coach.

    Watching at home, a scout for a rival (and far more professional) organization experienced a euphoric rush of fulfillment. “I love it,” the scout wrote via text message. “The old man’s back with a vengeance. He’s cleaning up the mess and taking back his team!”

    For a few minutes, I began to view the spectacle from that perspective, and I wondered whether it was, in fact, an admirable show of force from a Hall of Famer and football legend. Could it be that Davis, like Gene Autry and Steven Tyler before him, was back in the saddle again?

    Then it hit me: Davis wasn’t reclaiming his mojo by excising a coach who’d failed to fulfill his vision. Rather, he was doing what he so often has for the past two decades: Fixating on a petty, personal battle with a self-generated enemy at the expense of the Raiders’ overall organizational health.

    Explaining to the world in excruciating detail why he was getting rid of Kiffin, the young coach the owner had identified just 20 months earlier as a shining star who would “lead us back” to greatness, was bizarre enough: Davis is the boss, and he can hire and fire coaches for whatever reason he chooses. What Davis was really doing was attempting to justify why he planned to stiff Kiffin out of the balance of his contract, essentially treating the news conference like a glorified appearance on “Judge Judy.”

    If you were a lawyer, reporter or daytime TV aficionado, this was great fun. But if you were a Raiders fan suffering through an NFL-record sixth consecutive season with 11 defeats or more, Davis’ gotcha act was yet another sad reminder that he cares more about preserving his unquestioned power than he does winning on Sundays.
    Look at this way: Davis, by his own admission, knew at the end of the ’07 season he’d made a mistake in hiring Kiffin. So what did he do? Instead of making a change that could theoretically improve his franchise’s fortunes, Davis spent nine months writing warning letters and building up a file on Kiffin to increase his chances of winning an inevitable grievance.

    Meanwhile, the Raiders lost three of their first four games in ’08 and Davis, after finally doing the deed, motioned down the hallway at the team’s training facility and gave Kiffin’s old job to Tom Cable, an assistant who’d never been an NFL coordinator.

    (And how’s that working out so far? Why, just smashingly.)

    The paranoid, mistrustful, contentious culture that permeates the organization all comes back to Davis, who paradoxically prefers to surround himself with sycophants and habitually avoids confrontation when employees (such as previous coach Art Shell and former personnel man Mike Lombardi) openly feud. It’s a brutal combination, and Davis, 80, is becoming further removed from mainstream managerial functionality with each passing year.

    Remarkably, Davis has never occupied the bottom spot of my annual owner rankings – until now. As he predictably avoids addressing a reported assault by his head coach and enables a starting quarterback viewed by many teammates as immature (Davis, at the infamous news conference, cited Kiffin’s lack of faith in JaMarcus Russell(notes) as a reason for withholding the coach’s future pay), the man in the white sweatsuit is now looking up at 31 of his peers.

    Actually, to be accurate, Davis is looking down: Like last year, the rankings will be revealed in a two-part, worst-to-first format, with the better half coming Thursday.
    As with my inaugural rankings in 2006 and the ones that followed two years ago, this list is subjective. With input from people in high-level league and ownership circles, I attempt to answer a basic question: If you were a fan of this team, how would you feel about having this person in charge of the franchise?

    I’m also influenced by the impact these respective owners have upon the NFL as an entity, and I give high marks to those who get the most out of their brand and spend a significant share of the revenues they accrue attempting to enhance the product.

    You know, like ditching the overhead projector and going with a PowerPoint presentation when it’s time to fire the next coach.

    Davis’ Raiders have gone 24-72 during the past six seasons.

    32. Oakland Raiders – Al Davis: Not only is Davis doing a lousy job of presiding over his franchise, but his money-management skills are failing as well. After quietly selling 20 percent of the team to a trio of hedge-fund managers in the fall of ’07, Davis received a much-needed cash infusion of approximately $150 million – and proceeded to spend it on some of the most dubious acquisitions (Javon Walker(notes), DeAngelo Hall(notes)) of the decade. Think hard: Since the Raiders were blown out in Super Bowl XXXVII by the Bucs (and then-coach Jon Gruden, whom Davis dealt to Tampa Bay after failing to offer him a market-value contract extension), has he or Matt Millen been worse at running a team? It’s a tough call, and that’s scary. Now, sources say, Davis once again has cash-flow issues. In a July interview with team play-by-play announcer Greg Papa of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Davis said he was scaling back on grandiose birthday-party plans because he didn’t want to flaunt his good fortune in a bad economy. “What a joke that was,” says another owner. “He has no money – he’s trying to sell another 10 percent of his team to raise working capital. That’s what that was about.”

    19. San Diego Chargers – Alex Spanos (Dean Spanos): It’s easy to highlight the negative aspects of Dean Spanos’ stewardship, most glaringly the franchise’s inability to get any traction on a much-needed new stadium. On the other hand, the personable Spanos isn’t getting much help from San Diego’s politicians, and he’s been remarkably restrained when it comes to pushing north toward the unoccupied L.A. and Orange County treasure troves. Some owners now believe Spanos may pull off something I previously thought was impossible – a move to Anaheim, which could theoretically allow the franchise to retain the Chargers’ current fan base while co-opting a share of the country’s second-largest market. In the meantime, when evaluating Spanos, keep an eye on LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) this season. It was Spanos who essentially overruled general manager A.J. Smith and spearheaded the restructured contract that kept the beloved but aging halfback with the franchise for at least another year, a savvy marketing move that may or may not pay off on the football field.

  2. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    Is the Anaheim Stadium that much better? Second-LT will reward the move.
  3. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2005
    Is there a stadium in Anaheim?

  4. ntman68

    ntman68 Well-Known Member

    Aug 16, 2006

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