With yesterday’s late-breaking news of longtime executive John Herrera ending his tenure with the Oakland Raiders comes the vivid realization that the Al Davis era has concluded. To be sure the genius of Mr. Davis will always be felt every Sunday that professional football is played. The long living legacy of Davis will extend well beyond the men he’s coached, hired and even fired. However with Herrera’s exit the last of Davis’ faithful-to-a-fault employees is gone.
Those that have been kind enough to share portions of their day reading JBB know all too well where I’ve always stood on Herrera. This post from a couple of years ago best illustrates my general disdain for the manner in which Herrera handled business.
For better or worse Herrera was loyal to Mr. Davis and did whatever was asked of him working in a multitude of capacities during his decades of service for the Raider organization. It was that loyal quality which most endeared Herrera to Davis. As it was with any person in service with Davis, loyalty trumped all.
As if scripted to be directed by Martin Scorsese, Herrera’s made man status began when he was hired to run errands for Davis in 1963. Upon his mutual parting of ways with the Reggie McKenzie led Raiders Herrera had worked his way up to being a senior executive.
Whatever task Davis handed out to Herrera he executed with precise detail as dictated by his iconic boss. Like it or not, whatever you saw or heard from Herrera was at the exact direction by Davis.
The most infamous moment ever publicly seen during the Herrera era will remain the accosting of beat writer Tim Kawakami. That, to me, best symbolized what the organization lacked during the modern era of football. Gone are the days of owners slugging it out with reports then washing away the incident with an off-the-record scotch and beer at the end of the day. Herrera symbolized the stubborn desires of Davis to cling to the ways of old. Almost like the legendary tale of General Patton, through the Davis-Herrera paring we learned that genius has no expiration date but the evolution of societal norms can leave even the most intelligent men standing in the blocks.
Jerry McDonald paints a much different portrait of Herrera with a very poignant post on his blog. McDonald references the countless sacrifices Herrera made in order to fulfill his daily commitments to the organization and Mr. Davis.
For his loyalty Herrera deserves the respect of Raider Nation. However for his inability to remain professional despite being in a position that required so he deserves criticism. If the Raiders were viewed as an unprofessional organization run with anachronistic ideals then Herrera was the face of that.
In recent years Herrera went out of his way to insult the media be it local writers or former MVP quarterbacks turned broadcasters such as Rich Gannon. Like it or not, in this era, a level of diplomacy must be maintained.
A valuable lesson can be learned by the mistakes Herrera made. Dave Chappelle’s sketch of When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong would have been a good place for Herrera to start. Sometimes speaking your mind, even if the words you share are from your boss, isn’t required. Sometimes you just have to put on the false face, flash a phony smile and heed the advice of Michael Corleone – never let them know what you’re thinking.
I fully respect Herrera for his dedication. Knowing where he started and where he ended up is a truly inspiring story and again reflects just how Davis went about giving opportunities to those that otherwise might not have had them. However for this day and age a new approach was necessary. With Herrera’s departure the last of Davis’ handymen is gone.
Now not all of what Davis brought to the franchise is gone in the arrival of McKenzie. Also, not all of Davis’ recent hires were yes men…or women. Amy Trask certainly is evidence of this and she, by no means, is lacking in the social tact that eluded Herrera. Through her the Davis legacy lives on. With the departure of Herrera we’ve just seen the last of the Davis cronies from a bygone era.
For better or worse, if you’re like me, then you love the Raiders and everything that comes with the franchise. I never fully endorsed everything Davis did and I certainly did not sign off on most of what came out of Herrera’s mouth. But I certainly respected Davis’ desire to do things his way. That stubborn nature was tough to digest but hard to argue with when success came. The last decade reflected the need to reinvent the Davis approach. Not taking a dig at Davis, just stating what we all knew and what is finally happening.