Oakland, California, is a throwback city. Always has been. Always will be. A blue-collar city, appearing as if frozen in the 70’s during an era when the Oakland Raiders rose to prominence. This is not to say Oakland is stuck in the past. Just a city dotted with reminders of those days and times when life moved at a different pace than today.
Much of what has helped to identify Oakland is closely tied to the Raiders. Al Davis created a team cast in the image of the city and fans for which the Raiders played. It was that mentality that crafted the infamous Raider Mystique and made the East Bay a second home for so many that spent Sundays watching the Silver and Black.
No matter how hard we try, time cannot be stopped. That is one train that never stops at the same station twice. Time only moves in one direction – forward.
In many ways the Al Davis era took the anachronistic nature of the city of Oakland to a literal level with the Raiders. Whereas the architecture and feel of Oakland is fresh from 1971, the inhabitants aren’t spinning 45s at night after driving home bumping their 8-tracks. However the Raiders were still being run almost the same way in 2011 as they were in 1971.
That is all changing.
Mark Davis never wanted to fill his father’s shoes. That is an absolute impossibility. So instead he’s blazing his own trail as the new owner of the Oakland Raiders is making every effort to turn his franchise into a more modern and current football club.
With the scouting combine underway in Indianapolis, all of the modern football minds are meeting to seek out new talent and discuss the season that was while preparing for the season to be. Last night Mark Davis accepted the Tank Younger Award on behalf of his late father. While Mark Davis was happy to accept the award which honors those that have helped promote diversity in football he told the NFL Network his father wouldn’t have accepted the award.
“He wouldn’t have accepted this award because he hired great people for jobs, and that’s just how he felt. He wasn’t doing it for awards. That’s the truth.”
That statement best sums up the Al Davis approach. To the outside world, not accepting the award would have been viewed as a slight of some sort when in actuality it would have never been intended as such. To Al Davis, doing things his way wasn’t something he ever needed to explain nor did he care for any other trophies except the type the commissioner hands you at the conclusion of the final football game of the season.
Such was the Al Davis method. The Raiders were a franchise kept close to the chest of its iconic owner. Revealing little and explaining less.
In reality there is nothing wrong with that approach. However in this day and age it is a stubborn practice made the more difficult by all the modern innovations which have drastically changed the manner in which pro football news is covered and reported.
Just a couple years ago JaMarcus Russell skipped his exit interview at the conclusion of the season to have a weekend in Las Vegas. Word spread quickly and it didn’t take Philip Marlowe to sort out what was going on. A Bay Area beat writer simply called the resort, asked to be connected to Russell’s room in Vegas and just like that a piece of gossip is validated. Instant proof of just how aloof the supposed savior of the franchise truly was. Sadly enough the best the Raiders could do was to say Russell was in Vegas for “team specific reasons”.
That episode, among many others, demonstrated that the controlling tactics of Al Davis were severely outdated. By continuing to cover for Russell the Raiders were being led to slaughter. Thankfully Davis eventually came around, showing JaMistake the exit, forever making him a footnote in football history.
Mark Davis doesn’t plan on making that type of error ever again. For starters he’s not even involved with football decisions. If another JaMarcus makes his way into the franchise it will be because the football mind of Reggie McKenzie fouled up. Part of the overhaul process is allowing business to be separate from football. Now should said new JaMarcus chose to reenact The Hangover on team time then chances are you won’t see some sad spin made on the story.
This is a new era of Raider football and the new franchise will be a more modern one Davis promises.
“It’s a brand new day. When he [Al Davis] came to the Raiders in 1963, there were maybe six coaches, eight coaches, maybe four front-office people. Scouts like Ron Wolf and those guys. They did it on a shoestring. The business part really wasn’t there. It was all football. Just win. Over the years, it just grew and grew and grew, and I think the size of the league and the size of the organization and the different things you had to deal with, media and all those things, kind of dwarfed the capabilities of the organization. Instead of a clean start with the organization, there’s been a lot of plugging holes. So at certain point in the near future, after careful evaluation, there will be a more modern structure so to speak.”
What is happening to the Raiders shouldn’t be viewed as an insult towards the way Al Davis ran the franchise. Never forget that Mr. Davis’ business was football. He wasn’t a billionaire who decided to play God of Football by purchasing a team. Football was all he ever knew and ever cared about. The public and press could think and say whatever they wanted. Didn’t matter to Davis. That approach was perfect for the early days of pro ball but has since become antiquated. If anything Mark Davis is just looking to take his father’s passion for the game to another level.
To be sure there will be plenty of growing pains in the near future. Mark Davis himself has admitted that he’ll be learning on the job. So this process could prove painful in some instances. Still, this was a change that needed to be made. What Al Davis did for the game will never be forgotten. What is son is trying to do for the franchise could prove equally important to keeping the silver and black running at a healthy equilibrium for decades to come.