In case you’ve been in hibernation since the NFL season ended the Oakland Raiders are changing. And we’re not talking about change in that ex-girlfriend kind of way where a new hairdo and shoes somehow equates to making them no longer psycho. No, we’re talking change in that you lost 400-pounds and I recognize you but hardly know who you are kind of way.
Mark Davis and Reggie McKenzie aren’t anti-Al Davis. They’re just anti-bad business practices. No matter how competent any owner is of a sports franchise there is always room for improvement. Safe to say that long after McKenzie is gone and the next Davis in line inherits the throne this whole process will happen all over again.
That’s just business.
Now if the abrupt dismissal of bad contracts, inexperienced coaches, longtime staffers and suddenly sensible spending combined with new draft approach weren’t enough evidence of all the sweeping change. Then Tim Kawakami’s interview with new head coach Dennis Allen offers all the proof you’ll need.
Kawakami sat with Allen yesterday and picked his brain on all the latest happenings in the East Bay football universe. Of all the quotes Allen offered none was more telling of the new approach being taken than his answer when asked what kind of players the new Raiders are looking for.
“If there’s one guy that I was around that I think exemplifies what we’re looking for in an Oakland Raider, it would be Drew Brees. When you look at his height, weight, speed, it might not be the most impressive. But what the guy is, he’s a tough, smart, competitive, instinctive football player …I think if you look at guys that embody what we want, you can look at guys like Drew Brees.”
It goes without saying every NFL team except for a select few are looking for a Drew Brees-type. But with regards to the Raiders, Brees is a guy that likely would have never been sporting silver and black on the Al Davis watch.
Not that Mr. Davis didn’t value talent. As we all know few men in all of sports have ever had the eye for talent that Al Davis did. It’s just that Brees doesn’t fit the prototypical Davis outline. Never forget Davis wasn’t exactly thrilled about Jon Gruden’s choice of Rich Gannon at QB. Mr. Davis valued size, arm strength and production over percentages when it came to his signal callers.
So for Allen to call Brees the new era Raider it is almost a complete reversal of policy.
Aside from Brees’ skillset it’s also his character that Allen sees as a perfect fit for the Raiders. The recently concluded draft featured the Raiders selecting players that all have a certain faith-based background. That too is a bit of a different approach. But Allen points out that’s not all that matters but it is a factor.
“We’re not looking for a team full of choir boys. But we are looking for guys that are going to be dependable on the field and that we can also depend on off the field …I think that kind of goes hand in hand. Usually guys of good character, there’s a faith-based background to the way they were brought up.”
Do we really need to get into the Al Davis theory on character? The stereotypes became jokes and the jokes became tired. If you had some sort of character flaw but could run a 4.3-40 then Davis would come calling…right? Not exactly.
Even Davis admitted it was time for a new approach in the final year of his tenure with the Raiders. He said the franchise could no longer afford to pay players to work through their personal problems. Losing $30-million on a lazy QB will do that though.
So in some respects Mark Davis is just helping to carry out his father’s final wishes. McKenzie is in charge of finding the players that fit the new Raider bill and Allen is the one that will coach them up. Now don’t get it twisted. Allen might be a Brees guy being that he saw him play during his time coaching with the Saints. But that doesn’t mean he would have gone after a Russell Wilson. Quite the opposite in fact. He likes the last gift Al Davis left the franchise in Terrelle Pryor and talked up his young thrower.
“He has all kinds of talent He’s not there from a mental standpoint, from a fundamental standpoint, which is true of 99 percent of the young quarterbacks that come into this league. The other thing he’s shown me is, this guy’s a worker. … He’s wants to prove to everybody that he can be a quarterback for us in the National Football League.”