It's amazing how many people there are out there that hate Al Davis. I find this somewhat confusing, troubling and hard to digest. Are you one of those people that say Al Davis has gone insane?
Do you feel that the Oakland Raiders will never win with Davis at the helm?
Are you certain that Al Davis will never have a good relationship with his coaching staff?
Do you feel that Al Davis likes to pick the wrong draft picks?
Because if you are, I have some rebuttals to make!!!
Al Davis has had success with a specific style of football team.
He Likes to have a hard hitting, fast, big and mean defense.
His offense is a run first type of team, with a long ball QB that has the stretch the field type of receivers.
He has garnered great success in utilyzing this type of team for over 30 years, and up until the start of the 21st century.
This system changed when Jon Gruden came aboard and changed the phylosophy.
Gruden brought with him a completely different type of gameplan, with a short out offense, and a penalty free defense. His running game came second to the passing game, and the long ball went away completely.
This system worked, and it worked because we had the right coach and the right players to make it work. BUT, that coach left, and regardless of the reasons why he left, he did, and that changed the entire phylosophy once again.
This is where people started to question Al Davis, because since that time, Al has tried to make the Raiders of the present, back into the style of the Raiders of the past. This is not a process that is easy, because you need the right coach, the right players, and the right amount of time to build it.
We did not have the right coach.
We did not have the right players.
We needed more time then we hoped to get those into place.
And thus, began the questioning of Al Davis, and his level of sanity.
Davis hired Bill Callahan and he did a good job taking the team that Jon Gruden built to the Superbowl, only to loose to Jon Gruden who was the coach of the team that Tony Dungy built. Confusing?, I know, but the point is that Jon Gruden made the 2002 Oakland Raiders a Superbowl contender and Bill Callahan didn't know how to help that team win it. So we lost, and went on to begin what has become the worst 6 years for any team in the history of the NFL.
Bill Callahan lasted one more year, and he continued to dismantal Grudens team, taking them away from what made them good and ending the season at 4-12. Callahan did not like how the team was loaded with aging veterans and he wanted to bring in some young talent, which didn't sit well with the team, and by chance ended his career in Oakland.
Then came Norv Turner, who is oddly enough still a head coach in the NFL. He came in and produced a 5-11 season, followed by a 4-12 season. After getting fired, he eventually became the head coach in San Diego where he took a 14-2 team, brought them to 11-5 in his first year, and followed that up with an 8-8 season last year. Are you getting the trend with Turner?
In 2006 Al Davis decided to take a trip down memory lane and rehire his once successful head coach and fellow hall of famer Art Shell. He was brought in to rekindal what had once made the Oakland Raiders one of the most successfull teams in the league.
This was perhaps Al's worst mistake since firing Mike Shanahan.
Art Shell lead the 06 Raiders to a 2-14 season, and we within the Raider Nation began to hear the insults and geers, when we went about with our Raiders gear prowdly adorn.
After Art Shells quick departure, Al Davis tried another approach that he once had great success with.
He hired a very young and enthuisastic guy just entering into his 30s.
And Why not? He was once that young 30something guy that became successful. He did it with John Madden, and Mike Shanahan (who gained his success elsewhere), and then once again with Jon Gruden. So why not stick with what works for you? We still need that perfect fitting coach.
In 2007 Al Davis hired USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to be the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
This was a move that seemed very promising. Kiffin was young, dynamic, full of fresh ideas and a keen football knowledge.
Lane Kiffin didn't want to coach a team in the style that Al Davis wanted to bring back. Kiffin didn't like the players that Davis chose, and he didn't like the limitiations that he had, he complained about everything, but most of all, Lane Kiffin wanted to be a head coach in the NCAA, NOT THE NFL!!!
This was a marriage that showed promise at first, but once Kiffin came close to landing a head coaching job at Louisville, all was lost in Oakland. It was from that point on, when his team started to loose its spark, and the off field issues started to overshadow the game.
Kiffin had to go, and that is exactly what Al Davis did. He got rid of a guy that didn't want to be a part of the Oakland Raiders, and he managed to do it in a way that allowed him to not have to pay off the rest of his contract. Which, in my opinion, was pretty slick. A bit brash and somewhat uncalled for, but effective none the less. Why pay Kiffin, if you don't don't have to?
Crazy? Senile? Out of touch?
NOT A CHANCE!
He continued to try and move this team back into the right direction.
Now we have Tom Cable as the head coach. Cable is 100% on board with what Al Davis is trying to do. He has a very good relationship with Al, and he is able to work with him as well, which is very important for an NFL team to have.
Will Tom Cable be that perfect fit for the Raiders?
Maybe, maybe not, but thus far he is working out well, and having him on board, will allow Al Davis to worry about the other issue….
Al Davis started to rebuild this team a couple years back, with the signing of guys like QB JaMarcus Russell, CB Nnamdi Asomugha, ILB Kirk Morrison, OLB Thomas Howard, and S Michael Huff. He wanted to bring back the type of team that he gained his success with in the past.
He followed it up with RB Darren McFadden, RB Michael Bush, WR Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR Chaz Schilens and now with WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and S Michael Mitchell.
The defense that he is building is fast, tough, hard hitting, and big. He has put into place these type of players. Guys like Kirk Morrison, Tomas Howard, Nnamdi Asomugha, Michael Huff, Michael Mitchell, and so on, are all the same type of players that fit into this mold. Some have already gained success, like Morrison, Howard and Asomugha, and some have not worked out, like Fabian Washington, Darnell Bing, and Quentin Moses. But, like any NFL team, you are always going to have your fair share of busts.
The offense is only just now falling into place, as we have now brought in that running threat that we need to have, the long ball QB that we need to have, and the speedy receivers to go out and get those long balls.
JaMarcus Russell, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Michael Bush, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy, Zach Miller and Brandon Myers are all players that give us all of the pieces to the puzzle.
Every player that leads this team, was brought in from the draft, and were brought in to fill a specific role.
Darren McFadden is the big play back. He is the guy that can break free at any given time.
Justin Fargas is the north to south back that will pound the ball in, and out work the next guy.
Michael Bush is t
he big back. He can get those third and short yards, and break through for some of those extra yards.
Darrius Heyward-Bey is our deep ball threat, and if he can't do it, we drafted Louis Murphy as well.
Johnnie Lee Higgins is the receiver that can break for those long gains after the catch.
Chaz Schilens is the big guy that can go up the middle.
Zach Miller is there for the short outs, and check downs.
Brandon Myers is supposed to be the blocking tightend that will help give the other receivers time to make the play.
And lets not forget that we still have Javon Walker who may not be done yet, and provides a sure handed receiving threat.
Now we look at the biggest piece to the puzzle. The guy that is supposed to lead this offense, and be able to make those big plays. Our quarterback and team captain, JaMarcus Russell.
Russell, is nimble, big, has a bullet for a pass, and can make any throw in any playbook. He has some issues to work out, but that is being assessed, and his progress will be helped with the rest of these pieces to the puzzle being on board, but he will have to be our leader.
Al Davis has built his team with what is now the entire ensamble cast of players.
Do you still think that he is insane?
You want to bring up the free agency busts, don't you?
Ok, lets do that. Randy Moss, Gibril Wilson, Kwame Harris, DeAngelo Hall, Drew Carter, Tommy Kelly, Javon Walker, Gerard Warren, and Terdell Sands.
Walker, Kelly, Warren and Sands are all still on the team and although they have not had a great deal of success, they also cannot be written off just yet.
Moss, Harris, Wilson, Hall and Carter, were all busts, and as such draw great criticism for Al Davis.
But here's the thing with that.
First off, there are far more free agent busts then there are success stories.
Second, lets not forget the good signings like Derrick Burgess, Chris Johnson, Cooper Carlisle and Hiram Eugene.
And third, the most important thing about gaining success is learning from your mistakes. Al Davis signed a lot of free agents that didn't pan out in 2008, so in 2009 he didn't spend any money on the marquee free agents. He only dipped into the free agency market on the lower priced guys that don't come with the heavy expectations of transforming this team into greatness once again.
To me, Al Davis tried different avenues and learned from the ones that didn't work, where teams like Washington and Dallas cannot seem to learn from their continued mistake of spending boat loads of money on free agents. Which raises the question, What is more insane?
Free agency has not been good as of late for the Raiders, but by not overspending in it, Al Davis has solved that problem.
Lets recap why many of you question Al Davis, and why I disagree.
You say he's crazy, but he has built a team that has all of the pieces in place to gain the same type of success, in the same style, that built the Raiders into a three time Superbowl champion.
If getting that style of coach, and those type of players, is concidered insane, then the 6 time Pittsburgh Steelers are completely off their rocker for keeping in place a system that work.
You say, he will never have a coach that will work well with him, but Tom Cable is embracing the style of football that Davis wants to bring back, and Davis is letting Cable get the players that are team players, which fits his style. They are getting along very well, and having a great offseason.
You say, the draft has been terrible, but I look at the best players on this team and EVERY single one of them is from our draft picks. I see guys that perhaps haven't lived up expectations yet, like Michael Huff, and Darren McFadden, but they still have some time to earn their stripes.
Look at Robert Gallery. He was concidered to be a bust, until only two years ago when he was moved to Guard, and started to play some great football. Many of you laughed at me two years ago when I said that Robert Gallery can still be a star, and now he is one heak of a great guard.
Our future stars are young and will need time to develope, but they have all of the talent and prospect in the world.
Heyward-Bey and Mitchell may have gone higher then expected, but who will be laughing if they become the best in their position two years from now? Only time will tell that.
You say that the Raiders will never win until Al Davis is gone, and I would like to know how you can predict the future? and if you can, would you please tell me what lottery numbers I should pick, or who's going to win next years Superbowl, so I can bet heavily on it at the beginning of the year, and have a boatload of money to ease my financial worries.
The fact is, Al Davis has finally put together the team that he wants, and I'm sure that some of the players are going to bust, but if we can replace them with ones that do work out, then there is no reason why we cannot start winning again.
Like I said before, If you can take the knowledge and understanding that Al Davis has, and combine that with the fresh new age mentality of a young coach, you can build one heak of a great force.
I believe that Tom Cable may very well be that coach that works so good with Al Davis, that they can help each other build a great team, and bring back the winning to Oakland.
I also believe that Al Davis is completely on the ball right now, and only time will tell if the old school style of Raiders football, will work in the new age NFL. But I can also assure you that if it doesn't, Al Davis will try something else, because in the end it comes down to only two things…………….
A Commitment to excellence, and just win, Baby!
About the Author
Written by Lee Tremblay