Friday, August 26, 2011

Lane Kiffin Tells Us What We Already Know: Al Davis Holds Back The Oakland Raiders

***Al Davis died today, October 8, 2011.  It's a very sad day for football, and my condolences go out to the Davis family and the Raiders organization.  Davis was an innovator and very instrumental in making the NFL what it is today.  It doesn't change my opinion on what I wrote below a few months ago.***

This week, current USC Head Coach and former Oakland Raiders coach, Lane Kiffin, had some very disparaging comments about his former employer, Al Davis:
It is almost impossible. I don't know why I didn't listen, [because] so many people told me that. That's why, if you ask [Steve Sarkisian], he didn't go. He had a chance to go. You're just so far behind other clubs. You're waiting for [owner Al Davis] to wake up and come to work at 2 o'clock in the afternoon to make decisions that the rest of the league is making at 6 o'clock in the morning. You're still running videotapes over to the hotel so he can watch practice at night.
Few casual NFL fans probably know that Davis started out his football career as a coach.  From 1950-1965, Davis served as coach for a variety of teams. He was an offensive line coach at schools such as the Citadel and USC before taking the offensive line coaching job for the San Diego Chargers (formerly LA Chargers) in 1960.

In 1962, he was hired on by the Oakland Raiders as Head Coach and General Manager.  Davis actually implemented an earlier version of the West Coast offense at the time, which was quite revolutionary.  In his first year, the Raiders had their first ever winning record at 10-4, and Davis was named the AFL's Coach of The Year.

So when Davis thinks he knows something about football, it's because he does (or at least did).  Unlike Jerry Jones, another highly meddling owner, Davis has professional coaching experience success.

Davis has been principal owner of the Oakland Raiders since 1972.  During the past 39 years, Davis' "meddling" ways have resulted in three Super Bowl wins, and 11 division championships.

However, they've gone 37-91 since 2003, and many feel that now Al Davis' controlling ways are holding the Raiders back.  Since 2003, here's a list of head coaches for the Raiders:

  • Bill Callahan (2003)
  • Norv Turner (2004-2005)
  • Art Shell (2006)
  • Lane Kiffin (2007, first month of 2008)
  • Tom Cable (interim in 2008; 2009-2010)
  • Hue Jackson (2011)
The one thing that is so striking about the coaching list (outside of the obvious carousel aspect of it) is that, with the exception of Norv Turner, none of those names are well-known outside football insider circles.  It's also not likely that any of these guys (outside of Turner) would have been offered a head coaching job in the NFL at another time.  

Many more well-known names have declined to even interview for the Raiders job because of how involved Davis is in the day-to-day (and gameday) coaching decisions.  In fact, is it thought that Davis only chooses coaches that he can control tightly.  However, it's not so much that Davis is too controlling, it's that his football acumen has passed him by.  He's made some horrendous player personnel decisions in the past decade (Jamarcu Russell, anyone?), and he values speed over any other measurable (or intangible) quality in a draft pick.

So what is there to do? Unfortunately, nothing, until Davis is either incapacitated or dies.  As sad as that is to write, what is far sadder is how far this once well-respected football innovator has fallen.  Now ridiculed for his draft-day decisions and his fickleness with his coaches, Davis is the face of a fallen franchise.  

Hopefully, Jerry Jones and Mike Brown (the only other owner/general managers in the NFL) are paying attention to this.  A rich guy with a little football knowledge and his own NFL team is a dangerous thing.

No comments: