Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oakland Raiders To Stay in Davis Family, But Expect To See Changes In Near Future

Al Davis' death on Saturday will not change the ownership structure of the Oakland Raiders - yet.  Davis made sure, prior to his final days, to have a structure in place that would allow his wife, Carol, and his son, Mark, to remain the majority owners of the team.  In 2007, Al Davis sold a 20% stake in the team to a trio of businessman for $150 million.  The purpose of the sale was unknown, but usually stakes in a team are sold to raise cash.

In 2007, the team was reportedly valued at $750 million.  In 2011, Forbes values the Raiders at $761 million, at a time when the average franchise is worth at least 30% more.  In their 2011 valuations of all 32 NFL franchises, Forbes ranked the Oakland Raiders at #31 (Jacksonville is last).  There were many reasons for that:

  • In 2010, Oakland had the lowest attendance in the league, averaging 46,431 fans per home game, and had some games blacked out locally as a result
  • Cumulative lack of wins over an extended period of time:
    • Raiders last won their division in 2002 (they actually had a string of division championships from 2000-2002)
    • In the past 25 years, the Raiders have won nine or more games only SEVEN times!!
  • The gang culture that has overtaken the stadium while at home, and resulted in the cancellation of future  pre-season games with local rival San Francisco 49ers.  Do fans feel safe in the Coliseum? The Los Angeles Dodgers faced heavy scrutiny after a baseball fan was pummeled to near death in their parking lot, but you don't hear much about the fans that were hurt during that pre-season game with the 49ers.  There was one shot, and one severely beaten in a bathroom.  
Al Davis will very rightfully receive a great deal of praise from all of the NFL analysts today, but to be fair he also has been responsible for the de-valuation of the franchise over the past 25 years.  Whether it was due to an increasing level of stubbornness on his part, or a lack of understanding of how football was evolving, Davis held him team back.

Al Davis Was Once a Very Successful Coach For the Oakland Raiders
Will his son, much like the Steinbrenner sons, continue the family tradition of being outspoken and somewhat irrational with personnel decisions?  Probably not, if you read this quote from Al Davis about his son a few years ago:
"He never understood how I could let someone go," Davis said then. "He just doesn't want to get into that part of it. But he will own it someday."
I would not be surprised to see major changes take place in the Raiders organization, no matter what Davis' wishes were.  The very fact that he will no longer be so very involved on game day or in personnel decisions should mean an instant improvement in the team.  Actually, I believe that the team's 2011  improvement in the first month of this season could be traced back to Davis' failing health and a lack of involvement from him recently.

Will the minority owners press the Davis family for changes now that the patriarch has died? One would think that they'd want to see a better return on their four-year old investment.

If the teams begins to win more consistently, then the fans should come back.  However, that probably won't be enough to keep the team in Oakland.  Rumors of a jointly-used NFL stadium (meaning, two teams sharing one stadium much like the Jets/Giants sharing the new MetLife stadium) in Los Angeles has sparked rumors of the involvement of the Raiders.  

If the Raiders could combine a winner with a better market, then the team would be poised to return to the kind of dominance it enjoyed in the 1960's and '70's.  THAT would be the best legacy for Al Davis.

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