Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Al Davis: Way Over the Hill

Seems like just the other day that Al Davis was presiding over a standing-room-only news conference to announce the hiring of Tom Cable as his new head coach, although Big Al spent the heavy majority of that news conference blasting the man he had just fired, Lane Kiffin, whom Davis called a liar.

And now we have Davis president over another standing-room-only news conference to announce the hiring of Hue Jackson as his new head coach, although he spent the heavy majority of it (an hour-and-a-half) blasting the man he just fired, Tom Cable, whom Davis called a liar.

Oh, there were differences in the two news conferences. Davis fired Kiffin with one year left on his contract, saying he had no intention of paying him the balance (over $2 million) because (he claimed) Kiffin violated terms of the deal. On the other hand, Davis fired Cable, while fining him $120,000 over the final six weeks of the season, allegedly because of two lawsuits hanging over the organization--one from a former assistant coach who claims Cable broke his jaw, the other from one of Cable's ex-girlfriends, who claims he assaulted her.

Kiffin filed a grievance with the NFL to recover lost wages. He lost his case (one of the few times Davis has had reason to celebrate over the past decade). Cable has also filed a grievance with the NFL to recover lost wages. The guess here is that Davis will lose this one. It's for much less money, Davis knew about the accusations long before this past season even began, and he made the decision to keep Cable as his head coach until the season was over.

The point here is this: I know that Al Davis is in the Hall of Fame (inducted in 1992), but the truth is that the Raiders were great in the late 60s, and into the early 80s. But even in those days, they lost six straight AFL/AFC championship games. And they haven't done jack since, except for one great run after the turn of the century, which ended with a thud, when Jon Gruden's Bucs took them to the woodshed and beat the crap out of them.

In fact, I just checked out the Raiders' won-lost history over the years. Get this: The Raiders were 81 games over .500 in the 1960s and 70s. And they were two games under. 500 in the 80s, 90s and 00s. Put another way: If you total the Raiders wins and losses, and divide by 51 (their total years of existence), their average won-lost record is 8-7. Not exactly brilliant.

Incredible, huh? I am constantly amazed at the reverence shown by Raiders fans, in particular, toward Al Davis, like he's some kind of 50-year NFL legend. Yes, I know what he did for the old AFL. Yes, I know the Raiders were great during the period I cited above, despite the six straight title game losses. To be sure, when Davis was voted into the Hall of Fame, I did not object. But that was nearly 30 years ago.

Al Davis has become a charicature of himself, a living Howard Hughes if you will. His news conferences are packed for one reason only: People are fascinated with how bizarre he has become.

Here's hoping that Hue Jackson succeeds, in a similar fashion as Jon Gruden. Have a great season or two, and then get the hell out.