So a few days have passed since SI came out and announced just what the title says......that Al Davis is the worst NFL owner. In their own justifications say that their decision is weighted heavily by what the team produces on the field, and yet despite having more playoff appearances than half of the "best 5" and having more championships than half of the "best 5" and having a better win percentage than half of the "best 5", Al was rated the worst. Amongst the other 4 losers, not one owner boasts a greater than .500 record, and combined the 4 total 15 playoff appearances and 0 championships, and yet Al is the worst with his 21 and 3 respectively. Looking at the relative value increase of the teams per year owned, Al has been more successful in growing his team than half the "best 5" and all the losing 4.....and yet he's the worst. I really don't get it.
After repeated attempts to justify this outcome in my head, the only one that comes out rationally is that the writers hate Oakland, and hate Al Davis and starting from that opinion, the set about trying to justify their ranking based on events they feel supports their position. They attack the coaching carousel of late. With names like Bill Calahan, Norv Turner, and Lane Kiffin (all of whom are synonymous with winning) it's hard to blame Al isn't it? Calahan was the natural selection in loss of Gruden, but all he could do was run Chucky's system. He couldn't adapt and think on his own as evidenced in the Oakland-Tampa SuperBowl. Listen to John Lynch during the game saying that Gruden was calling the exact plays before they were run. I'd fire him too. Norv Turner has been a perennial disaster as a head coach and while I put the blame for the hiring on Davis, the firing was justified. Just look what captain Norv has done to the mighty Chargers. Marty may not have won playoff games, but he was at least smart enough to know how to use LT. 'nuff said. The Kiffin debacle was a "young dynasty coach" gone wrong. Hiring a young guy to weave into the fabric of the organization has worked for the Raiders in the past, see John Madden and Jon Gruden....and before you nay sayers try to use that as "he lives in the past" and "the game has moved past his ideas" logic, please inform the Steelers (one of the SI winners) that selecting a young coach like Mike Tomlin was a mistake. Sure Kiffin didn't pan out, but the concept wasn't a bad one just because Al made it.
So much is made about how the game has past Al by, that his theory of putting great athletes on the field is no longer viable. I know it's been 7 years since our last Super Bowl appearance, but I can't believe that the entire game has evolved so greatly in that span, that there is no value in what has made us successful for the last 4 decades. Or maybe I'm wrong. Big fast recieivers like Owens and Moss are out of date right? Wrong. The Steve Smith's of the league are far less common than the tall guys like Moss....and Owens and Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson. Yet drafting DHB is a monumental mistake......already. They guy drops 3 passes in camp and he's already a bust. The effect of his speed forcing a safety back a couple yards which will open up space has no bearing, but passing on a prima donna like Crabtree is already in the books as an epic mistake. I'm not putting Bey into the hall of fame, I just want to see the kid play. I want to see what happens if the big arm of Russell to the burner Bey can find success like it did for Culpepper and Moss. Maybe Crabtree or Maclin will prove to have been the better choice, but we won't know that for years. I'm happy to let the results come in before I make that judgment.
Many experts, and many more Average Joes have very vocally come out stating that Al Davis has lost his mind because of his selections in this draft....particularly DHB and Mitchell. Admittedly I was one of many who were perplexed by these choices, but the more see and hear about these two, the more I like the picks. Maybe I'm rationalizing here, but when Bill Belichick picks people who fit his scheme, he's hailed as a genius. When the Raiders do it, Al Davis is a senile old man. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Huff has been a bust and Gibril Wilson didn't pan out, so why is a hard hitter like Mitchell drawing such heat? Because Mike Mayock doesn't like him? Because he's from a smaller school that didn't contend for a national title? I'm not an expert nor a prognosticator, but what I've seen of the kid has been great. He plays hard nosed football.......like Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott. Sure he's YEARS away from being mentioned in the same sentence as those guys, but his style of play is similar, and I like that. Moving on to DHB. Sure he may have been a reach at 7, but in all reality, he fits the Oakland playbook better than Crabtree or Maclin. He's the most likely to fully utilize the cannon in Russell's arm. Maybe I'm wrong and maybe I'm right, but last time I checked professional football is a sport made up of high caliber athletes. Well, DHB and Mitchell are both cut from that cloth and I for one am excited to see what they can do.
At the end of the day when I ask myself what makes for a great NFL owner, sure I use the W-L record and sure I try to reach for the intangibles, but I won't allow my bias against a team to cloud my judgment or allow me to try to find faults to back my position. I may not like the Patriots as a team and I think that incidents like spy-gate are not trivial, I cannot say anything about Robert Craft other than he has taken an organization once viewed as a second rate franchise and turned them into the dominant team of this decade. And no that's not meant to demean the Steelers franchise and the Rooney family in any way. What these franchises share is a willingness to do what needs to be done to find success in a league where the salary cap attempts to drive for parity of talent across the league.....and they have. If the resume of Al Davis were limited to the last 6 years, I'd be at the head of the line preaching the faults of the Raider organization, except it doesn't. The league worst record over the last 6 years does not represent the bulk of what Al Davis has achieved. If Eddie DeBartolo were still the owner of the 49ers and their success had waned as it has recently would he make the list of worsts based only on recent failures? I submit that he would not.
So what's the difference? Where is the disconnect? The only conclusion I can draw is that people just love to hate the Raiders and that means Al Davis, the central figure, is a great target. There are many proud "Raider Haters" out there. Many people who identify themselves more against Oakland than they are even for their own teams. To each his own I say, but last time I heard the Titan-Haterz, Bear-Haterz, and Seahawk-Haterz groups weren't flowing over league wide with vitriolic members. Love us or hate us, the Silver and Black have been a force in this league since it's inception and further back into the AFL and all of this was due directly to one man. Al Davis. Top 5 in Superbowl appearances. Top 5 in Superbowl wins. Top 5 in franchise win percentage. Bottom 1 in ownership. You can call me a crazy member of the Raider faithful for calling foul on SI for this baseless bashing of Al Davis, but I'd rather be labeled a blind believer than a baseless hater. At least I have my integrity.