Al Davis is the NFL’s version of the Dos Equis guy, he’s easily the most interesting man in football. Instead of wanting you to stay thirsty, he just wants to win…baby. Davis’ image is as recognizable to professional football fans as the NFL shield itself. As the years have gone by though, his movie like appearance has changed from that of a wise guy with ties to Joe Pesci and Robert Deniro in “Casino”, to the brother of Smeagol in Lord of the Rings.
As Davis has aged, his appearance hasn’t been the only decline in his life. His beloved Raiders franchise has crumbled under the weight of his horrific decision making of the last decade. The once storied “Black Hole”, that opposing fans feared to enter in Oakland has seemed more like a vacation spot of sorts as of late. The nickname the “Black Hole” now better describes the part of his heart meant to hold the affection for his coaches. Davis goes through coaches these days like an evil crypt keeper goes through souls that have been damned to come into contact with him.
Davis helped lead the AFL and the Raiders into a prominent position back in the 1960′s. He kept them competitive and even dominant for a few decades as they merged into the NFL. By the time Jon Gruden came into the death clutch of Mr. Davis, the Raiders hadn’t been a factor for quite some time. Gruden still managed to overcome the handicap that had become of having Al as a boss and led Oakland to an AFC Championship game and an apparent Super Bowl berth, until the infamous “tuck rule” changed all of that. The next year, Davis thought the best way to reward Gruden for this and to keep his organization moving forward was to trade Gruden to Tampa Bay.
Bill Callahan, who was Gruden’s offensive coordinator replaced him in Oakland and led the Raiders to face off against Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in the very next Super Bowl. What looked to be a brilliant move at a first glance quickly became apparent to everyone to be a colossal mistake. The Bucs destroyed Oakland’s team, partly because Callahan was still running the same offense that Gruden helped install with the personnel that Gruden help develop.
Since Smeagol sold his treasure to Tampa Bay, he’s been searching all of middle-earth for his precious. For those of you that watched Lord of the Rings, you realize that I’m not talking about Gruden here, but instead the jewelry loving Davis. Al is looking for the ring that he holds so dear. His precious has made him callous. And when you factor that in with the diminishing mental aptitude he’s developed over the years, you can see how he’s run his franchise into the dirt. Even when he lucks out to hiring a good fit and having a great draft, he undermines it and sets the organization back, 5 more years.
When it comes to the draft, the golden rule is that a franchise quarterback trumps all else. Davis doesn’t give his head coaches the leeway to draft their own personnel. This was always known but brought more to the light when Lane Kiffin stated that he never wanted Jamarcus Russell. Since their Super Bowl appearance, the Raiders haven’t been over .500 once. When they finally made it back to 8-8 and 6-0 in their conference, Davis decided to not resign the coach that got them there.
The biggest problem here is how Davis forced his coaches to draft since the Super Bowl. Below you will find the coaches and their records the year after Davis dipped his hand into the talent pool to make the selections. I’ve also added some key notes on who the Raiders could have drafted instead in the coming picks. It’s important to note that the Raiders haven’t had a dynamic skill position player since the Super Bowl season. Instead of drafting a franchise quarterback, Davis has placed more value on the secondary, but then in large part has chosen not to resign them?
2003 – Bill Callahan (4-12)
1st Round #31- Nnamdi Asomugha – Great pick but they already had Rod Woodson, Charles Woodson, and Phillip Buchanon and didn’t have a franchise quarterback. I still wouldn’t complain about this pick, if the Raiders plan on resigning him this year.
1st Round #32 – Tyler Brayton – Osi Umenyiora was still on the board and went several picks later.
3rd Round #63 – Teyo Johnson – Jason Witten was still on the board and went a few picks later.
2004 – Norv Turner (5-11)
1st Round #2 – Robert Gallery – They obviously needed a franchise quarterback, not named Kerry Collins. Instead they drafted an offensive tackle that had to move inside to guard. Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger were both still available. They also could have drafted Larry Fitzgerald.
2nd Round #45 – Jake Grove – They drafted two interior offensive lineman and could have taken Darnell Dockett with this pick and a franchise QB with their first selection. Where do you think they would have been now?
2005 – Norv Turner (4-12)
1st Round #23 – Fabian Washington – So, the Kerry Collins/Rich Gannon project didn’t work the prior year. Norv Turner had to pass on Roethlisberger / Rivers in 2004, how the hell would an organization pass on Aaron Rodgers when he slid to them? Instead Davis selected a cornerback and the Packers took Rodgers with the next pick, then the following year, the Raiders didn’t resign Charles Woodson, and he ended up with the Packers. Fast forward five years and the Packers win a Super Bowl while the Raiders look to not resign Nnamdi Asomugha. Also, 2 picks after Oakland took Fabian Washington, the Washington Redskins drafted Jason Campbell, who ironically is now the Raiders starting quarterback and should be replaced.
2nd Round #38 – Stanford Routt – Oakland wasted the 2nd overall pick the prior year on a guy who can’t play offensive tackle. This year, Michael Roos was still on the board, but yet they still went for another cornerback. Also, Frank Gore went several picks later.
2006 – Art Shell (2-14)
1st Round #7 – Michael Huff - Oakland let go of Kerry Collins and brought in Aaron Brooks instead of drafting a franchise quarterback. They once again choose secondary over quarterback. They could have drafted Jay Cutler, or could have gotten that franchise running back in Deangelo Williams after passing on Frank Gore or after not drafting Darnell Dockett, they could have taken Haloti Ngata here.
Round #38 – Thomas Howard - This wasn’t a bad pick but they could have gotten a playmaker at running back or receiver with Greg Jennings or Maurice Jones-Drew. Marcus McNeil would have been a better left tackle than Gallery, who was drafted 2nd overall 2 years prior. The Raiders also liked Vince Young in this draft. (Hint Hint – Al Davis might go after him this year.)
2007 – Lane Kiffin (4-12)
1st Round #1 – Jamarcus Russell - Surprised that Art Shell didn’t work out 12 years later, after getting fired the first time. Davis hires a 31 year old coach and after passing on several Super Bowl winning quarterbacks the last few drafts, forces him to draft the biggest bust in NFL draft history. Kiffin probably would have selected Calvin Johnson here. He also could have taken Adrian Peterson, Joe Thomas, Patrick Willis, or Darrelle Revis. Basically, anybody except Russell.
2nd Round #38 - Zach Miller - Miller is a good tight end but they could have drafted Jason Witten a few years prior and taken Lamarr Woodley here.
2008 – Kiffin / Tom Cable (5-11)
1st Round #4 – Darren McFadden – After passing on Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, and Maurice Jones-Drew, they go after their running back. They could have gotten Chris Johnson later. McFadden can’t stay healthy. They could have taken Ryan Clady here.
2009 – Tom Cable (5-11)
1st Round #7 – Darius Heyward-Bey – C’mon on man! They could have taken Michael Crabtree. If they would have taken Calvin Johnson in 2007, they could have taken BJ Raji, Brian Orakpo, Brian Cushing, or Clay Matthews. They also could have taken Josh Freeman here but wouldn’t because Davis loved Russell.
Round 2 #47 - Mike Mitchell – Back to the secondary. This could have been Lesean McCoy or Paul Kruger.
2010 – Tom Cable (8-8)
1st Round #8 – Rolando McClain – After the heavy backlash on the 2009 draft, Cable got to make some input on this draft. He had a great draft and had a solid choice here.
2nd Round #44 – Lamarr Houston- Cable follows it up with another great pick here. It becomes apparent, who’s in charge of this draft.
2011 – Hue Jackson…..
Smeagol shows how completely insane the pursuit of the ring has made him. He fires the first coach that’s be able to get him back to .500 and was able to convince Davis of drafting talented football players instead of track stars. Since Cable was not resigned, Al Davis decided to name the new head coach, Hue Jackson. As soon as Cable was let go and Jackson hired, we all knew that the 2011 draft would have an Al Davis stench to it. That’s exactly what happened as Cable wasn’t in the room anymore to convince Davis to take talented players, he made Jackson draft more track stars. Fitting the mold of Davis secondary picks with track speed is Demarcus Van Dyke from Miami.
Well, welcome back to the Black Hole which is known as the AFC West basement, because that’s where Smeagol feels most comfortable in his pursuit of the ring.
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock