Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yep, Al Davis, Still Insane

Oakland Raiders owner, Al Davis, or Sith Lord Darth Sidious as he is also known, managed to further tarnish his legacy this past week with his ludicrous picks at this year’s NFL Draft.  What I will remember most from the 2009 NFL Draft will be the out-of-touch-meddler’s decision to take Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who most did not project as a first rounder, with the No.7 overall pick and in the second round going with safety Michael Mitchell of Ohio who wasn’t even supposed to get drafted, justifying the picks with something like “I like their speed, they’ve got great speed.” 

Yes, Heyward-Bey is by all accounts a great kid, he had the fastest 40-yard-dash of any player at the combine, and its good that he is getting top ten pick money, but Oakland took him way before he would have otherwise come off the board.  Sure there is no guarantee that you are going to get the guy you want if you trade down in picks, however, in this case they clearly could have gotten more bang for their buck with Michael Crabtree still undrafted.  Everyone was pretty much in agreement that Crabtree was going to be the first receiver taken.  But, apparently, Crabtree is a dick and there are also some durability issues that Davis didn’t like. 

Based on the fact that the top two projected wide outs were still on the board, if he wanted to, Davis could have pulled what Eric Mangini did with the Cleveland Browns.  Mangini, it seems, wanted a certain player, in this case California’s Alex Mack, the best center in this class, but nobody was going to draft him until late in the first round.  The Browns, who began the day selecting fifth overall, a pick that would have been expensive and taken up a lot of cap space, weren’t about to do things the Raiders way and draft the guy way before anyone who wasn’t insane would.  Instead they shrewdly traded down, first with the Jets of all people, the organization Mangini was just fired from, where they got both a first (No. 17) and a second round pick (No. 52) as well as three of his former players.  But No. 17 still wasn’t low enough, so they traded down again, dropping two slots, this time with Tampa Bay for their pick and a sixth rounder.  Not yet satisfied, they swapped spots with Philadelphia and acquired another selection in the sixth.  All that wheeling-and-dealing gave the Browns one the most successful drafts of any team in the NFL—they arguably got the guy they wanted and more for a lot less than they would have in selecting him at No. 5, which would have been crazy.  But this craziness, paying a guy top pick money when they could have negotiated and got him cheap with more to show for it, is exactly what Oakland did.  Although, with all the crap being talked about Heyward-Bey and Mitchell as being shitty picks, they will probably play, as the latter explained, like they have something to prove, which they do, because even if they turn out to be great, people will still give them hell because of the decision imposing, ridiculous Al Davis. 

I say Davis here because we all know that who ever happens to coach the Raiders is only the puppet through which Davis makes all the real decisions which has at least been the case since Lane Kiffin traded Randy Moss for a fourth round pick supposedly behind his, Davis’s, back.  The Kiffin saga doesn’t exactly help his case for mentally stability either.   This highly publicized epic feud will probably follow Davis (and maybe even Kiffin) to the grave.  From day one things never went smoothly with Davis calling his new coach by the wrong name when announcing Kiffin, now screwing the pooch as head coach at the University of Tennessee, as the guy who would lead his team back to greatness back in January of 2007.  After going 4-12 that season, everyone thought Kiffin was going back to college football until he publicly stated that he was going anywhere and was committed to the Raiders.  Apparently, Davis had other plans and drafted a letter of resignation on behalf of the 32-year-old coach that Kiffin refused to sign which would have cost him the guaranteed $2 million left on his contract.  The following season was a circus with Kiffin still on as head coach and Davis threatening to fire him at any moment, finally doing so over the telephone in the middle of their schedule.  Davis then held the infamous press conference where he accused Kiffin of lying and sabotaging his organization which was him trying to show cause to avoid paying out the rest of the agreement.  At best, Davis comes out looking like a bitter old man who redefined overreaction when he felt some young prick had disrespected the thing he loves most in the world.  At worst, he is a vindictive, petty psychopath willing to sink the fucking ship of his team’s success to screw a guy out of the last couple months of his contract just to prove a point.  That point being nobody fucks with Al Freaking Davis.

Our course Davis had the last word and in dramatically petty fashion when his organization sent a letter to Kiffin’s new employers.  The letter is literally incredible and totally illegal—just think if one of your ex-bosses who absolutely hated you and was schizoid sent a formal letter to the people signing your checks at your new job disclosing your “personal agenda in [your] on-going efforts to damage” that former company—and points to the fact that Davis sure as hell can hold fucking grudge.  Boy oh boy.

This stuff is too bad coming from someone who was so important in making the NFL the greatest league in professional sports.  For instance, there would have been no NFL/AFL merger without Al Davis.  Though he refused to combine the leagues while commissioner of the AFL, he more-or-less single-handedly brought the AFL into a legit organization that could compete with the NFL.  He was responsible for finding some of the most talented coaches ever and giving them their first shot—John Madden, Mike Shanahan, and Jon Gruden, all Super Bowl winners, got their starts with Davis’s Raiders.  He also helped integrate the league by hiring the first Latino head coach back in ’79 and the second black coach in ’89.  Plus he is the only owner to ever hire anyone without a penis, Amy Trask, as president/CEO of an NFL franchise.  The Raiders have also had some NFL distinction in that they are the only club to play in a Super Bowl in every decade of since the inaugural biggest game in sports, having won three of those games (76, 80, 83) and coming very close as recently as 2002 when they lost the big game to Tampa Bay in what is known as “Jon Gruden Bowl” he having coached Oakland the previous season.  But since then, Davis has done his best to distinguish his team as the league’s biggest laughing stock, described above, which started the year after their last Super Bowl when they went 4-12 and their coach at the time, Bill Callahan, said “we’ve got to be the dumbest team in America.”  Such insubordination could not be tolerated and Callahan was fired and everything really went to shit when he rehired Art Shell, that second Afro-American coach mentioned up there, only to refire him after the Raiders finished in last place which catches us up to the Kiffin era of unprecedented lunacy.

For all his kookiness though Al Davis is fixing to stick around until the Raiders win two more Super Bowls.  Since Davis is known to overrule his coaches on anything and everything (including the play calling) with his insistence his team runs an offensive game plan that pro football has passed by and only worked sporadically for the last 30 years, what that really means is until he dies.  

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