Monday, March 29, 2010

Does Al Davis Need To Get Mean?

By Fran Vaughan
First in a series evaluating the Raiders prior to the draft and 2010 season.
Position: Owner / GM

It may seem shocking to hear but in order for the Raiders to turn things around they may need owner / GM Al Davis to get a little meaner. Davis’ reputation as the NFL black hat served him well for decades. Lately though Davis is looking more and more like the grandfather who ignores the fact his grandkids are stealing him blind. It’s time grandpa made like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino and started knocking some punks around.

Love him or loathe him there is no denying Davis wants to win. He had no problem kicking off 2009 by resigning All Universe CB Nnamdi Asomugha and making Shane Lechler the richest leg in history. He followed that up with a blockbuster trade for Richard Seymour. He franchised Seymour to open 2010 and made K Sebastian Janikowski a rich man. While other small market teams quickly took advantage of the lack of a salary floor by dumping salaries, Davis is spending like he wants to win.

Davis hasn’t just been player friendly with his pocketbook. Look no further than QB JaMarcus Russell for evidence of Davis’ commitment to his players. The Raiders spent 2009 trying to make Russell all he can be. They started by retaining Tom Cable as head coach for consistency. They brought in Paul Hackett to teach Russell fundamentals. They brought in Ted Tolliner to beef up the passing game.

Despite having two young receivers on board the Raiders drafted WR in the first and third rounds. They encouraged Jeff Garcia to mentor Russell and then sent him packing before the Raider Nation could start chanting his name. A pass heavy training camp and an abysmal nine game grace period weren’t enough though. Despite Davis displaying incredible loyalty to his young QB, Russell flopped.

The problem isn’t that Russell failed horribly. The problem is instead of acknowledging Davis commitment to him he happily took Davis’ cash and showed no commitment to the Raiders. You can accept a guy like Justin Fargas has physical limitations because Fargas was committed to the team 100%. Russell has done nothing to earn his GM’s loyalty.

Davis has spoken publicly about his love for his players and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as he remembers coddling guys who can’t / won’t perform means guys like Asomugha are doomed to playing on a losing team. They deserve to play on a winner and ultimately it may all depend on Al Davis kicking some guys in the backside or to the curb.

In 2010 the team can’t afford to use the first nine games as Russell’s personal preseason. If he isn’t the best man for the job he needs to be benched or cut. The days of Ken Stabler reading simple defenses with a hangover are gone. Guys like Russell can’t win on talent alone. The NFL is a full-time job and pays like one. If they aren’t committed to excellence Davis should have them walk the plank.

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