I recently finished reading Rick Reilly's article entitled "Commitment to Honesty" and was absolutely floored. It is available on ESPN's website if you haven't read it. I'll be the first to say that I am a Raiders fan, but in no way did I always agree with or support some of the decisions that the Raiders organization made. I will also say that I've had angry thoughts and prayers for Al Davis on and off my whole time as a Raiders fan as well. But Rick Reilly's article is the same recycled bashing of Al Davis, the Oakland/L.A. Raiders team, Raiders fans, and the entire Oakland/L.A. Raiders organization as a whole. I understand that as Al passed, people had a lot of kind words and memories of him. This actually surprised me especially because of all of the Raider bashing that occurs on a daily basis at ESPN and other sports news organizations. But I did not expect an article like Rick Reilly's, as it took (pardon my pun) kicking a dead horse to a whole new level.
In his article he essentially rips on anything positive and turns it against Al, essentially degrading everything he's ever done. He discusses JaMarcus Russell. AGAIN, drop JMR already! Should they have picked Calvin Johnson instead, yes, but can it be changed, no. Everyone, and I mean everyone, saw JMR as a safe pick for the Raiders. Go back and check all of the great things Mel Keiper, Todd McShay, and every other analyst said about JMR. If the Raiders had picked someone else, everyone would have ripped the Raiders and said things like, "Typical Raiders, making bad decisions as they always do". So they make the pick that everyone, including themselves, believe to be the best pick and it didn't work out. If JMR is really as talented as everyone said he was, why don't the Patriots, or Steelers, or one of the NFL's other "darling" teams pick him up and make a superstar out of him yet? I guess the Raiders are the only team to ever have a draft pick not work out for them.
He also discusses Lane Kiffin. I don't even have to say much about Lane. Him and Al didn't get along, it's as simple as that. Lane didn't like what Al had put together for a team. I think we can all agree that Lane's track record is beginning to speak for itself. He didn't think he could win in Oakland, so he did everything he could to leave. Then he gets a great job as the head coach for Tennessee and is ready to lead them to victory until, oh wait, Pete Carroll resigns from USC. He then jumps ship to go to his former program where he is able to get all of the best players because of the schools reputation. Lane only wants to be at a place where the team around him is loaded and he looks like a great coach. But hey, it was Al's fault Lane didn't succeed in the NFL.
Reilly also discusses how even during a victory, Al wasn't happy or how during games he would criticize a miscue or get angry at a bad play. Are we questioning his passion? He was a former coach and part of the same team since 1962. Of course he was angry and passionate when a player or coach made a miscue. He thought the best of people. How many opportunities did he give to people with supposed "bad raps" or who were "washed up"? He wanted the most out of every player and coach he signed or hired. How many times have you seen Bill Belichick smile....and he's won how many Super Bowls? Because the man was stern or serious in his demeanor, your going to say he was angry all the time. Would he emulate the Raider persona if he smiled like Bozo the clown all the time?
Tom Cable was the head coach when Raiders swept their division and finished 8-8 last year. But do not forget that current head coach, Hue Jackson, was the off. coordinator of that team. It was the resurgence of the running game and more prolific passing game that had people talking. Al thought that Hue was the right man to lead his team, and his success running the offense in 2010 was enough to confirm that. This season, the Raiders look good under Hue as a head coach, and while only 3-2, they still seem to be playing better under Hue. If a owner sticks with a coach when the team is losing its ass off for three or four seasons, it's called either loyalty or stupidity depending on who you ask. Al was sick of losing, we all were, so he promoted the man who gave his team the best spark it had seen in 10+ years.
I wasn't always a big Al Davis fan and I think a lot of people are only saying nice things about him because of his death. I may have not always liked Al, but I do respect what he's done for the game of football, and no one can deny that. I simply feel that Rick Reilly's article concentrates way too much on the negative connotation that many had about Al Davis, while not respecting or recognizing the positive things he did.
Al's motto was a "commitment to excellence" and I think he would say that Rick Reilly's article was far from excellent, rather bushleague at best.