Rebuilding a dynasty

When an NFL franchise makes a decision regarding personnel or money, they drive up to the fork in the road, stop, weigh their options, calculate numbers and years, involve the legal department, personnel department and management. They have meetings, make comparisons, and finally come to a decision. Not if you’re the Oakland Raiders. "Mr. Davis, um…………there is a fork in the road, how would you like me to proceed"? "Run over it, and don’t ask any questions or you’re fired"! The cloak and dagger atmosphere in Oakland is all the franchise has ever known. Al would have his cronies flat out lie to reporters. You could have a picture of the athlete/coach holding a signed contract, giving the thumbs up shaking Mr. Davis’ hand out on the internet, and the Raiders PR staff (John Herrera) would deny it ever took place. Nothing was ever official until AL said you could say so.

R.I.P. Mr. Al Davis

Yes my biggest sports hero has passed on. Some say "it’s about time". If you say that, you weren’t a real Oakland Raider fan. I don’t say that, I would have stuck with this team had Al decided to move us to North Dakota. I currently find myself in a position I’ve never been in regarding my Raiders. Besides the colors, (no one even comes close to our uniforms and logo), I rooted for Al. Al Davis WAS the Raiders, he was my hero. This new team is very alien to me, having an actual chain of command, not a dictatorship. Weird. Sound decisions made with research and frugality, not on a "feeling" or "whim". Huh? I don’t get it. Is this how other NFL teams conduct business?

The Old Oakland Raiders were a 1969 Boss 429 Mustang. One of the coolest cars out of the 60’s, now it’s an overpriced gas hog that is impossible to get parts for. A big block Mustang in a race with Ferrari's and Porsche's, we just can’t compete. We’re fast, (in a strait line), but have no business in a race with world class sports cars. As Jeremy Clarkston from BBC’s TopGear would say, we’re rubbish. We spent $190,000 on a car that originally sold for $4,798, and if we finish the race, we had to stop for gas twice as often, paid twice as much per gallon, and still finished next to last. We need a new car.

Enter Reggie McKenzie;

Endorsed by John Madden, and ultimately by Al Davis himself. (Al DRAFTED Reggie).

Reggie was chosen to sell the Ford Mustang and buy a Ford GT. Reggie’s first order of business? Clean house. Once the house is clean, fire the cleaning staff. If Al hired him/her, it’s time for their first yearly review, even if they have been with the team for 30 years. Reggie can’t just come in and patch a few holes, we ARE a black hole, no pun intended. Half the staff was hired when the Raiders were something. Now they are rare parts to an unreliable, outdated, overpriced muscle car.

Head coach, gone.

Assistant coaches, gone.

Guy that ran Al Davis’ spy equipment, well, maybe Reggie should keep him, he’s got skills. So Reggie has done what Al always did, fire coaches, hire coaches. It feels very different this time. I think Reggie actually used other franchises as models for his monumental undertaking in Oakland. Something Al never did.

The best model for NFL coaching has to be the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 1969 the Steelers hired a 37 year old defensive coach named Chuck Noll. Chuck coached the Steelers from 1969 to 1991 to the tune of 4 S.B. victories, 22 years as head coach. Following coach Noll, the Steelers hired 35 year old defensive coach Bill Cowher in 1992. 1 S.B. victory. Coach Cowher was their leader until 2006, 14 years as head coach. In 2007 it was 35 year old defensive coach Mike Tomlin. 1 S.B. victory so far. And I expect coach Tomlin to be the Steelers coach for many years to come. Pittsburgh has had 3 coaches in 42 years, Oakland has had a new head coach almost every season. Wow.

What’s the theme here?

1- Young (under 40) defensive coaches with no head coaching experience.

2- Longevity

Who did Reggie hire?

1- Young (under 40) defensive coach with no head coaching experience.

2- 4 year contract to start

Big Al chose his coaches, and then he chose his coaches assistants. Al also never gave more than a 2 year contract. Longevity? Continuity? Not in Raider Nation.

Reggie gave Dennis Allen a 4 year contract, and the ability to hire ALL of his assistant coaches. Reggie even showed John Hererra, the Kawakami killer, the door. Kudos Reggie, I am as certain as you are that there is no more need for Als go-fer, I mean P.R. exec.. Another scholarship canceled. Speaking of scholarships, take that Stanford Routt. H. Eugene, C. Johnson. K. Wimbley and a few others. All of them had to apply for grants at some other college, your scholarships at the University of the Dark Side ran out the second Reggie entered the building. Here are your transcripts, and your final grades. No we don’t authorize unemployment compensation, there is the door, and oh, leave your playbooks and parking passes also. Did I expect what he did? Absolutely not. Did we need what he did? Absolutely.

Two miserable seasons later, we, as a franchise, are in a place we’ve never experienced before. Tens of millions of dollars UNDER the salary cap? As a lifelong fan, I cannot remember the last time we were under the salary cap by more than 4 or 5 million. We have the SAME coaching staff for the third year in a row? No way.

Every season garners new hope for me. But this season I believe we have realistic hope. We have money, draft picks, and continuity in the coaching staff. The Oakland Raider flagship, the Autumn Wind, has been sitting baking in the sun, stagnant without wind for many years now. But something is different this year. It’s cloudy, dark menacing clouds, black and silver clouds. Can you feel the wind?

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