Raiders managing general partner, Mark Davis sat down for an interview with Jerry McDonald from the Bay Area News Group Monday night. In that discussion, many subjects were broached. Some yielded pretty standard answers or responses we have heard several times before. But some were quite interesting and telling of the expectations and philosophy of the man who is entering his fourth season in control of the Oakland Raiders.
For Raiders fans, they are tired of losing and being the laughing stock and the beating post of the NFL world. Davis is tired of it too. He is not happy, but he as well as the rest of the new regime, was put in a very difficult situation.
The mess that needed to be cleaned up was completed as of this off-season. It took two straight four-win seasons to do it, but it's done. The fate of this team is now in its own hands and the man in charge of it is Dennis Allen.
Here are a few of the more interesting statements Davis had on the subject of Allen and the Raiders struggles over the past two seasons.
"Obviously nobody's happy with the way that season ended. We'll see what happens this year. This year is the year, there are no more excuses. We've done a great job of getting the cap in order, getting the financial thing in order, getting the whole roster in order so to speak. There are no upside-down contracts. And they got the coaching staff Dennis wanted this year. He got all the coaches he wanted to hire."
"I try to look ahead to the longterm. I truthfully didn't feel we were going to win the Super Bowl last year before the season started, and that is the goal. But progress is a thing I would like to see. I haven't seen it yet. And this year is the time to see it. It really is."
"You can feel progress. You can see it in games. Are we finishing games? Are we starting off games well and not finishing them? There were games last year where we didn't show up. The Kansas City game. One play four times? The same guy (Jamal Charles) scoring four touchdowns? Philadelphia, seven touchdown passes? It wasn't there. That can't happen anymore."
One of the major questions this off-season was whether Dennis Allen was returning as head coach. Davis says that was McKenzie's decision to make but he was on board with it because of the difficult situation he was in the past couple seasons. But his statement here makes it pretty clear, if there's no improvement, he's out.
Davis goes on to give his opinion of Reggie McKenzie and this off-season. This includes free agency and the draft.
"I thought he did a phenomenal job. I'm real excited about the way the team looks. I think we had a good offseason. I really do. I think at the first rookie three-day camp, on the third day, No. 52 (Khalil Mack) made a play that made me go, `wow.' So I saw a little bit of what Reggie saw in this guy. Now whether that's going to translate into pads and into the game, I don't know, but he showed he could be something special. When they had the mandatory camp with everyone in town, I saw a guy wearing no. 91, Justin Tuck. Certain football players, to me, I can see if they look like a pro. You know, a pro's pro? And I can see that in him. So I was really excited about that."
He has seen the Raiders rebuild a few times over the years. The Raiders added a lot of older veterans to the squad this off-season in their rebuilding efforts. The last time they did that was their successful team of the later ‘90s which eventually went to the Super Bowl. But Davis says that's not the Raiders team this group reminds him of the most.
"There isn't as much of a veteran base to put these guys on top of. You bring in Jerry Rice, but Tim Brown was already here. All those guys. Charlie Garner. Fantastic. They were guys that filled holes. This could be more like the '80 team maybe, that filled a lot of holes. Burgess Owens, Dwayne O'Steen, guys like that. This year we're still bringing in a quarterback."
One thing Mark has said since taking over the team is that he is not his father. He has said countless times that he has not and will not be as hands-on as his dad and will let the GM do his job. He pointed out yet another way he differs greatly from his father.
"I've never been that interested in the combine. I don't get enough out of it. I like watching people play football. I think guys that are scouts, that are true scouts, they know what they're looking for in players. I prefer to see football more so than running track and the 40. The interviews were interesting, but it was so fast, and these kids are so schooled in what they're going to say, you don't really get to know them. It's the follow-up interviews and things of that nature that mean a lot."
That's two very different philosophies than his father. Al Davis loved his speed. If a guy had a fast 40-yard-dash time at the combine, you could almost guarantee he would be drafted by the Raiders. Al also didn't put a lot of stock in character. He put together three Super Bowl teams filled with misfits and wasn't about to let any supposed character flaws scare him away from a player he saw as a potential star.
So, the Raiders have begun building a team from the ground up with draft picks and veterans and a focus on, as Reggie McKenzie has said so many times, "football players". Having a tough schedule seems to be the favorite complaint from Raiders fans lately, but Mark Davis isn't having it and neither should you.