The smile on Mark Davis’ face stretched from ear-to-ear as he appeared on the video screen Wednesday. It was warranted. The Las Vegas Raiders owner beamed during a press conference in which the NFL announced Davis’ palace in the desert — Allegiant Stadium — was named the site for the 2024 Super Bowl.
The NFL owners voted unanimously, 32-0, at the NFL meeting in Dallas Wednesday to award Super Bowl LVIII to Las Vegas. The announcement is expected to have the city flush with coin due to increased revenue for the event. And the football-viewing world gets to see Davis’ Raiders home for the game of the NFL season.
Davis, no doubt ecstatic about the news, did delivered a zinger during the presser though.
“When you’re not winning on the field, it’s nice to win off it,” Davis said during the press conference on Tuesday. “And today is a huge, huge win for all of us.”
On a momentous occasion where his new state-of-the-art stadium was the crowned jewel for the biggest game in 2024, Davis verbally delivered a quick back-handed cup check on his football team. Who could blame the owner for being frustrated by a trio of season collapses from his Raiders?
After a 5-2 start, Davis’ football team sits at 6-7 and with their very slim playoff hopes on life support. Sure, a myriad of things happened that contributed to the Raiders sporting a sub-.500 record, but football is the business of winning — on-field winning. And the Silver & Black haven’t done that enough in the midst of back-to-back-to-back season collapses.
Last Sunday’s 48-9 shellacking at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs was the latest example of the Raiders’ 2021 futility. It was a listless contest that likely served as the catalyst for the winds of change over at team HQ in Henderson.
Yet, Vegas is presented with four more opportunities to get back in the win column — something Davis is eager to see. Suffice it to say, but if there were ever a game the Raiders should win it’s next Monday’s clash at the Cleveland Browns. The team was hit by a rash of positive COVID-19 tests leaving integral player’s status in limbo, perhaps leaving Cleveland very short-handed.
Now Browns’ QB Case Keenum has tested positive for COVID, leaving QB Nick Mullens in line to start Saturday vs. the Raiders, sources tell @ByKimberleyA, @FieldYates and me. Baker Mayfield already has tested positive and is on the Reserve/COVID-19 list.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 16, 2021
Then again, the Raiders have had things align perfectly in their favor and all they had to do was hold up their end of the bargain by winning. Instead, they’ve face planted. Add into the mix the league moving the game from it’s original Saturday kickoff to Monday, and any advantage Las Vegas has going in may be rendered moot, anyhow.
Which brings us back to the “who could blame the owner” line above. While his excitement for the Super Bowl designation and frustration on all the losing his football team has done this year is justifiable, Davis can’t and won’t be absolved of blame of the current state of his Raiders. He’s the catalyst to this mess. Davis was the one who pursued his unicorn and hired Jon Gruden. The owner is the one who not only brought back Gruden but gave him complete autonomy over football decisions. Whether it was player trades, player signings, drafting and even the hiring of Mike Mayock as the general manager, that was Gruden’s schtick. And it was Davis that opened the door for all that to happen.
Davis may be eager to see his Raiders as winners, but he’s the most integral part of ensuring that happens. His decisions are what makes powers and lubricates the gears. By all indication, Davis is still focused on getting his team into the playoffs and will make evaluate the entire organization at season’s end.
It’s unknown if Davis prefers wholesale changes like a sweep and clear or if he’ll retain the likes of Mayock, interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and crew. But if he doesn’t bring back Bisaccia and a full-on coaching search commences, Davis will need to make a smarter choice for head coach this go-around rather than his selections of Gruden and Jack Del Rio, before him.
If that means being methodical, deliberate and slow to find a successor, so be it. Whether Davis is leaning on an advisory group comprised of Raider elders and legends or not, it would be wise of the owner to combine analytics, metrics and data to a head coaching hire instead of letting his personal wants and drive to bring Gruden back cloud the an eventual hire.