- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Oakland Raiders have done a good job of becoming a modern NFL franchise in the past year.
They must continue that trend, and that means owner Mark Davis needs to continue to stay in the background and allow the men he chose to run the football operations to do their job of digging the franchise out of the dregs and make it a viable NFL program.
Davis took over primary ownership of the historic franchise in October 2011 when his father, the legendary Al Davis, died at the age of 82. Mark Davis, who benefited from the mentoring of several of his father’s trusted former employees, hired Reggie McKenzie to become the general manager, a duty his father essentially held from 1963 until his death. McKenzie then hired Dennis Allen to coach the team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2002 and is tied for having the second-longest playoff drought in the league.
Early in the year, Davis proclaimed it was a "brand new day" for the organization. I have been impressed with Davis’ work as the owner, starting with him allowing the football people to do their jobs.
Yet, Davis' actions Sunday worried me. He made some rare public comments, spurred by the frustration of another blowout loss which dropped his team to 3-7. Among the things Davis told reporters was this: “I’m patient, but I want to see progress. Not regression. I’m embarrassed, pissed, disappointed and I take full responsibility.”
I know many Oakland fans were happy that Davis made those comments, and he is certainly entitled to his opinions. But there were some key parts of his media session that struck me. Saying he was seeking “progress” means that Davis may not have patience. He also mentioned that the team’s woes this season shouldn’t be pinned on the team’s salary-cap situation in the offseason. That can be interpreted as a direct knock on the job his team’s brass has done.
It will be in the best interest of the franchise if Davis simply allows his general manager and coach to grow. They are both first-timers in their positions. I suspect that’s what will happen, and I think it's unlikely Davis will make changes there. But what if the losing continues in the final weeks of the season?
Exactly what kind of progress is Davis looking for? Will going 2-4 the rest of the way constitute progress? What if Oakland beats Cleveland and Kansas City at home but gets trounced in the other four games? Is that progress?
Hopefully, advisers such as Ron Wolf, Ken Herock and John Madden -- who all helped guide Davis through the hiring process with McKenzie -- are there to let Davis know it would hurt the organization if he gets impatient.
There is no denying Al Davis was impatient. He went through six head coaches in his final 10 seasons. The instability hurt the franchise.
The Mark Davis era was met with hope because of the expectations for renewed stability. He needs to work through his emotions and stay stable. No NFL program can handle constant change at the top. It appears Romeo Crennel could be on the chopping block in Kansas City after one season as the permanent coach. He was promoted from being the interim coach in January. Chiefs star running back Jamaal Charles, in an interview with the Kansas City Star this week, said:
“I don’t know what the outcome is, what you’re going to get if you keep on changing head coaches and changing head coaches. If you keep doing that, he can’t get the right players here. I feel if you stay with one system and continue to get players … If [Crennel] is here for one year, you just can’t kick him out because he’s not having a good year. Let him get his stuff together and have a couple of years, then we can have a successful year.”
Charles’ words can be related to any NFL franchise.
If the Raiders continue to falter and Davis makes a change, he will show that it’s the same old Raiders and the franchise will be back to square one. Who would want to work for the franchise knowing that it is a one-year audition every season?
Davis needs to realize that the team’s immense salary-cap issues this season are playing a role in the Raiders’ failures. They had to cut several starters and were relegated to signing modestly priced players because of the cap restrictions. Plus, the past couple of draft classes (next year’s class will be small as well) were small because of trades made by the past regime.
McKenzie, who rebuilt the entire pro and college scouting departments, needs to be allowed the opportunity to work free agency and the draft without limitations. Allen deserves to be able to coach a deeper roster.
We all knew it would take time in Oakland. It was predictable that the Raiders would likely take a temporary step back in the spirit of having greater long-term success. Davis has to remember that and chalk up this disappointing season as part of the reconstruction of the franchise.
2dEric D. Williams