Saturday, October 8, 2011
What's next in Oakland?
By Bill Williamson
The shock of losing Al Davis is just settling in. Saturday will be about tributes and remembrances of a true one-of-a-kind sports icon who died Saturday morning at 82 years old.
However, there is a looming question that has to be addressed immediately: What’s next?
For the first time since Davis moved over from the old American Football League rival San Diego Chargers in 1963 to join the Raiders, Oakland must move on without him.
Someone else will be in charge of the Raiders. Stunning to read, isn’t it?
Davis, who attended this past Sunday’s loss to New England, ran the Raiders until his death. He made every major decision involving the team. It’s safe to write that no other owner in professional sports history was as closely involved in his team’s operations as Davis. He was the Raiders.
Al Davis' son, Mark, and Raiders CEO Amy Trask may figure heavily in deciding the future of the team.
The first order of business for the organization is to play Sunday at Houston. Then, the real questions begin. There has been speculation for years about who would run the team after Davis’ death. Now that it's occurred, there are no clear answers.
Expect the future of the Raiders to be a prime topic in the NFL for the next several months.
There are minority owners of the team, but the majority of the team is owned by the Davis family. Davis has said in past interviews that his wife, Carol, and son, Mark, would inherit the team. However, it is doubtful either Carol or Mark would assume the hands-on role that Davis had on the organization.
I’d expect CEO Amy Trask, the first and only woman to be a CEO of an NFL team, to take on much of Davis’s non-football duties.
There is a lot to do.
The Raiders are trying to get a new stadium in Oakland. They have been mentioned as a possible candidate to relocate to Los Angeles, although the Chargers appear to be the favorites. Davis moved the Raiders to and from Los Angeles before. If Los Angeles posed the best option for the team in the future, I'm sure the new regime would consider it, though staying in Oakland is the team's preference.
Expect sales rumors to persist. While I’m sure everything will be on the table, I have a difficult time seeing the Davis family parting ways with the team. Everyone knows what owning the Raiders meant to Davis, and I’m sure he would never want the control of the team to fall outside of his family.
The impact of Davis' death also greatly affects the team on the field. The Raiders' roster was controlled by Davis. He made the decisions.
He picked this year’s draft class and he made the decision to keep or not keep every free agent during the post-lockout frenzy. He talked to agents recently.
Someone will have to assume the decision-making role moving forward. NFL decisions are made every day. Again, we’re in guessing mode here, but I’d think first-year coach Hue Jackson will have a major role in decision-making. In recent years, Davis has allowed his head coaches more of a personnel role, although every move was his call.
The Raiders have an unusually small scouting department because Davis had such a big role.
Down the road, I could see the team changing its personnel department and perhaps even hiring a general manager to make decisions.
Like he did in life, Davis’ death affects everything about the Raiders.
We’ll just have to sit and see how the Raiders evolve post-Davis, but change in Oakland will be immediate and could eventually be dramatic.