AFC West: Carol Davis

Hue JacksonKirby Lee/US PresswireIt was an emotional win for Hue Jackson and the Oakland Raiders a day after owner Al Davis died.
Al Davis always relished being the man the NFL loved to hate.

Being the leader of the marauding Silver and Black drove Davis until his death Saturday at age 82. For Davis and his team, it has always been us against the world. He wouldn’t want it any other way.

However, a day after his death, Davis’ Raiders are far from the most hated team in sports. Whether or not Davis would approve of the outside support, the Raiders are the feel-good story of the sports world.

The emotional scene on the Oakland sideline following an ugly and perhaps unlikely -- Just win, baby -- victory in Houston on Sunday has to be the most memorable moment of the NFL season to date, and the Raiders’ 25-20 win is arguably the most emotional regular-season victory in the history of the storied franchise Davis ran from 1963 until his death.

As soon as Houston quarterback Matt Schaub inexplicably threw a pass right into the hands of Oakland safety Michael Huff instead of walking into the end zone from inside Oakland’s 5-yard line on the game’s final play -- a sign that the football gods were shining on one of the game’s premier innovators -- Oakland’s sideline broke out in raw emotion.

First-year Raiders coach Hue Jackson -- who respectfully referred to his boss as “Coach Davis” -- immediately embraced defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan and the two clung onto each other tightly for several moments. Jackson then fell to his knees and put his head in his hands, clearly overcome with emotion.

It had been an incredibly trying 24-plus hours for the Raiders, who traveled without their owner from Oakland on Friday night. The Raiders’ players awoke Saturday to a team meeting in which Jackson informed them of Davis’ death.

The Raiders spent the rest of the weekend processing the news and trying to prepare to face Houston. Prior to the game, Jackson told his players that the Raiders were Davis’ life, that the team was what Davis lived for. With a sticker honoring Davis on the backs of their helmets, the Raiders fought their way to a victory that had to put a smile on the face of anyone who knows the history of the NFL and Davis’ place as one of the modern game’s most influential people.

This joyful story might last a while. Coming out of a difficult stretch in which they played the Jets, Patriots and Texans, the Raiders are 3-2 and heading into an easy stretch of their season. Oakland has three consecutive home games, all very winnable -- it hosts Cleveland and Kansas City before the bye week, then hosts Denver. There is no reason why Oakland shouldn’t head into the second half of the season very much in the playoff mix -- a mix from which the Raiders have been absent for nine seasons.

The Raiders sold out for this win. They overcame major penalties; they relied on trick plays and bent but didn’t break on defense. It was so fitting that two of Davis’ most questioned first-round picks in recent memory -- kicker Sebastian Janikowski and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey -- were factors.

As the Raiders fly home from this game and prepare for a likely memorial service, they can rejoice, knowing they would have made Davis proud.

The Davis story will continue. There will be questions of leadership. Raiders CEO Amy Trask said the team will remain in the Davis family, as Davis’ widow, Carol, and son, Mark (who was in attendance Sunday), will run the team. It has been reported that the family probably will hire a general manager down the road, leaving Mark Davis and Jackson to make personnel decision for now. Speculation that former coach John Madden may help the team move away from the Al Davis era has already surfaced. There a lot of questions in Oakland. On Sunday, though, all that mattered was that the Raiders won. In Al Davis’ world, that’s all that ever mattered.

What's next in Oakland?

October, 8, 2011
10/08/11
2:10
PM ET
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.

[+] EnlargeMark Davis and Amy Trask
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireAl 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.

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