Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Trent Dilfer - the jury never delivered a verdict on his career

I'll give credit where it's due. Trent Dilfer has accomplished more than most of us ever will, with his money and ability to rise over mediocrity - at times - as an NFL quarterback.

He really did overcome enough obstacles to earn his keep. Few manage to endure a lengthy NFL career, including a memorable Super Bowl victory with Baltimore. Though let's face it, no one was going to beat the Ravens defense that year.

Nowadays, Trent is learning to be a broadcaster, which I find to be unfortunate. If he ever gets to call games he may be better but his analysis is tough to handle with all that smiling and the lights glaring off his dome.

I happened to catch a bit of his diatribe directed to Al Davis on firing fellow Fresno State alumnus, Lane Kiffin.

I know Trent is a decent guy on many levels but he really is annoying as well.

It's almost a Ned Flanders kind of annoyance. The guy who doesn't realize how frustrated he makes other people. In Trent's case, playing well only some of the time.

On one hand, I can admire a guy who's been at both ends of the spectrum on the field. I can recall games he played so bad it seemed impossible he would even be kept through the next week. That takes a lot of grit and confidence to overcome.

Still, there is the somewhat suspicious, homoerotic photography with chum Matt Hasselbeck. What are we to make of all this?

I kind of see Trent's duty as backup to Hasselbeck as more prominent in his career than his wins as a starter with Baltimore. He played well enough to not lose a Super Bowl but he's humble enough to not just hold the clipboard and be a locker room strength for Seattle. This was an honorable pattern he developed as a veteran.

Trent also has the distinction of being an old school, orange clad Tampa Bay Buc. He took his lumps but he bounced back as a career backup with a lot of teams.

All told, I'm not sure we can have a firm conclusion one way or the other what to make of Trent or his career. Good? Bad? Bad but wanting to be good and it not working out as often as he'd like?

I guess we'll wait for the jury to come back a while longer.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Jets vs Raiders, a winnable game for Oakland?

With everything going wrong for the Oakland Raiders, the smart money is all going on the New York Jets this Sunday. Whatever the point spread, you just have to figure the Jets have the edge.

As expected, Brett Favre is still slinging arrows all over the field and that simple formula is exactly what has destroyed the Raiders thus far this season. With a stagnant offense unable to pull it's own weight, an overworked, vulnerable defense puts the Raiders precariously close to another blowout loss.

Yet, there is hope. The Jets defense has been anything but impressive. Despite being 3-2, the Jets have not coasted. They are earning their yards and their wins with grit.

If we can block out the opening day fiasco to Denver and last week's laugher at New Orleans, the Raiders have had their share of leads this season thus far. They have tasted some success and will treat each Sunday as new life. Tom Cable is right about one thing, the Raider players are professionals and they are not going to abandon their will to win.

A few breaks, some special teams play in Oakland's favor, it is entirely possible Oakland could emerge victorious.

I wouldn't count on Darren McFadden being game ready. Turf toe tends to really hurt and linger. I would be surprised if he came back strong so soon from that particular injury.

I think if Justin Fargas is healthy and we finally see more of Michael Bush, some life from the receivers, there is a chance for a win. I'd like to see the Oakland passing game show some consistency. If I was in Offensive Coordinator Greg Knapp's shoes right now I would continue to turn Jamarcus Russell loose. Throw downfield, get Chaz Schilens in the game if our top guys are not getting it done. I never thought I'd say this but Ronald Curry, you are really stinking it up.

Hey, Javon Walker. Why are you only in the game the first series or two? Are you tired or WTF? Get your ass out there and make some plays.

It's criminal Todd Watkins is not active. What is the deal with that baloney. The guy can catch and run at a professional level. The Raiders need those types of guys so the fact he is not in the game and getting an opportunity can only mean the Raiders are once again hurting themselves with bad decisions.

It is interesting this game is such a longstanding rivalry. These two franchises first met in 1960 in the AFL (the NY Jets were the NY Titans at that time). There have been some great games between the two teams, often with much at stake.

For this upcoming game the Jets could realize they are going to need to stick with the grit strategy to pull out a win. This is an Oakland home game and a chance for the Raider Nation to get behind their beleaguered team. If this does end up a Jets blowout, I want to see them earn it at least.

I have not heard the latest on ticket sales for the game but Oakland Coliseum will likely be sold out since Favre is a draw for people to come out. If it was Chad Pennington coming to town I doubt this game would come close to selling out.

As the NFL moves forward, the Raiders stumble to keep pace

In 1963, Oakland Raiders majority owners Ed McGah and Wayne Valley tried to sell Al Davis on becoming head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Believe it or not, Al was not stoked on the idea at first.

Al still had his heart set on making it in the NFL. The AFL was no sure thing but gave him a foothold in the professional coaching ranks. The Raiders ownership group and their methods of team organization were unimpressive to Al.

What really bothered Al was that Oakland did not even have a decent field to play on let alone a stadium. One of his major conditions for taking the job was that a world class football stadium be built.

He got the concession. It didn't hurt that McGah and Valley were real estate magnates. Eventually, after a few years of hiccups, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was born in 1966.

It's not a bad stadium but it is no longer state of the art. Despite millions of tax dollars building so-called luxury suites and incorporating amenities in recent years, the Coliseum just can't compete and never will be able to compete with other NFL stadiums in terms of modernization.

In today's market, you also need corporate naming rights to add significant value to the franchise.

In the latest Forbes valuations of NFL franchises the Oakland Raiders are valued next to last (31), right behind fellow Bay Area stumble bums, San Francisco 49ers.

In this day and age of corporate branding, Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is now at a disadvantage. McAfee (who acquired former rights holder Network Associates) has decided not to renew their stadium naming rights agreement, which they paid the Oakland Coliseum Authority 12 million for.

The reality is finding a corporate sponsor willing to lay down double digit millions to be affiliated with the Coliseum is a serious long shot.

The additional reality is most corporations would not want to be affiliated with a Raiders-only facility. The Oakland Coliseum's other major tenant, the Oakland A's, have already committed to re-locating within the San Francisco Bay Area to an as yet to be built stadium sometime in the next decade.

This type of deal must have been a slap in the face to Al Davis and the entire Raiders organization. A brand new, state of the art facility is exactly the crown jewel that has long eluded Al.

He'll never get it either. The nutshell version of this tale is the Raiders are stuck with Oakland Coliseum as much as the city of Oakland is stuck with the Raiders. It is in a irreparable political quandary. Plus, how can anyone expect to do business with Al Davis? You'd need $100 million for lawyers. It's a bad investment the politicians of Oakland have been paying for mightily for years now. When they agreed to bring the Raiders back to Oakland they agreed to stay in bed with Al Davis for the sake of having the Raiders stay in Oakland. This has cost the tax payers of Alameda County millions of dollars as a result.

The most damning is the Raiders have the perception of attracting troublesome fans. On one hand, the Raiders experience can be family friendly but on the other hand, we're always hearing about fights and problems on game days. Not that every NFL stadium doesn't have troublemakers but with the Raiders, sometimes that perception proves to be too true. It just provides more reason not to do business with Al and his renegade stature. NFL= family friendly, Al Davis=unfriendly fartbag.

There's just no easy to way to explain the morass of why the city of Oakland is still affiliated with the Raiders franchise since 1966. It's just too complicated a tale but what is of interest is speculation the franchise will move once again, when their lease with the Oakland Coliseum expires in 2013 (recently extended from 2010).

"The Raiders' more passionate fan base makes them more likely to stay," the Forbes writeup tells us.

It is more likely the reason the Raiders will stay is because they have nowhere else to go. My speculative guess is the franchise has been unable to make any substantial progress with a re-location plan or a new stadium plan of any merit.

Amy Trask, Raiders CEO, commented that a possible solution is to build up the surrounding area with commerce. It' s not a bad idea. A few restaurants, ice cream shops, that sort of thing can only help. There's no eats around the Coliseum now at all that is really accessible or inspires confidence with most fans to stray from the concourse. It would be a tough sell though because it is questionable the area around the Coliseum would really attract potential revelers (unless it's tailgating).

So what about a scenario that has the Raiders re-locating? It's a hassle moving, not to be taken lightly. Another reason why they probably won't ever leave. Going back to Southern California is probably not going to work. Las Vegas and San Antonio have been ruled out. Who is going to pay for a new stadium in Oakland with surrounding commerce?

I'm sure there are land developers out there though it would not be easy of course to make such a deal. A main problem is Oakland is one of the top murder capitals in the U.S. It's a full fledged ghetto and unstable in many ways.

During and after World War II Oakland grew real fast and had a solid working class economy so that is why the AFL wanted a franchise there in 1960. The economics are not the same in 2008.

The good news is there is plenty of Raiders fans elsewhere in northern California so people should not look at the possible moving of the Raiders as a bad deal. They would probably sell out a 50,000 stadium if they moved to Sacramento (where a stadium would need to be built). Maybe not 70,000 which seems to be the desired size of new stadiums these days. I would say they would also fare well if a stadium were to be built somewhere in the Central Valley.


East Bay Express
Matier & Ross

Monday, October 13, 2008

Justin Fargas and Michael Bush on the trade block?

CBS Sports reported a scoop today that Justin Fargas and/or Michael Bush are potential trade material before Tuesday's NFL deadline.

So, the pattern continues. Someone is intentionally and selectively feeding high profile NFL journalists with early scoops supposedly obtained from an un-named source inside Raiders HQ. Last time it was Jay Glazer at Fox Sports and Chris Mortensen at ESPN. This time it went to CBS Sports.

Lane Kiffin is gone. So that means my source at Ricky's Sports Theater & Grill was incorrect that Kiffin was the information leak. Maybe Kiffin's friend Mark Jackson, still on staff within Raiders HQ in some low level administrative capacity is the overlooked element.

It just doesn't seem to be Team Al's style to concoct a clever ploy to stir the pot of controversy, like a propaganda technique. For what purpose? That would imply an oaf like John Herrera, laconic PR specialist Mike Taylor or some unknown individuals within Raiders HQ have some form of sophisticated PR mindset - which we know they don't. Or if they do, wow, that would be shocking.

All Raiders HQ has ever shown in the way of strategy is to emphatically deny everything, regardless if the information would help or hurt them in the public domain. Ineptitude is an appropriate description most of the time when it comes to anything to do with Raiders public relations.

Here's the bottom line: Raiders Senior Executive John Herrera has denied Fargas and Bush are on the trade block. This means they are in fact on the trade block.

The Christmas Grinch Arrives Early for the Oakland Raiders

Some people never learn. Take John Herrera for instance. John is perhaps the top Al Davis henchman, vigilantly standing guard for any affronts to the Oakland Raiders organization.

John must be thinking that his attitude has worked just fine for however many years he has been with the Raiders. Therefore, there's no reason to change, despite being outted as a tough guy wanna be in the Raiders media room just a few short weeks ago.

Underlying a big problem with Raiders organization, John Herrera answers to no one but Al and therefore, has the flexibility to exert his poor judgement. This bad business model is one of the main reasons the franchise is in such steep decline in the front office as much as it has been in the standings.

According to a New York Times article on 10-10-08, Herrera objects to Lane Kiffin and Jamarcus Russell staying in contact.

“That’s not a good thing. When somebody leaves any organization, they shouldn’t be meddling or trying to meddle. It’s not right and we will make some decisive decisions there as to how to deal with that.” Herrera is quoted as stating.

Sounds like the Christmas grinch arrived a little early this year. Hey Mr. Herrera, lighten up. Loyalty cuts both ways. If people want to remain friends what is the threat to Raiders management?

"Meddling" is friendly advice. Deal with it Herrera. I mean, no one takes you seriously. Let's be real. Al just keeps you around as muscle because that is all you are capable of, trying to throw your weight around.

Jamarcus is a good vibes type of guy but the dark side of the force runs rampant at Raiders HQ. There's no escape from the black cloud of tension. Jamarcus is in a tough spot. Understandably, his frustration has been flaring up more and more as the weeks progress. When you're not winning, you don't need dumb, off the field distractions getting in your head.

Contractually, no doubt there is something forbidding conduct interpreted as detrimental to the team. Staying in communication with a terminated head coach could potentially become a more serious issue than it needs to be on top of the team's on the field woes, just because John Herrera feels like being a mean SOB.

It would be interesting if Al would have Herrera's back in this instance.

Al has wisely said nothing relevant about John Herrera's media room clown act. In my view, the Herrera incident comes second only to Sean Salisbury's cell phone episode at ESPN as the dumbest move by someone involved in pro football in 2008.

I guess we'll find out if Herrera or some other team representative, perhaps even Al himself, addresses the issue of Jamarcus staying in open communication with Lane Kiffin.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A closer look inside Raiders HQ

I made my way towards the back of Rickey's Sports Theater and Grill in San Leandro, California. I had been receiving mysterious messages on my voicemail for several weeks now, all leading up to this encounter with a source who claimed he knew the secrets of Raiders HQ.

I spotted my contact seated at a table eating beer battered onion rings and drinking Lagunitas Copper Ale, an excellent choice. I knew I was in good company.

"I would be eating the wings but you know, first of all they're from Buffalo and second, they're messy as all get out", my source remarked.

The waitresses at Rickey's wasted no time. I ordered a Jack n' coke and a refill for my new friend.

"John Herrera would never betray Al Davis. That is Raider sacrilege. He's not the leak at Raiders HQ" my source dove head first into the topics at hand.

I have to admit, I have given my initial theory more thought and sort of regret pinning the leak on Herrera simply because he seemed like the obvious choice.

Why would loyal Team Al guys talk to a guy like Chris Mortensen? Everyone knows Mortensen is not respected. Why not go to someone they respect at least?

"It wasn't Mike Taylor either" the source said as he polished off his Lagunitas Copper Ale and thanked me for the refill.

"It was Kiffin" he said flatly, as if it was obvious all along.

He was right. I was hoodwinked. It was Kiffin. Though why would Kiffin be so forthcoming with media guys about his imminent firing?

Because Kiffin has always been clueless with the media. He has no tact. Mortensen and Jay Glazer probably got in touch with Kiffin, not the other way around. Doh! I goofed in my initial analysis.

"Don't worry, it's happened to the best of them. Al has had newspaper men chasing their tales for forty years now." source said.

"So let me ask you something" I said, "What about Al's professional liar remark from his last press conference?"

Mike Taylor is a man of few words but his long standing incredibly effective stealth as Public Relations director came to an abrupt end with a two word e-mail to a newspaper man, stating "Yes, Chris"

"Yes" as in validating Al was in fact calling Mortensen a professional liar, not Kiffin.

It is entirely possible the leak was inadvertent as starts and stalls with Al actually following through. It is possible a Team Al member was simply reporting what they knew at the time.

Team Al is:

Al Davis
Jeff Birren, chief legal counsel for over 20 years.
John Herrera, senior executive with extensive job security within the organization
Mike Taylor, public relations man

"So we can rule out Team Al feeding info to Mortensen as some clever misinformation campaign?" I sheepishly asked.

"Well, you can never rule anything out but you'll notice Mort's scoops have come only during Kiffin's reign." source affirmed.

We continued to hash out theories for the next hour and a half. I gladly absorbed the bar tab as his insight poured forth. Finally, his cell phone alarm was triggered.

"I have to run. Thanks for the beers. We'll find out if you, me or Al is full of shit if Mortensen gets any scoops in the Tom Cable era"

And with those closing remarks, we all move into the next phase of the Raiders 2008 season.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Billy Cannon, the Original Raiders Outlaw

Billy Cannon was a special talent in the 1950's, earning legendary status with LSU, including a Heisman in 1959. Cannon was a powerful, fast, smart ball carrier. He could run it, catch it, field kicks, whatever. He dominated in college.

In the 1950's south, it was well known Cannon was a roughhouser type from "the wrong side of the tracks." One trait that stood out with Billy was his street smarts. He got away with a lot because of his status as football hero.

Cannon signed a three year contract in November 1959 for $50,000 with the Los Angeles Rams of the NFL. He even held a press conference with then-Rams general manager Pete Rozelle. Then on New Year's Day 1960, as soon as the Sugar Bowl ended, Cannon, before 83,000 fans, signed another contract, this one with the Houston Oilers of the AFL. That contract offered him $100,000 over three years, a $10,000 gift for his wife and a slightly used Cadillac.

He just had to throw the symbolic Caddy in there. It shows Cannon's thinking at the time. He was a man in search of the high life. He wanted to cash in on his athletic fame. Problem was, pro football had not yet become the cash cow it is today. Billy had to play his hand the best he could - and he did pretty well at it.

The Oilers were a very strong team in the AFL winning the Championship in 1960 and '61, losing in OT in '62. Cannon led the AFL in rushing in 1961 but hurt his back in 1962. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1964.

This trade to Oakland is not a coincidence. Al Davis had been head coach for one year and was re-modeling the team in his own image.  There could not have been a better fit. Billy Cannon represented a true Al Davis reclamation project. You know how Al loves absorbing former number one picks on a downswing. Billy Cannon had become fat by this point because of his back problem.  He had slacked off on his exercising and playing time had diminished significantly.

Still, it did not take a genius to see he had could run with power and could still catch the ball. He was an ideal Tight End and a potent guy to have in your lineup.

Billy's contributions with the Raiders ran through 1969. In fact, he was an all star in 1969, after which he retired. For his career he amassed 3,656 yards receiving, 2,455 yards rushing and 1,882 return yards for a combined total of 8,003 yards and 63 touchdowns.

Sportswriter Rich Koster described Cannon ending his career as a "loner who snarled at sportswriters."

Though his luck ran out a few years after football when he was arrested for counterfeiting and did prison time.

A journalist from Los Angeles called Cannon "the most repugnant young profiteer ever to sell his talents to anyone who'd bid."

During the offseasons, however, Cannon had gone to dentistry school. With five children, Cannon knew he had to prepare for the future. Because of his popularity, Cannon's practice flourished to an estimated $300,000 a year.

It still was not enough for Billy who craved mass wealth. He continued on a path of bad business deals of many varieties, none working out, some breaking the law.

As an elderly fellow, Billy has done more prison time and not in country club style. Billy has lived in Angola, Louisiana as punishment for his greed. Symbolically, he's got a little too much Raider in him.

Super Bowl II: Raiders vs Packers

Super Bowl II is a long forgotten contest played by two iconic, old school football teams: the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders. Everyone expected the Packers to win and they did, methodically and convincingly with long drives, chipping away with field goals and the occasional TD.

We all know about the Packers offense and Bart Starr. For their part, this was a pretty good offensive starting lineup for the Raiders:
SE Bill Miller
LT Bob Svihus
LG Gene Upshaw
C Jim Otto
RG Wayne Hawkins
RT Harry Schuh
TE Billy Cannon
FL Fred Biletnikoff
QB Daryle Lamonica
HB Pete Banaszak
FB Hewritt Dixon

The Raiders limped into Super Bowl II. The entire team was really banged up after a very physically exhausting 13-1 regular season. Their one loss came against the Jets. The high margin of victory (40-7) in the AFL championship game against the Houston Oilers does not reflect the fatigue the team experienced. Getting to this Super Bowl took just about everything they had. Both the Raiders and Pack had three weeks rest before the game. The Raiders main loss to injury was running back Clem Daniels. With Daniels in top form, the Raiders running game had tremendous speed to compliment their power with guys like Pete Banaszak and Hewritt Dixon. An overall healthier Raiders team may have given the Pack a better game.

Super Bowl II was not Daryle Lamonica's best day as he threw an unfortunate interception returned for a TD which sealed the game. The Pack's defense played very well all game in fact. Other highlights include Ben Davidson knocking Bart Starr out of the game. Though by that point the Raiders were down 19 points (26-7). This game was never really in doubt. The final score was 33-14 Pack. It was Vince Lombardi's final game as head coach.

John Madden was a Raiders assistant coach in Super Bowl II. Bill Walsh would have been but he left the Oakland Raiders coaching staff prior to the 1967 season to be head coach and general manager of a semipro franchise, the San Jose Apaches. Al Davis was just a few weeks removed from his stint as AFL commissioner and was still solidifying his executive authority with the Raiders. Despite the Raiders' success in getting to the Super Bowl and head coach John Rauch being AFL Coach of the Year, relations between Al Davis and John Rauch was never strong and in fact, had deteriorated over the course of the 1967 season. After leaving his post as AFL commish, Al sought to establish his executive command and set his sights on getting rid of Rauch the following season in 1968.

In 1968 the Raiders went 12-2 and lost to the New York Jets in the AFL Championship game. The Jets went on to beat the Baltimore Colts in the historic Super Bowl III. The Jets were a fierce AFL rival so the sting of finishing the 1968 season on a sour note was tough for Al to take. No matter how many times the Raiders beat the Jets from that point forward it did not remove the crushing blow of that particular loss in the AFL 1968 Championship game.

The Raiders always felt they should have been the AFL representatives in Super Bowl III. They wanted another shot after getting beaten by the Pack the previous year. Al Davis couldn't let it go. Head coach John Rauch was fired after the 1968 season, replacing him with John Madden. Rauch ended up in Buffalo and would never again come close to the type of success he had with the Raiders.

It would take Al Davis, John Madden and the Raiders eight more seasons to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Anti-Raider Nation emerges from within the Nation

* the Yin and the Yang
* Night and day
* Friday and Saturday night at Ricky's Sports Theater and Grill in San Leandro, California, epicenter of the Raider Nation.

Usually, both nights are equal. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference. This year, Saturday nights are traditionally a rally night at Rickey's as a prelude to Sunday's Oakland Raiders game. That's where all your staunch silver and black foam finger waver types can be found, doesn't matter what the team's record is or any issues surrounding the organization. They just support. They have invested too much time, money and energy to even consider showing any chinks in their armor of "Go Raiders!" resolve, their chosen passion in life.

This Friday night however, October 4th 2008, drew a surprising number of rabble rousers proclaiming the Anti-Raider Nation movement was officially afoot. No longer will such blind obedience from the foam finger wavers go without an obvious sneer from the anti crowd.

You wouldn't be able to tell the Anti-Raider Nation from a foam finger waver because the two are one and the same, wearing team merchandise (as was I this evening).

This firing of Lane Kiffin has upset a lot of fans. The difference between this firing and others is:
* people knew Art Shell was not the right guy for the job at that particular time.
* Norv Turner was not highly regarded.
* Bill Callahan punched his own ticket out of town as did Jon Gruden.
* No one remembers who Joe Bugel is anymore so why mention him or Mike White.

Kiffin was fairly well liked for his honesty and more or less competent handling of affairs. Despite a horrendous first game embarrassment and his questionable judgement with the media, the team was getting better. They're battling, they're getting close to learning how to close games out. The general thinking is we're not playing bad all of the time.

Raider fans are highly disturbed by Al more than ever as his walls of secrecy have finally come tumbling down. This key point cannot be overstated in its importance. Really, up to 2008, most of the Raider Nation turned a blind eye to Al's ways, at least in spirit. At this specific moment in time, the Nation is highly disturbed and truly fed up with the downward spiral.

If the conventional thinking is a divided house cannot stand then this year's Nation defies that rule. The Nation is intent on making it through this latest power play by Al. Looking ahead to better days is an old standby but it's all that's left.

Overall, the Anti-Raider Nation people I spoke with felt that the team would be better regardless of head coach but the whole way the team is run has become a tired tale of one man's arrogance.

The Nation, anti or not, has really become a parody of itself, at least on Friday nights at the Nation's epicenter. What you get is an extravaganza of Raider memorabilia, walls of satellite TVs and every element of the Raider Nation in your face.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The reason for this blog part II

Since I started this blog just a few months ago I've gotten a few different reactions. Some people like it, some people ask me what the point is. Some think I have an axe to grind against Al and the Raiders.

Actually, I think my real axe to grind is with the Raider Nation. You're a sad sack nation yet smart enough to know your loyalty means getting other people rich by burning your budgets on everything Raiders. Yet you don't care. You keep Al's cash cow alive. That's your problem is you feed the very root of the problem. You don't just feed it, you are obsessed with it.

Go ahead, call me a hater. That's real original.

I back up everything I put in here as best as possible. If you feel differently, I will gladly revise any mistakes. Just leave a comment if you are so inclined. I make it a point to re-visit and challenge my own assumptions. I will make corrections as needed, ongoing.

I'm not doing this for site hits or popularity or some ego quest. This is a very part time hobby, assembling all of the data I have accumulated over the years and current web searches. I see Al and the Raiders as separate components. I know others may see it differently but consider the fact that the Oakland Raiders existed before Al arrived. The Raiders concept is not his creation. Not even the emblem is his creation though he tweaked it a bit.

I do not regard Al Davis as the beginning or the end of the Oakland Raiders franchise. He's just a highly intelligent weasel with a dominant personality who seized control of the franchise. That's it man. That's all it is.

It doesn't matter what Al's accomplishments are or if they were a bad team prior to him becoming head coach in 1963. Today is different. Nobody needs Al to have a winning franchise anymore. Not in the front office, not on the sidelines, not in the luxury box.

The legacy of Al Davis is not a commitment to excellence. Thanks to Al's bluster over the years, there is still the residue of past glory. The franchise still carries an illusion of itself as the greatest in professional sports. Obviously this is not the case. Even if someday they win another Super Bowl, WHO CARES. The legacy of Al Davis will simply be that he made a $180,000 investment in 1966 and it became an 800 million dollar business 40 years later.

My purpose here is not a crusade to bash Al Davis (that would be too easy to keep taking cheap shots). For the percentage of people who actually get it, my objective has become to dispel myths and illuminate the motives of Raiders HQ. I don't claim "cold hard facts" in all cases because at the end of the day, football blogging is all about speculation.

Thanks for reading. I hope you are entertained.

Raiders vs City of Oakland Gets Ugly - a look back at 1995

He saw disaster looming, but could only watch
By Tom FitzGerald San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A half dozen death threats were left on his answering machine. When he went to public hearings to inveigh against the Raiders deal, he wore a team jacket -- for camouflage.

In 1995 public officials were blasting Joe Debro. They said he was spiteful that he hadn't gotten more jobs for his construction business. One accused him of a "shakedown." Another called him "damaged goods." Actually, he was just a concerned citizen with an eye for the fine print and a contractor who was used to battling the big boys.

Ten years later, Debro says he takes no solace from the fact that he was right and so many people were wrong about the potential costs of the deal that brought the Raiders back to Oakland.

Sitting in his cramped office in his East Oakland home, Debro, 77, said there's no badge of honor for him in the costly public embarrassment the Raiders deal became. "No, that doesn't do anything for me or the people who were wrong."

From the beginning, he thought the deal smelled bad. "What I wanted more than anything else was for the citizens to vote on it,'' he said. "I looked at the documents and they were misleading."

Others thought so, too, he said. "I was the only visible person. Nobody else was prepared to be visible, because it was not pleasant. ... I was vilified.''

He felt projections of the stadium expansion cost of $85 million were "insane. It ended up costing $150 million." The contract was awarded to a company headed by builder Ronald Tutor, a friend of Raiders owner Al Davis. "It was a no-bid contract," Debro said, "and that was against state rules."

Raiders attorney Jeff Birren and Dina McClain, attorney for the Oakland- Alameda County Coliseum Authority, both dispute that contention. "When the deal was structured, the Raiders owned the stadium capital improvements," Birren said. "As a private entity, they weren't subject to those provisions."

McClain said the contract was legal but that cost overruns on the expansion forced the authority to use much more of the personal seat license revenue than was anticipated.

In 1995 Debro also took aim at what public officials were calling a $63.9 million "loan" to the Raiders. "There was no collateral, there was no repayment schedule, there were no provisions for default,'' he said. "It was simply not a loan. What I called it was a payoff."

Birren and McClain insist it was a loan. "The Raiders pay $525,000 a year (on it), plus half the parking and concessions, which amounted to $1.2 million last year," McClain said.

The NFL felt it was a fee rather than a loan and therefore had to be shared with other teams. The league won a lawsuit over the Raiders on that issue. Debro had no luck in his own court battles against the deal, the final case being thrown out in 2001 because, a judge ruled, it was filed after the statute of limitations to challenge the deal had expired.

He had projected that the deal would cost the taxpayers $400 million. "It looks like it's going to cost $600 million in subsidies by the time the bonds are paid off," he said. "At the end of the 16th year (2010), there are no provisions for any kind of payments (to the city and county). So the subsidies are going to have to go up. That's just atrocious. We have schools that are falling down, a school district that's in default."

He claims city/county officials were duped into the deal by people who had a lot to gain from it. And now?

"I don't think there's any way out of this," he said. "They've antagonized Davis, and they don't have any leverage."

At the same time, Debro has nothing but admiration for Davis. "I just wish we had somebody on the public side who fought as hard for what they believed as he does."

The City of Oakland & The Raiders make strange bedfellows

Raiders and Alameda County kiss and make up
Oakland Tribune, Dec 5, 2006 by Paul T. Rosynsky

The decade-long legal war between the Oakland Raiders and its government landlord came to a peaceful end this week as the team decided not to pursue further appeals.

"This ends all the litigation between the Raiders and its landlord," said Raiders General Counsel Jeff Birren. "We are committed to taking all of our energy and channeling it towards improving the game day experience."

The team's decision comes almost three weeks after it was sacked by the state appellate court which overturned a 2003 jury verdict awarding the organization $34 million.

In deciding not to seek further legal remedies, the Raiders forfeited their right to seek an opinion from the state Supreme Court and any chance of winning back the jury's original verdict.

Team officials said they choose the path of cooperation, in part, because of the good working relationship that has developed between them and the Authority.

That relationship began last October when the team and the Authority agreed to kill the woeful Personal Seat License concept and hand control of ticket sales to the Raiders for the first time since the team returned.

As a result, the Raiders have sold out their first five home games this year, well above the three sellouts a year the organization has averaged since 1995. The team also increased its season ticket base by 30 percent despite a two-win season.

"The business relationship that has existed since October... has enabled us to work with the (Authority) on matters effecting the facility and our fans," Raiders Chief Executive Officer Amy Trask said. "We are thrilled to be working directly with our fans."

The agreement to end all legal challenges also improves chances the team and the Authority will develop a plan for a long-term lease extension at McAfee Coliseum.

City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, a member of the Authority since the team returned, said the Raiders decision is just another sign of progress in the relationship.

"We can now put everything behind us," De La Fuente said. "I have been involved with this from the beginning and I am just really happy now."

The legal war began almost before the team jogged onto the grass at renovated Oakland Coliseum.

No sooner did Al Davis sign a 10-year-lease agreement did information become public the Authority had failed to sellout the stadium for all Raiders home games.

Davis had claimed he was told it was sold out and after the Authority sued the Raiders in fear the team would try to break the lease, the Raiders counter sued saying they were victims of fraud.

Had the team known the stadium was not sold out, Davis has said in the past that he would have never returned.

The team sued for $1.1 billion claiming lost business and opportunity.

After listening to testimony for five-months, a Sacramento jury partially agreed with the Raiders stance. It awarded the team $34 million, a figure the jury calculated based on how many empty seats were at the Coliseum during Raiders games.

But last month, the 3rd Appellate District of the California Court of Appeal overturned the jury verdict saying the team had given up its right to sue for fraud because it signed another agreement in 1996.

That agreement not only reaffirmed the original agreement but it also gave the Raiders new benefits.

Under California law, a person or organization cannot sue for fraud if they changed the terms of the original agreement for their benefit, the appellate court ruled.

Regardless of the ruling, both the Raiders and the Authority now say they are ready to start a new, friendly chapter in the relationship.

"What we need to do now is plan for the bigger picture," said Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele, the authority chairperson. "It took us a long time to be working all together. For 10 years we were fighting."

Both Steele and De La Fuente said they will turn there attention towards securing a long-term lease extension with the Raiders.

The Raiders had asked for an extension last year but were denied as the authority choose to see what would happen with the Oakland Athletics.

Now that the Athletics have signaled their desire to move to Fremont, the chances for a Raiders lease extension is more plausible, De La Fuente and Steele said.

Trask and Birren said the team will listen to proposals.

"Certainly, we are willing to listen and to engage in discussion with the (Authority) about any matters concerning the facility," Trask said. "The (Authority) recognizes the facility is 40 years old and must be modernized for all of its tenants."

Added Birren, "We will take a cautious wait and see approach."

The Raiders take their case to the Supreme Court and lose

July 3, 2007

Raiders lose yet again - in high court

Retrial request blocked by state panel; verdict stands

By Paul T. Rosynsky

It appears the Raiders' recent struggles on the field followed the team into the court room.

The California Supreme Court ruled Monday that a 2001 verdict against the team in its lawsuit with the National Football League should stand, ending a case that began in 1999.

The ruling also ends, for the first time in at least 20 years, any litigation the team has in the court system.

The Supreme Court ruling affirmed a decision by a state appeals court that denied the Raiders a retrial in its $1.2 billion lawsuit against the NFL.

The decision stems from a 2001 Los Angeles-based trial in which the Raiders sued the NFL, claiming the league interfered with the team's deal to build a new stadium in Hollywood Park.

Though a jury in that trial ruled 9 to 3 in favor of the NFL, the Raiders successfully argued that the case should be re-tried because of jury bias and misconduct.

Raiders attorneys and some jurors said that at least two jury members broke the law during deliberations. One juror claimed he had lost a bet on the Raiders, hated team owner Al Davis and would never award the team damages. Another juror, who was an attorney, supposedly directed deliberations and told the jury how to weigh evidence.

The Raiders won a ruling from a Superior Court judge for a retrial, but the NFL appealed the decision claiming the juror who claimed he lost a bet was only joking.

The appeals court ruled in favor of the NFL and the Supreme Court agreed Monday saying the judge who ordered the new trial failed to state a reason for the decision.

And without a reason, the Supreme Court said it could not order a new trial because there were too many contradictions from other jurors.

"In sum, the testimonial evidence submitted by the parties in the form of juror declarations is sharply conflicting on every material issue," wrote Supreme Court Judge Joyce Kennard. "The Raiders submitted no other evidence to support their motion for a new trial."

NFL Executive Vice President Joe Browne issued a statement saying, "We are pleased that this lengthy litigation is finally over."

Raiders General Counsel Jeff Birren called the decision "incomprehensible."

"The Supreme Court ruled that because the judge failed to insert a few words of additional explanation in the order, the Raiders should be denied a new trial," Birren said sarcastically. "The Supreme Court ruling is incomprehensible."

Last year, the team lost an appeal of another lawsuit filed against its current landlord, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. In that case, the Raiders originally had been awarded $34 million by a jury that agreed that local leaders lied to Davis about sellouts at the Oakland Coliseum.

An appeals court overturned the verdict and said the trial should never have occurred.