Friday, July 20, 2012

Memo to Mark Davis: More Housecleaning is Needed at Raiders HQ

There's a fresh coat of paint on the Raiders franchise in 2012. Instead of Al's approach to leadership where closed ranks and an iron fist rules the day, the even-handed leadership of his son Mark has taken over.  His first big decision was to hire the astute Reggie McKenzie as General Manager. In turn, Reggie has fostered optimism by hiring a new coaching staff with a new vision.

The press (and therefore, the general public) no longer has to deal with John Herrera and his bad public relations skills.

But… there is still a dark corner left in the building. It is Al's fleet of attorneys. A legal mindset defined the life of Al Davis as far back as his one man coup d'etat to seize the franchise. This mindset evolved into a litigation machine in perpetual motion either going on the attack or fighting back with vigilance at the slightest hint of feeling threatened. Jeff Birren, legal henchman of Al Davis (Birren's official title is General Counsel), spearheaded the Raiders litigation machine with a passion spanning decades.

The Raider Nation is oblivious to who Jeff Birren is and the damage Al's history of outrageous and frivolous lawsuits have caused to this day. Still, the reality remains, Jeff Birren represents a long stretch of history that amounts to nothing productive for the long term health of the Raiders franchise. Jeff Birren no longer fits with the ideals of the Oakland Raiders in the post-Al Davis era. 

When the state of California Supreme Court shot down the Oakland Raiders' $1.2 billion lawsuit against the NFL, denying the Raiders a new trial on their accusation that the NFL drove them out of Los Angeles in 1995, Birren remarked, "the Supreme Court's ruling is incomprehensible."  Further, Birren lamented "the facts were so egregious that it cried out for this decision."

The last time I heard the word "egregious" it came out of the mouth of Don King!  What is egregious is the billion dollar price tag Al thought he was entitled to. I wonder how they came up with that amount. Perhaps Jeff had his team of underlings come up with all kinds of financial projections and models for how much revenue the team would have generated had the LA plan worked out.

Since law involves facts, it is laughable Birren insists the facts in their lawsuit stand on their own merit. Even though I am not a legal professional, anyone can smell bullshit when it comes their way.  In 2001 a Los Angeles jury agreed and found that Birren and his army of litigator underlings failed to prove the league sabotaged plans for a new stadium in Los Angeles. In a unanimous decision, the state of California's Supreme Court further said the Raiders were unable to show that any of the jurors had been biased or guilty of misconduct. Though Birren's underlings must have burned the midnight oil trying to prove otherwise.

The ruling marked the very end of Al Davis' effort to show that NFL officials undermined his plans to keep the team in the larger and more lucrative Southern California market. That is called a nail in the coffin.

The "ruling should enable the league and the Raiders to turn their focus to the football field rather than to courts of law," NFL attorney Gregg Levy said at the time.  I am sure Jeff Birren and Al Davis took Levy's advice to heart.

Another humorous quote by Jeff Birren in his now famous letter to the University of Tennessee powers that be, complained about Lane Kiffin.

"It cannot be in the best interest of the University to continue to serve as his ally in his personal, though misplaced, war to rewrite the past. Please understand that the Raiders intend to vigorously pursue all of its rights and remedies and we will not stand idly by as your employee continues to go out of his way to damage the Raiders."

A "personal, misplaced war to rewrite the past"  That is interesting use of language. You don't think Al Davis ever had a personal, misplaced war to rewrite the past at any point do you?  I never liked Lane Kiffin either but the last thing Kiffin ever did was go on a war campaign to discredit Al. No, Al did that all on his own - discredited himself in his interactions regarding Lane Kiffin. Those facts are very easy to spell out though no reason to discuss them all here.

...and another funny quote by Jeff Birren, came after the Raiders lost yet another lawsuit. He claimed the reason the Raiders lost the suit was because the judge "failed to insert a few extra words of explanation in his order."

It's always somebody else's fault when things don't go your way. That was the Al Davis perspective and that is the same approach Jeff Birren consistently took as well. That's likely what enabled him to hold onto the job as Al's lackey for so long.

So all this is why I find it curious that Jeff Birren is still on staff at Raiders HQ. If Mark Davis wants to take another step forward in cleaning up the Raider culture internally, publicly and its image with the NFL then having Birren move on to other pastures would be a good move. It would just be a gesture and a political one at that. No one sheds a tear when an attorney gets booted. The league and Roger Goodell in particular certainly know who Jeff Birren is and fully comprehend his legacy role doing Al's bidding. If anyone thinks the league sees him in any other light then dream on. Birren's dismissal from all maters concerning the NFL would be viewed by the league office as a glitch that is simply erased.

Still, by cutting ties with Jeff Birren (and don't forget to make sure the underlings clean out their cubicles too), you are showing the league that you want to establish a new era of relations.  Legal entanglements would then be an embarrassing historical footnote.  No need to get rid of CEO Amy Trask, even though she also qualifies as an Al Davis crony.  She is pretty good at what she does. That being, successfully straddling fences politically while maintaining a semblance of congeniality.

Without Al Davis and Jeff Birren around, the relentless conspiracy theory that the NFL was against him, was AND STILL IS against the Raiders and will do anything and everything to keep them from being successful will be one step closer to truly being a thing of the past.

For all I know Mark Davis and Jeff Birren are golf buddies. To shake off the past however, Birren and whatever company he keeps has got to go.

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