Oakland Raiders did not have a full-time groundskeeper under Al Davis

Al DavisThe stories of how far behind the times the Oakland Raiders were in Al Davis’ later years are infamous. Last year, we passed along a story saying that new GM Reggie McKenzie asked the team to construct a modern-day “war room” for the NFL Draft because no such room existed at the team’s facilities. Now we’re learning that the team did not even have a full-time groundskeeper on staff under Davis, who died in late 2011.

Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter spent a season with the Raiders and wrote an excellent article about it for the April 22 edition of the magazine. The feature, called “The New Silver and Black,” talks about some of the changes McKenzie made with the franchise and how power was passed from Al Davis, to his son Mark Davis, and on to Reggie.

Early in the story, Trotter mentions that McKenzie was out for a jog around the practice fields at the Raiders’ training facility in Alameda when he noticed the poor field conditions. He said the footing was uneven and that there were goose droppings and dirt patches. Upon inquiring, McKenzie learned that the Raiders did not have a full-time groundskeeper on site. Instead, they outsourced the job to a local company.

Maintaining a field is a full-time job, and one would think an NFL team would place a pretty high priority on having top-of-the-line field conditions. Not the Raiders at the time.

Another frightening story shared by Trotter came from an agent, who says he was negotiating with Davis on a contract for a free agent. The two had agreed on a guaranteed money amount before Davis got off the call because he was having a coughing fit. When they resumed the call a day later, Davis supposedly asked the agent where they had left off. The agent told the late owner they had agreed on the amount of guaranteed money, and quoted him a price $1 million higher than the previous number. Davis didn’t notice and just picked up the negotiation from there.

The entire article is filled with great stories and information from Trotter, including details on who made the choice to acquire Carson Palmer. We recommend you pick up an SI subscription to read it if you don’t already have one. It’s really no wonder why the Raiders became so bad during the 2000 decade. They were just horribly managed in multiple aspects.

Elvis Grbac: Mike Shanahan Ordered Me to Throw a Football at Al Davis’ Head

With the passing of Al Davis over the weekend came many stories about how he changed the game of football for the better.  Davis was glorified by players, fans, and writers and much of the praise he received is deserved.  While Davis left behind a legacy of positives — as we outlined in our piece on Saturday — the fact that he was not a very well-liked figure across much of the league has been somewhat lost.

On Wednesday, Rick Maese of the Washington Post dug up a 13-year-old NY Times article that reminds us Davis had as many friends as he did enemies when he was alive.  One of those enemies was Mike Shanahan, who was the head coach of the Raiders for just over a season in 1988 and 1989 before a feud about money became too much for both men to handle.

In 1994, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers.  Prior to a game with the Raiders, he was working with quarterback Elvis Grbac, who says Shanahan ordered him to throw a ball at Davis’ head from about 30 feet away.

“I can’t do that,” Grbac said he replied. “If I hit him, do you know what he could do to me?”

[Read more...]

Al Davis Tattoo Raises the Fan Tribute Stakes (Picture)

While the Raiders paid tribute to deceased owner Al Davis Sunday with helmet stickers and a win, one fan raised the stakes with a calf tattoo. Busted Coverage shared the picture, saying that the Raiders fan got it done on Sunday. Dude wasted very little time with his ink-filled tribute. It’s actually pretty well done, if you ask me. I mean, at least the portrait resembles Al Davis, unlike the LeBron calf tattoo that we shared. Sure, the hair does resemble Robert DeNiro’s character in Taxi Driver, but we’ll overlook that. We’re just hoping this crazy Raiders fan has room on his legs to fit in a Davis tribute tat too.

For more tattoos, here’s a look at our tribute gallery:

Raiders Paid Tribute to Al Davis with Win, Sticker on Helmet

The Oakland Raiders paid tribute to former owner Al Davis, who died on Saturday, by winning one for him in Houston Sunday. The Silver and Black came back from a 14-6 second quarter deficit to win 25-20. Safety Michael Huff sealed the win with an interception on the game’s final play, and said afterwards that the victory was for Davis.

“We know he’s looking down on us right now,” Huff said. “This win is for him. I appreciate everything he’s done for this organization. He’s never gone in our eyes. We’ll never let him go. He’s with us.”

Not only did the team pull off a win for Davis, they also added stickers to the back of their helmets to honor him. Stadiums around the league held a moment of silence before the early games to remember the renegade owner. The fan tributes to Davis weren’t exclusive to Raiders fans either:

The person who seemed to show the greatest emotion following the win was head coach Hue Jackson, who went to the ground and began crying. He’s done a very good job with the team. Al Davis would be proud.

Photo Credits: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Al Davis Left a Legacy of Good and Bad

It’s amazing how a day many Raiders fans eagerly anticipated for years was received so differently. Longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died Saturday at the age of 82. He was part of the team for 49 of its 52 years of existence, eventually becoming the face of the franchise. Known as a bright football mind, a pioneer, and a renegade, Davis left behind a legacy of positives and negatives.

Al Davis won three Super Bowls GM of the Raiders. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He was the AFL Coach of the Year in 1963, and he became commissioner of the AFL in 1966. He helped force a merger between the AFL and NFL, and he constantly fought for the good of the overall game of football.

Davis was the first person to draft an African American quarterback, and the first person to heavily scout traditional black schools. Under Davis, the Raiders hired the first Hispanic head coach, the first African American head coach, and they became the first organization in major sports to hire a female for an executive role.

A true renegade who did things his way, Davis heavily valued specialists, venturing to draft kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Ray Guy in the first round.

While doing things his way, Davis butted heads with many people.

[Read more...]

Al Davis: Calvin Johnson is Nothing Special

Al Davis never gets old.  Actually, he has gotten old.  Very, very old — but you know what I mean.  It seems like every time he opens his mouth something ridiculous comes out.  Just when Crazy Al says something that might lead us to believe he has a shred of sanity left inside his dome, he goes and spoils it with more of the same.

Last week, reporters asked Davis about the way the Raiders have drafted the past two seasons.  Things started out smoothly before getting a little bit ugly.

“I think we’ve been very successful the last four,” he said. “I think we’re always pretty good. The thing that hurt, is the question someone asked, JaMarcus hurt a great deal. But the ones they wanted to take instead of JaMarcus, Brady Quinn, hasn’t played yet.”

Fair enough, right?  At least he’s admitting the team screwed up when they drafted Russell.  That may seem like a given, but we’ve seen Davis in denial many times before.  He seems to think Darius Heyward-Bey can be compared to some of the greatest receivers of all-time, but we’ll let that slide.  Anyway, here’s where he flew off the handle.

“There was some talk of Calvin Johnson,” Davis continued. “But you can take a look at Calvin up at Detroit. How many games did they win this year, Detroit, do you know? Six? Yeah. But up until now, Calvin hadn’t done anything for them. He had been eulogized, but he hadn’t made a lot of indelible impression on the won and lost.”

[Read more...]

Al Davis: I See Jason Campbell Like I Saw Jim Plunkett

To say Al Davis has high hopes for his offense in the near future would be an epic understatement. If he truly believes the things he says — and we have no reason to believe Crazy Al doesn’t — then he must believe Jason Campbell and Darrius Heyward-Bey can become one of the greatest quarterback/wide receiver duos to ever play the game of football. Not long ago, Davis ordered a press release that compared Heyward-Bey to Hall of Fame receivers such as Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, and Randy Moss.

The Raiders owner also apparently thinks releasing JaMarcus Russell and acquiring Campbell could turn out to be one of the best moves in franchise history. In a recent interview with Sirius NFL Radio, Davis compared the current Raiders squad to the 1980 Super Bowl team, and made comparisons between his new quarterback and two-time Super Bowl (one MVP) winner Jim Plunkett. It would seem as though anything less than Tom Brady/Randy Moss circa 2007 would disappoint him at this point. Here’s what Davis told Sirius NFL via ESPN:

I really liken this team a great deal to the team of 1980, in which the great Jim Plunkett pulled us out of the doldrums, took us to the Super Bowl as a wild card, and we had so many great players who eventually made their way into the Hall of Fame,” Davis said in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio.

I see this young Jason Campbell as a football player like I saw Jim Plunkett. He has everything. He was 13-0 in college, at Auburn, he can throw up the field, he can run, he’s big, he’s smart,” Davis said. “I really predict great things for him. I hope he doesn’t let me down. I don’t think he will.”

[Read more...]