The Raiders will not be a winning team until Al Davis brings in a solid football man and lets him make the decisions. Will Davis ever do that? Ah, that’s the problem.
In the past, Davis had men in the organization who would challenge him and, sometimes, make him change his mind, from Ron Wolf early to Jon Gruden more recently. There is nobody like that in the organization now. As he grows older, Davis has become more intractable, more determined to show that his way is the right way.
For Davis, the right way is the type of offensive system that was so successful in his early years with the Raiders and even into the ’80s, a “stretch the field” offense which emphasizes deep passes. His commitment to the past was clearly shown when he brought back Art Shell, who brought back his former offensive coordinator, Tom Walsh.
Shell will never challenge Davis’ basic beliefs, for sure, and Walsh’s offensive scheme is also rooted deeply in the past.
But the NFL has changed dramatically since the early glory days of the Raiders. The first big change started when Bill Walsh came to the 49ers in 1979, bringing an offense that depended on using the pass for ball control.
Walsh emphasized “moving the chains” with short and medium-length passes. The 49ers sustained long scoring drives, which also gave their defense a much needed rest.
Gruden used a variation of the Walsh offense when he coached the Raiders, and it’s no coincidence that the only period of sustained success the Raiders have enjoyed since their return to Oakland came with Gruden at the helm. Gruden was strong enough to convince Davis to go against his basic beliefs and dump Jeff George for Rich Gannon, who lacked a strong arm but was an improvisional genius, finding passing lanes, throwing the ball sidearm and, yes, moving the chains.
But even though it was successful, Davis wasn’t happy with that offense.
Remember that this was a man who traded Ken Stabler, the best quarterback in Raiders history, because he liked the strong arm of Dan Pastorini.
As versions of the Walsh offense became the offense of choice for more than half the NFL teams, defensive coordinators started working on blitz packages to disrupt that offense. Those types of defenses are even more effective against an old-style offense like the Raiders, as we’ve certainly seen in their first two games. Starter Aaron Brooks has already been injured and backup Andrew Walter has taken a beating, too.
Even with the obvious problems in the Raiders’ offensive line, there are ways to slow down the rush — three-step drops instead of seven-step, quick, outlet passes, screen passes.
But this is a team built to fulfill Davis’ visions. He didn’t get Randy Moss for 5-yard passes. He
wasn’t thinking of ball control when he brought in strong-armed passers like Kerry Collins and Brooks and drafted another strong-armed quarterback (Walter).
So, the answer to the question posed in the first paragraph is no. Davis will not bring in somebody else to make decisions. For all his vaunted love of winning, his chief desire is to have control.
And so, the “Greatness of the Raiders” can only be viewed through the rear-view mirror.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on http://www.GlennDickey.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.