For Christmas, Raiders fans should hope that Al Davis finally hires a general manager and gives him authority to make the following moves:
– Tell JaMarcus Russell that his contract will have to be restructured or he’ll be released. That restructuring would eliminate the scheduled signing bonus, provide for a much lower salary and include a provision that Russell must lose 25 pounds and keep the weight off. That would increase his mobility and also demonstrate that he has some dedication to his craft. We certainly haven’t seen that yet.
– Release receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. This pick was a mistake from the day it was made. DHB has great speed, but he’s also got the dropsies. He didn’t learn to catch the ball consistently in three years of collegiate ball, so why should anybody think he’ll learn it now?
Even Russell, who’s not the brightest bulb in the drawer, has realized he couldn’t depend on Hayward-Bey to catch the ball, so he’s seldom thrown to him. The Raiders have three fast young receivers who are better pass catchers — Chaz Schillens, Louis Murphy and Johnnie Lee Higgins. DHB takes playing time away from them when he’s on the field.
Since 2010 is almost certain to be an uncapped year, as NFL owners and the players association negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, the Raiders could cut both Russell and Heyward-Bey without any concern about those moves affecting their cap number.
– Hire a real coach and give him the authority to put in his own systems. It’s no secret that Tom Cable has been Davis’ puppet, hardly able to wipe his nose without getting permission from the boss. But under the current operating system, that’s the only kind of coach Davis could get. Established NFL coaches or even coordinators wanting to move up won’t come to Oakland.
Neither will college coaches who want to make the jump to the NFL. The word is out about Davis.
Of course, the odds of Davis making these changes are very slim. Though his motto has been “Just Win, Baby,” in recent years it’s really been, “Do It My Way, No Matter What Happens.”
As one who first knew Davis when he was at the top of his game, this saddens me. When he was with the Raiders in the ’60s, first as a coach-general manager, then as managing general partner, Davis knew how to put a team together. He was a great evaluator of talent, on his team and others, and he knew how to find players to fit the offensive and defensive systems he brought with him from the San Diego Chargers.
He had some advantages. There were teams with incompetent management; he stole Willie Brown and Hewritt Dixon in trades, and picked up Ben Davidson on waivers. Because he was color-blind in judging players, he picked up black players like Ike Lassiter that other teams discarded. He had friends around the country who tipped him off to black players who were not on the NFL radar, such as George Atkinson.
These conditions don’t exist today. NFL teams have sophisticated scouting systems, so good players don’t go unnoticed. There is no systematic racism. Yet, Davis continues to operate as if the ’60s never went away.
So, Raiders fans, there will be only that familiar lump of coal in your stockings. A 5-11 season looms.