By my very loose count, there are four NFL teams where the owner also serves as the de facto GM: The Cowboys (Jerry Jones), the Redskins (Danny Snyder), the Bengals (Mike Brown), and the Raiders (Al Davis). Vinny Cerrato is technically the general manager of the Skins, but we know who calls the shots. Since 2003, those four teams have combined to win a grand total of ONE playoff game.
You don’t need me to tell you that it’s never a good idea for an owner to become mixed up in the personnel side of NFL business. While the Bengals have been good this year, Mike Brown’s reign has been pockmarked by losing, arrests, and ungodly thriftiness. Dan Snyder is the most hated man in Washington, quite a feat given how many people living in that town are worthy of your scorn. And you already know about the Double J’s penchant for throwing money around and greatly overestimating his own ability to scout future NFL stars.
But of these four owners, Al Davis is easily the worst. He’s like Castro. You keeping hoping he’ll die, but he never does. Even if he does die, he’ll simply be replaced by track suited lookalikes for the next five decades. He’ll be like Kim Jong Il. He’ll always be the grand leader, even in death. It’s something to behold.
Of course, there was a time when Davis was one of the best owners in football. He was able to spy young coaching talent (Madden, Gruden) well before others. He even had a background in coaching himself, unlike the other owners mentioned above. But all of Davis’ football credibility has been destroyed this decade, lost in a sea of incompetence, paranoia, extreme defensiveness, and a steadfast refusal to acknowledge reality.
It seems unfair to base Davis’ downward spiral on the onset of old age. After all, Davis has always been paranoid, litigious, and often devious. Those weren’t new qualities. But the fact is that Oakland was a successful franchise for many years with Davis in charge. Now, time has made Davis appear even more isolated, bitter and lost in an old-school approach to football.
So it’s fair to ask if there will come a time when, say, Jerry Jones assumes similar qualities (this assumes you don’t believe he already has them, which could be argued). If the NFL has one owner sure to follow in Davis’ insane footsteps, that would be Snyder, who has already demonstrated a willingness to blame everyone but himself for the Redskins woes. But you can’t tell me Jerry couldn’t also end up the same way. Davis is 80 years old. Jones is 67. If you choose to mark 2003 as the beginning of the Raiders decline, when Davis was 74, then you may only have about six or seven years of “Good Jerry” left, before Nutty Old Guy Syndrome sets in.
One thing is for certain in the future. Jones will grow older and, like Davis, he will NEVER relinquish his grip on your favorite team, even if it’s clear to everyone that he ought to. So keep that in mind when you complain about the next goofy thing the Double J does. He hasn’t even come close to the peak of his insanity yet. Ask Raider fans. It can get far worse.