Fueled by a ferocious passion and vision, Al Davis rightfully earned their loyalty. Unfortunately, his trusted inner circle was often left with little sway or say. Now, at the risk of sounding like a heretic, it's entirely possible the Raiders will improve as they transition from dictator to democracy.
Mark Davis, who is expected to replace his father as managing general partner, is described by George Atkinson as a "savvy guy who has been by his father's side his whole life." The former safety and longtime Raiders broadcaster told me, "Mark was in every draft room and understands what it takes to run a team. He has tenacity and smarts. He just needs to surround himself with the right people."
Actually, the right people have been there for decades. From Atkinson, Jim Otto, Tom Flores, Jim Plunkett, Willie Brown and Cliff Branch to player personnel advisors Kent McCloughan, Mickey Marvin, Jon Kingdom and Bruce Kebric. Too bad, rather than accepting his scouts firsthand evaluation of players, Davis would watch some film and draft or sign who ever he wanted.
When I hosted the Raiders' pre- and postgame radio talk shows with Atkinson (2005-2009), countless former players complained about the team's lack of discipline and accountability. They all professed a love for Al but felt he needed help.
Hue Jackson has certainly been a welcome addition. The expected hiring of a general manager is also long overdue. Team executive John Herrera, who began his Raiders career as a ball boy 45 years ago, said, "Al was like a second father to me. He was my mentor. He cast a large shadow."
Across the Bay, the 49ers continued to stumble after John York passed the torch to son Jed who sang the praises of Mike Nolan and Mike Singletary before changing his tune and getting it right with Jim Harbaugh.
The younger Davis has a head start with a dynamic new coach, a team on the rise and an organization committed to honoring the memory of the man who personified all that the Raider Nation loves.