Owner Davis remains ruler of Raiders
His physical presence has lost its vibrancy, but his mind still races and his mouth still roars.
His words drift and ramble and wander and sometimes fall off the face of the Earth.
And then Al Davis gathers himself and returns to the matter at hand, upon which he exudes equal parts charm and intellect.
Even at age 81, deeply in the autumn of his life, the owner of the Oakland Raiders can sit before a room filled with reporters and cameras and spend nearly two hours reminding one and all that he’s still the boss, still in charge of one of the NFL’s most intriguing franchises.
And no matter the challenge he faces, whether in regard to his team or his personal health or pending legal issues, he remains in his soul a proud and defiant warrior.
Making his first public speaking appearance in 16 months, Davis on Tuesday announced the promotion of Hue Jackson from offensive coordinator to head coach. Jackson, 45, becomes the 17th coach in Raiders history.
Jackson, who joined the organization in January 2010 to manage what had been an anemic offense, faces a daunting task. He seeks to maintain the momentum for a team coming off its first non-losing season since 2002 and, moreover, he must try to satisfy perhaps the most demanding owner in sports.
“I plan on being here a long time,” Jackson said, an obvious nod to the fact that Davis has dismissed five coaches in seven years.
As much as the day was designed to introduce Jackson in his new role, though, it was Davis who towered over the proceedings at the team’s facility in Alameda’s Harbor Bay Parkway business park.
It was Davis who did most of the talking. He explained his Jan. 4 dismissal of head coach Tom Cable, saying he was a limited coach whose personal life brought undue stress upon the franchise. Furthermore, according to Davis, Cable was dishonest.
Seated next to Jackson at a table on the stage in the team’s largest meeting room, Davis alternately needled and toyed with reporters. Wearing a black leather pullover and a bandage above his left eye, he spoke with conviction though not always with clarity.
What was clear was Davis’ vanity. He made pointed efforts to point out the depth of his contributions to Oakland’s most successful season on the field since reaching the Super Bowl eight years ago.
“I did the draft,” he said, referring to one of the most impressive collections of rookies in Raiders history.
Davis, to his credit, also shouldered some of the blame for the team’s declining fortunes, conceding that he has made some questionable decisions regarding coaches and playing personnel.
The one thing that doesn’t change with Davis is his ability to provide a show. He is good theater and a marvelous public speaker. It’s as if he enters a private dressing room, opens a box, pulls out a happy face and puts it on. It was no different Tuesday, when Davis emerged to issue a reminder that he is firmly atop the Raiders’ organizational chart.