Paying tribute to Al Davis

John Turner
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"Just win baby" and "A Commitment to Excellence" were the mottos for Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who died on Saturday at age 82.

The Freak doesn’t often get to talk about NFL ownership, but whether you liked or disliked Davis he was really a renegade owner. Most of the owners in the NFL disengage themselves from the daily operations of their teams, but there are a select hands-on few like Davis, Jerry Jones, Dan Snyder and Robert Kraft.

Most owners make decisions to benefit the league as a whole. Mr. Davis wasn’t one of them – he did what he thought was best for him and his team.
Davis was outspoken, which might have rubbed people the wrong way, but The Freak liked his style and charisma. If he believed in something, he wasn’t scared to tell you how it’s going to be.

When he didn’t get his way back in 1982, he just moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles, and he loved to fire coaches. He definitely bled silver and black, and he gave players who got in trouble with the law and wore out their welcome elsewhere, or were apparently washed up, a chance to keep playing. In his own unique way, he thought he could resurrect any player’s career.

Last couple of decades

The Raiders have not had a lot of success on the field over the last couple of decades as Davis had difficulty negotiating the salary cap. They, however, may have won Davis’ fourth Super Bowl if it wasn’t for the famous tuck rule against the Pats.

Many of Davis’ high draft picks turned out to be busts – Jamarcus Russell, Robert Gallery, Todd Marinovich and Napolean Kaufman – which will cost any organization for many years.

Davis made the final decision on draft picks, and never once did he make an excuse about making bad decisions. Don’t forget, he also made some great picks in Marcus Allen, Charles Woodson, Howie Long and Tim Brown. He loved to make those intriguing picks like Rocket Ismail, Joe Aska and to draft Heisman Trophy winners like Allen, Woodson, Bo Jackson and Jim Plunkett.

The Freak thinks Davis believed what made football players successful in the ‘70s and ‘80s applied to this generation of players. The fact is players today are nothing like back in the Raiders’ glory years.

Let’s face it – players are making too much money, are not accountable for their actions, feel they are above the law and there are too many distractions to solely concentrate on football.

Should not be forgotten
The maverick Al Davis should not be forgotten. He did a lot of great things for football. Many people forget he was the first owner to draft an African American quarterback in the first round, Eldridge Dickey, in 1968. He also was ahead of the curve in terms of hiring minority coaches. Tom Flores was the first Latino coach, and the first African American field boss was Art Shell.
Finally, say what you want about "Big Al" and whether he was good for football, but at the end of the day The Freak judges someone on what they contributed to the NFL. One can say, without a doubt, that Al Davis made an impact and big impression on today’s game. He’ll be greatly missed.

Coach Parcells’ quote of the week

"When you’re losing, you coach better. You scrutinize things more closely. You’re paying attention to more detail to give your team every little edge that you can to win."

Stat of the week

Al Davis took a lot of abuse drafting Mike Huff (2006) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009) in the first round. Wasn’t it ironic that Heyward-Bey caught the winning touchdown while Huff knocked down the pass on the game’s final play to preserve Sunday’s win over Houston?

In keeping with the ironic Al Davis Raiders moments, Seb Janikowski kicked three field goals over 50 yards to tie an NFL record. He was another controversial pick in 2000. Janikowski has lived up to his billing, and is a true Raider.

Sunday, Al must have been smiling and saying, "I told you so."

Pet peeve of the week

The Freak was in Denver to see quarterback Tim Tebow’s first NFL touchdown, and the fans do love him there. But he really doesn’t look to be an every-down player in the league.

Be careful what you wish for Bronco fans. There’s no going back now!

The sure thing

Last week proved there are no sure bets in the NFL as the Giants thought they were on their bye week, and laid an egg at The Meadowlands against Seattle.

The Freak took some heat from local Steelers’ fan Paul M. for picking them to be upset by the Titans. Well, this should keep him happy as the Steelers will pound the Jags in Pittsburgh. Do you think you made a mistake Jack Del Rio in cutting quarterback Dave Garrard? Steelers win easily.

The Packers’ defence looks average, but their offence is the best in the league with so many weapons at quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ disposal. St. Louis is coming off a bye, but that just delays the inevitable. Packers romp at Lambeau.

This is the first Raiders’ home game since the passing of Al Davis. Guarantee you the harsh, rebellious Oakland crowd will be in top form for the Browns’ visit. The silver and black will be jacked up in front of their fans and, like the old Raiders, will physically beat up Cleveland. Oakland wins again, and neighbour Leard is smiling.

Don’t mortgage the house picks

The Texans don’t look like the same team without wide receiver Andre Johnson as they visit rested Baltimore. Ray Lewis and the boys will make sure Arian Foster won’t be a factor, and make Houston one dimensional. Not the words you want to hear playing the Ravens’ defence. Black Birds win.

Believe The Freak, the Giants have more problems than a math book regarding their defence. They have trouble stopping the pass as they made Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst look like the second coming of Joe Montana and Steve Young. New York has given up over 100 yards rushing the last three games, and one of the top backs in the league, Buffalo’s Freddie Jackson, comes to town. He’s a complete back and, along with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Giants’ defence won’t have answers. The Bills put a bruising on the Big Apple.

Isn’t it time the "Dream Team" comes alive? The Eagles are 1-4, and must be in desperation mode at division rival Washington. Philly basically has to win nine of their last 11 games to have a chance at the playoffs. Washington, coming off a bye week, is a surprising 3-1 atop the NFC East. The Eagles’ D has been awful, but the one thing they can do is rush the passer. If you pressure Washington quarterback Rex Grossman, he has a history of throwing to the other team. This game means more for Philly. Take the green birds.

Upset Special

The Freak has a gut feeling that the Cowboys will go into Foxboro, and play a complete game for the first time this year.

Quarterback Tony Romo will have a good game against that Pats’ secondary, and will keep his mistakes to a minimum. Tom Brady will have to contend with linebacker Demarcus Ware, who gets pressure on every snap. Brady is usually unbeatable at home during regular season, but he is due for one bad game.

Dallas wins in a shootout.

Last week: 5-for-7 (71.4 per cent).

Season: 27-for-36 (75 per cent).

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to the

Organizations: NFL, Giants, Steelers The Meadowlands Titans Browns Big Apple Dream Team Cowboys

Geographic location: Oakland, Los Angeles, Houston Washington Denver Seattle Pittsburgh St. Louis Cleveland Baltimore New York Dallas Summerside

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