ALAMEDA — The last time the Oakland Raiders played the New England Patriots in 2011, what followed was among the most dejected periods in franchise history.
Former Raiders coach and owner Al Davis passed at the age of 82 the following Saturday. While Davis — or Al, as Raider Nation calls him — is no longer a decision maker, Patriots coach Bill Belichick feels as though his legacy is in the roster:
“It’s strange not having (Davis) in the league period. Owners meetings, the combine, things where I would frequently cross paths with Mr. Davis and be able to talk with him or talk football, exchange pleasantries and say hello. I miss not seeing him on the field, before the game. That was always his spot, right in front of the bench.”
Davis served as Raiders general manager from the glory days of the 1970s and 80s, through the 2001 season when the Tuck Rule game occurred and Oakland’s last Super Bowl appearance during the 2002 season.
The season after Davis’ passing, Reggie McKenzie stepped into the GM role. According to Belichick, McKenzie has continued down the path of Davis:
“Sure does (look like an Al Davis team). They’re big and they’re fast, at all of the positions. Not just on the offensive line, you can say that about the receivers, defensive backs, the team’s speed that they have at linebacker and in the secondary. It’s as good as we’ve seen. They can really run, done good in the kicking game as far as coverage units. They’ve got guys that can run are big and physical. It looks like an Al Davis team, sure does.”
Belichick continued, mentioning the Raiders’ most recent draft selections:
“All the guys they’ve drafted, Gabe Jackson is enormous, Carr is a big athletic quarterback. The defensive side of the ball, (Khalil) Mack and (T.J.) Carrie. Those guys, (Justin) Ellis, I mean they’re all big, explosive, physical, fast players. Athletic players. I think this team definitely has that trademark.”
Davis’ trademark was to be the biggest and fastest football team in the league. While there were mixed results from year to year — and three Super Bowl wins, in 1976, 1980 and 1983 — Davis left a mark on the NFL which may have made it the most popular professional league in America.
Moore, for his speed. Woodson, for his defensive prowess and sheer ability. Janikowski, for the boldness Davis continuously showed, the only kicker to ever be drafted in the first round.
There was, though, some bad that came with Davis’ selections. And since Davis passed, the Raiders have put together consecutive 4-12 records with little hope in sight.
Dennis Allen, by the naked eye, is coaching for his job. And McKenzie, though his efforts look great on paper, hasn’t yet proven an ability to field a winning football team.
Allen contends that his only focus is beating the New England Patriots, the standard line for any coach on the hot seat.
In reality, focusing on the team ahead is the only way to keep his job. But the Patriots have been perennial winners, missing the postseason only once in the last 10 years. And it’s an uphill fight that favors New England.
General speculation has it that Allen’s job is safe until the Week 5 bye week, something that current Raiders owner Mark Davis seems to agrees with.
For now, though, the Raiders will try and work the upset to change the narrative regarding the potential of this year’s team.