As we eagerly await the start of NFL training camp, it is nice to use this time to reflect on some pivotal moments in the Raiders’ history. One such moment came back in 2011 with the passing of the team’s legendary owner, Al Davis.
For most of his time as owner of the Raiders, Davis had the final say on decisions within the organization. Since he passed away, his son, Mark Davis, has taken control of the team. However, unlike his old man, Mark has no problem delegating some decisions to his general managers and coaches.
Highlighting The Raiders 3 Worst Decisions Of The Post-Al Davis Era
Today, we will take a stroll down memory lane. Several decisions fit the label, but let’s narrow it down to the most head-scratching moves. These three mistakes stand above the rest in the post-Al Davis era.
No. 3: Losing Khalil Mack
The Raiders hit a home run with the No. 5 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. In his first four years, Khalil Mack took the league by storm. The star pass rusher amassed a laundry list of honors, including two first-team All-Pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year Award on top of three Pro Bowl nods.
Everything was going great as Mack was on the fast-track to becoming a legend for the Raiders. Then, it came time to extend his contract. Here is where we get a double whammy of bad decisions.
First, there was the issue of negotiating his contract. Those talks never seemed to come close to an agreement. The triumvirate of Mark Davis, Reggie McKenzie, and Jon Gruden attempted to play hardball. They believed they could fall back on Mack’s fifth-year option; instead, this drove Mack to hold out. The decision not to report to the team led the Raiders to trade Mack rather than risk him sitting out the season.
Vegas Never Recovered From The Mack Trade
That itself would not have been bad enough to wind up on this list. In fact, considering the haul the Raiders received, which included two first-round picks, it could have even been seen as a win. However, the issue comes when assessing what the front office did with those selections.
The picks that the Raiders got back in return ultimately became Josh Jacobs, Damon Arnette, and Bryan Edwards.
Jacobs has been a star for the franchise, but he plays a less valuable position than Mack. Also, he may be on his way out the door in a similar fashion.
It gets considerably worse after that. Arnette is no longer in the league, and Edwards will be on his third team as he heads into his fourth season in the league. Not only did the Raiders fail to retain Mack, but they lost the trade.
No. 2: Firing Bill Musgrave
Remember the high-powered 2016 Raiders’ offense? It was one of the best Raider Nation had seen in years. They were fun to watch and lit up the scoreboard with ease. Weirdly, there was a significant drop-off the following season, despite returning most of the key personnel.
But, there was one crucial departure: offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. He was fired after the 2016 season and replaced by Todd Downing, the team’s quarterbacks coach at the time.
This decision was puzzling from the start, considering Musgrave’s offense was seventh in the league in points and sixth in yards. The move caused a lot of speculation about why the Raiders decided to move on.
Raiders Overthink It With Todd Downing
At first, many thought the Raiders just wanted to appease Downing, fearing he would go elsewhere. Then allegations came out, stating head coach Jack Del Rio had beef with Musgrave. It is also fair to wonder if the play-calling late in the Colts game that year played a part. Perhaps the injury to Derek Carr had something to do with the decision.
Regardless, the Raiders haven’t been higher than tenth in scoring or eighth in yards since Musgrave’s departure. Also, this regression on offense caused the Raiders to miss the playoffs in 2017, leading to Del Rio’s firing. That, of course, led to yet another rebuild.
The alleged wunderkind Downing has yet to produce a top-15 offense anywhere he’s been in the NFL. Talk about adding insult to injury.
No. 1: Not Extending Rich Bisaccia
Speaking of coaching changes, we must address the most recent major shakeup on the coaching staff. Early in the 2021 season, Rich Bisaccia took over as interim head coach following the Jon Gruden email scandal. Despite this distraction, the Henry Ruggs incident, the Damon Arnette incident, and a slew of injuries, Bisaccia was able to rally the team to its first playoff berth since 2016.
By the end of the season, he had won over much of Raider Nation, and by all accounts, the Raiders’ locker room. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep Mark Davis from going in a different direction.
After the firing of general manager Mike Mayock, the search for a replacement GM began. In today’s NFL, coaches and general managers often come as package deals. This proved to be the case in Vegas with the hiring of Dave Ziegler. From the jump, it was clear that Ziegler planned on bringing Josh McDaniels with him from New England. It wasn’t long before Bisaccia heard the news.
The writing was on the wall.
McDaniels Failing To Match Bisaccia’s Success With Raiders
So far, the McDaniels era has not been off to a great start. The Raiders finished 6-11, a significant regression from the previous season. This setback happened despite adding Davante Adams to the offense. During the current offseason, key members of that 2021 team, such as Derek Carr and Darren Waller, have been jettisoned.
Rumors are swirling that Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow could soon be next. All signs point towards another rebuild. One has to wonder what things would look like if the Raiders chose to run it back with Bisaccia instead. One thing is certain: Al Davis is rolling over in his grave.
*Top Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images