Mark Davis is hell-bent on proving he can bring the Raiders back to greatness.
The problem is that some people think he’s ill-equipped to solve the simplest problems.
The latest example came Sunday as Las Vegas dropped to 0-3 this season with a frustrating loss to Tennessee. All three losses this season have been by less than a touchdown, amplifying the disappointment in a team that most fans expected to make great strides. The Raiders had overcome distraction last year to make the playoffs and then traded for star wide receiver Davante Adams this year.
But after the loss to Tennessee, Davis and first-year coach Josh McDaniels met privately before McDaniels addressed the media. No one has commented on the substance of the meeting. Was Davis angry with McDaniels? Was McDaniels pushing to solve a specific problem? Right now, there are any number of guesses.
Mark Davis-Josh McDaniels Conversation Born Of Angst
One thing is clear: The conversation was born of angst. This wasn’t some joyful celebration. It was either anger over the 0-3 start or some search for answers amid the frustration. It was, in the simplest form, unsettling. Davis’ response only made it worse in the view of one team insider.
“If you’re a leader, you have to be calm in these moments. You don’t want to create more chaos. Let people know the expectations and the consequences, but don’t create more instability,” the source within the organization said. “Right now, we have nothing but instability. Every time we seem to get something moving the right direction, something else happens.”
Is that because of or in spite of Davis’ stewardship?
“Any organization starts at the top. We all know that … when the boss comes to talk to the coach after a loss, it makes everybody talk … the media talks about it, the fans, the assistant coaches, the secretaries, the executives, and yes, the players. The thing is that’s all unnecessary. Mark isn’t firing Josh after three games. That’s absurd. There are always peaks and valleys in a season. The key is to not get too high or too low. You have to get through it and focus on the task,” the source said.
Then why didn’t Davis do that?
“Mark talks as if he knows the right thing to do, but he really has doesn’t have a clue,” said the source.
The source then recalled the story of how Davis had then-coach Jon Gruden speak to the team executives before the 2021 season. This was after a mass exodus of top executives, including long-time employee and President Marc Badain, had caused concern among the staff.
“That was a classic. Gruden is talking about pulling together as a team to people who are wondering who is making complex business decisions. Mark thought it was great, but the employees were more confused than ever,” the source said.
Davis Trying To Exceed His Father’s Accomplishments
Davis has privately said many times that his goal is to not just recreate the greatness of the Raiders, but to even exceed the accomplishments of his famous father Al. The Raiders are also the only business Mark Davis has ever been involved with in his life. He has told numerous people that he will never sell the team.
However, if you were looking for an adjective that perfectly describes Davis’ leadership of the Raiders, “unsettled” would be a good choice. It has now been 11 years since Davis took control of the team from his father, a man who arguably belongs on the Mount Rushmore of NFL figures.
In those 11 years, Davis has been through five head coaches. He has a record of 71-105 with two first-round playoff losses. He also uprooted the Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas in a move that has been a financial boom, but highly questionable from a competitive standpoint.
Away from the field, the Raiders have been a literal threat to public safety. First-round pick Henry Ruggs killed a woman and her dog in an early-morning drunk-driving accident in which he was clocked driving 156 mph. That was one of three DUI incidents Raiders players have had in three years since moving to Las Vegas.
The Raiders cut cornerback Damon Arnette last year after he posted a video on social media in which he brandished a gun and threatened to kill someone.
This came on top of simply embarrassing moments, such as the team and Gruden having to part ways after emails came out from before Gruden was coach in which Gruden made homophobic and racist comments. Since then, there have been multiple allegations of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment for women in the organization.
Then there was the aforementioned executive exodus, which continued this year when long-time team attorney Dan Ventrelle left the team after outside attorney Sandra Douglass Morgan was named president. Ventrelle publicly said he had been in contact with the league about the sexual harassment charges and had talked to Davis directly about the issue.
Can The Raiders Right The Ship?
The bigger issue, however, may be whether the Raiders have the people in place to right the ship.
“Do you realize how much institutional knowledge of the Raiders we have lost in the past year-plus?” the source said, rhetorically. “All the people Mark used to trust are gone and he has no personal relationship with anybody. At least nobody who actually has a clue.”
That institutional knowledge has been replaced by people with strong league ties.
Douglass Morgan not only worked in Nevada and Las Vegas government, but was in private practice at the Covington & Burling LLP. Covington & Burling is the long-time outside law firm that represents the NFL. Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue worked for that firm and Gregg Levy, who was final choice with Roger Goodell as the person to replace Tagliabue in 2006, is with Covington & Burling.
That has led to speculation that the NFL is quietly trying to guide Davis and perhaps eventually get him to sell the team. League officials have denied that and have always been wary of dealing directly with the Raiders because Al Davis was constantly willing to challenge the league in court.
But those issues are far removed from the field. For now, there’s enough instability on the field.