It’s nearly impossible to not compare the owners of two of the most followed, recognized and winning-est, NFL franchises in pro football. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said himself that Raiders owner Al Davis was a friend and huge influence on him and how he runs his organization. Al was an encouragement to Jerry when Jerry first took over the Cowboys and endured some tough times at first. Both of these men have been a part of winning Super Bowls in the NFL and they also have been described as implementing a very “hands on” approach to running their teams.
Their brands have a national following that have been the biggest in all of sports with “Americas Team” and “Raider Nation”. But lately things haven’t been so good.
Both owners/GMs certainly have their critics with what has transpired in the last 10 years and deservedly so. Jerry’s legacy is still being made while Davis passed away last year and leaves a Raiders organization trying to find its way again. Both brought their sons into the business and seem to keep them on a very short leash as they conduct business their way whether it is best for the organization or not.
In the past when Jones or Davis brought in strong leaders who would turn the team around, they would suddenly part ways with them inexplicably other than the fact that it is all about Davis and Jones.
Jerry parted ways with Jimmy Johnson after they won Super Bowls together. It appears they just couldn’t get along. Then later after three consecutive miserable losing seasons with Dave Campo as head coach, in desperation, Jerry brought Bill Parcells out of retirement to turn things around. Parcels made an immediate impact in leading the Cowboys into the playoffs with winning records. While they didn’t win a Super Bowl under four years of Parcells, it was clear that he had the team headed in the right direction.
He just couldn’t quite get over the hump so Parcells retired again and then Jerry brought in Wade Phillips who had an outstanding regular season in 2007 with a team that Parcells put together but after that it went down hill. Eventually Phillips was fired.
Al Davis hired a young assistant coach from the Eagles name Jon Gruden back in 1998 and his impact was an immediate turn around of a losing Raiders team. Gruden went 12-4 and made it to the AFC championship game in 2000. But after the 2001 season, Davis surprisingly released Gruden to the Buccaneers and brought in Bill Calahan as head coach who was recently named the Cowboys new Offensive line coach incidentally. It would appear that Gruden and Davis just didn’t get along.
Similar to Phillips first year with Dallas, Callahan had a great first year that took the Raiders to the Super Bowl where as fate would have it, they were defeated by Gruden’s Buccaneers team. And like Phillips, it all went down hill from there as the Raiders returned to their losing ways under Callahan.
In recent years before his death, Davis tried a couple offensive coordinators Lane Kiffin and Hue Jackson as head coach but the Raiders finished 8-8 last year and just missed the playoffs again. Sound familiar? Jones promoted offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to head coach and the Cowboys went 8-8 just missing the playoffs too.
On January 6, 2012, the Raiders brought in Reggie Mckenzie from the Packers to be their first GM since Davis. On the first day, Mckenzie fired head coach Hue Jackson after his 8-8 season and hired a defensive coordinator from the Broncos, Dennis Allen as head coach.
It will be very interesting to see how this new chapter plays out for the Raiders. Eventually they will no longer be able to blame Davis for their troubles. Of course they may just return to their winning ways with better personnel decisions and more solid coaching relationships. It all remains to be seen.
The legacy of Al Davis will depend a great deal on what happens now that he no longer has complete control of all things to do with Raiders. Will it be a good one or not? Which ever legacy unfolds, Jerry Jones is facing a similar one.