Davis' disappearing act disappointing

Throughout the offseason the Raiders have managed to stay fairly active in the daily headlines, which is not an easy feat for a team coming off its seventh consecutive season with 10 or more losses. Yet the one man everyone, from sports writers to the frustrated fan base, wants to hear from has remained conspicuous by his absence from the forefront.

Since sitting alongside Richard Seymour on Sept. 12 when the Raiders announced a completion of the trade with New England, owner Al Davis has kept a very low public profile. Outside of occasionally pausing to talk to reporters in training camp and a few brief appearances during the regular season, Davis has stayed out of the public eye.

It wouldn't be an issue if the Raiders operated like most other NFL franchises, with a general manager or director of player personnel who would talk about the team's movements.

But throughout the entire drawn out Tom Cable is-he-staying-or-is-he-going affair and the decisions to cut ties with five starters from last season, not to mention the increasing prospect of a league-wide lockout in 2011, there hasn't been a single peep out of Davis. Heck, Big Al even resisted the urge to comment publicly when his arch-nemesis Lane Kiffin was hired as head coach at USC, which until that point had been one of Davis' favorite teams.

Normally, it wouldn't even be an issue. It's not like Davis holds weekly, monthly or even yearly press conferences. He detests the media and believes public relations are a waste of time.

Instead, he operates behind closed doors and doesn't care what is being written or said about him.

Consider the case of Cable.

For weeks rumors that his job was in jeopardy swirled about, picking up steam almost every day. But instead of issuing a denial or addressing the rumors, Davis sat on his hands.

This is an issue both for personal reasons as well as on a broader scope. Davis is an iconic figure, not only in the NFL but in professional sports in general. He is part legend and part myth, both of which grow — for the better or worse — with every move he makes.

He has become more of a target over the past two decades as the Raiders, save for a brief stretch at the turn of the century, have struggled to put points on the board, wins in the standings and, more importantly, butts in the seats at the Coliseum.

Still, his press conferences are events you cannot miss as a reporter and not just for the occasional overhead projector thrown in for effect. Davis is not shy about speaking his opinion and never misses an opportunity to take jabs at those who he feels have crossed him in some way or another.

Rich Gannon, league MVP in 2002 who helped the Raiders win three straight division crowns not to mention a spot in Super Bowl XXXVII is a case in point. Davis, straight-faced and without regret, mocked Gannon's five interception performance in the championship game then later tried to ban his former player after what he perceived were unforgivable criticisms of the team.

Warren Sapp, another former Raider who has had some not-so-nice things to say about the franchise, was equally blasted by Davis.

That's why his silence these past six months has been so disheartening. I would have given my left arm to be in the room the day Davis found out good ol' Lane got the head coaching vacancy at ‘SC.

Davis considers Southern California a second home, which is not surprising since he actually does own a home in that half of the state. But his love affair with the Trojans and all thing cardinal and gold extends far back.

He was an assistant coach at USC from 1957-59 and has drafted a multitude of players from the school over his years as owner of the Raiders.

Davis undoubtedly had to smile to himself when he heard that Lane Kiffin bolted Tennessee after one year, confirming to a certain extent what Davis had warned he would do.

But at the same time, it had to feel like a kick to the gut when Davis found out that the job Kiffin split Tennessee for was at USC, of all places. Send him to Florida State, put him up at Miami, heck even give him the gig at Notre Dame. But USC? Then there are the personnel moves the Raiders have made this season.

After two years of throwing around money with a reckless abandon backed by questionable personnel moves, the team has taken a decidedly different approach this season.

Wiped from the books is the underachieving trio of wide receiver Javon Walker, defensive tackle Gerard Warren and right tackle Cornell Green. Oakland also cut ties with running back Justin Fargas and defensive end Greg Ellis, both of whom were popular leaders in the locker room.

Sure, Davis found time — and the cash — to make free-agent-to-be Sebastian Janikowski the highest-paid kicker in the NFL.

But unlike the Raiders recent history, the strings have been tightened on the budget. Maybe it's a reflection of the economy. While none of the NFL's 32 teams can cry poor, small-market teams like Oakland, which is also dealing with a frustrated fan base and dwindling attendance at the turnstiles, are feeling the hit a little more than others. Again, here's where a general manager usually comes into play. Bruce Allen, while not carrying that title, certainly worked in that capacity during his time in Oakland and was always available to talk to the beat reporters covering the team no matter what time of the year it was and no matter the topic.

But not even talking to a GM seven days a week compares to spending 20-30 minutes with Davis. He is as good as it gets and never fails to disappoint.

So what's up Al? Give me a call sometime. We've got lots to talk about.

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