Mark Davis

Mark Davis Addresses New Raiders Power Structure

This offseason’s provided the first taste of Jon Gruden taking some of Reggie McKenzie’s power within the Raiders’ organization. Mark Davis clarified the setup, confirming McKenzie won’t have as much responsibility as he once did.

In authorizing a 10-year contract for Gruden, Davis has confirmed the now-two-time Raiders head coach’s voice is the most important in the building.

They have roles to play. At this point in time, the role Reggie plays now is a little different than the role he played with Jack (Del Rio), a little different than his role working with Dennis (Allen),” Davis said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“It evolves. (McKenzie) has built the team to where we are now, and we’re in pretty good shape with the cap and everything else. Now he has a head coach who’s going to be running this thing for the next 10 years. His vision is going to be most important building what type of team we’ve got.”

Davis added that McKenzie maintains control of Oakland’s salary cap. But Gruden appears to have a much bigger say about free agency targets than his McKenzie-era predecessors did. The Raiders have added several veterans who are north of 30 — like Jordy Nelson, Leon Hall, Dwayne Harris, Breno Giacomini and Shareece Wright — and others non-fifth-year UFAs (Doug Martin, Tahir Whitehead, Emmanuel Lamur, Marcus Gilchrist).

Jon’s the head coach and he’s going to be here a while, so it’s important that he gets the players he wants and builds a team he wants to build,” Davis said. “Reggie is there with his staff to find the players, and also to keep the (salary) cap and everything else in order.”

McKenzie constructed a roster that ended the Raiders’ lengthy playoff drought, with a 12-4 2016 showing, but that group underwhelmed last season and regressed to a six-win outfit.

Davis said he won’t meddle often in the personnel side and confirmed his goal of bringing Gruden back to Oakland took more than five years to come to fruition.

I’m done with the football side,” Davis said. “I got Reggie in place early. That was huge. But it was a six-year process to get Jon to be the head coach. I wanted him way back then, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I continually kept after Jon to see if he was interested. If he decided to come back, I hoped it would be with the Raiders. This year, he finally came on board.

That allows me to see a long-term process working out on the football side. Jon will be our coach for the next 10 years, or until he gets tired of me. With him and Reggie on the football side of the building, and (director of football administration) Tom Delaney of course, they really do a great job. From the football side, I play devil’s advocate on certain things, but those guys make the decisions.”

AFC Notes: Anthem, Jets, Raiders, Broncos

Among the most divisive issues facing the NFL today are national anthem protests. That division is also felt among the owners themselves, who are currently in Orlando for the annual owner’s meetings.

Outspoken on the subject for more than a year, Texans owner Bob McNair issued another statement on the issue on Sunday, saying, according to The Washington Post’s Mark Maske (Twitter link):

“We’re going to deal with it in such a way, I think, that people will understand that we want everybody to respect our country, respect our flag. And our playing fields, that’s not the place for political statements.”

Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, however, falls on the other side of the argument, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert (Twitter link).

“I can’t speak to how other people run their teams, but I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea.”

Despite McNair’s seeming assuredness, the owners do not appear to be near to a solution. The issue is sure to permeate throughout the meetings.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Sticking with the Jets, wide receiver Robby Anderson had his court date moved from Monday to Aug. 6, according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The new date will now take place while the Jets are at training camp. The charges, stemming from a January incident, include three felonies: second-degree felony harm to a public servant or family, third-degree felony fleeing/eluding police while lights/siren active and third-degree felony speeding. After being arrested, Anderson threatened to sexually assault the wife of the arresting officer, according to reports. Anderson was allegedly clocked at 105 mph in 45-mph zone speeding away from police while running multiple red lights.
  • Broncos general manager and executive vice president of football operations John Elway said the team doesn’t know who it plans to take with the No. 5 pick in 2018 NFL Draft, 9 News’ Mike Klis writes. “You know we’re wide open, to be dead honest with you,’’ Elway said. “Who knows how it’s all going to fall. The Jets have already moved (from the No. 6 pick up to No. 3) and there’s going to be other teams that may be moving around, too, so we’re going to go through and have those discussions. I will tell ya, it’s funny how people think they know who you’re drafting because I don’t know who we’re drafting, yet. We’re going to do our homework and eventually get there.’’ 
  • Raiders owner Mark Davis said with the hiring of new head coach Jon Gruden, he plans to be done with the football side of the organization, NBC Sports’ Scott Bair tweets. “It was a six-year process to get Jon to be the head coach,” Davis said. “This year, he finally came on board. That allows me to see a long-term process working out on the football side. … I play devil’s advocate on certain things, but those guys make the decisions.”

 

 

Jack Del Rio Out In Oakland

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio was informed after the team’s Week 17 loss to the Chargers that he would not be retained, the coach told reporters including the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken (Twitter link). Jack Del Rio (vertical)

In his postgame press conference, the coach told reporters he was notified “two minutes ago” by Raiders owner Mark Davis of his decision. Del Rio said, “He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to get this program going to right direction, but that he felt he needed a change.” Del Rio expressed gratitude for the opportunity Davis gave him when he hired him in 2015.

Following a breakout 2016 campaign that saw the Raiders go 12-4, Oakland entered 2017 as potential Super Bowl contenders with a loaded offense and a solid defense. Things didn’t go according to plan and the Raiders scuffled to a 6-10 mark.

The firing comes on the heels of the Raiders’ reported pursuit of the team’s former head coach Jon Gruden. Reports claim the Raiders could offer the ESPN analyst an ownership stake in the team to take over as head coach.

In his three seasons as head coach, Del Rio amassed a 25-23 mark and advanced to the postseason in 2016 for the first time since the team lost the Super Bowl in 2002.

With young stars Derek Carr and Amari Cooper on offense and a game-changing talent on defense in Khalil Mack, the Raiders head-coaching job is arguably the top gig that will become available this offseason.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Raiders, Fins, Hightower, Broncos

A thorough ESPN.com piece regarding the Raiders‘ move to Las Vegas revealed that Mark Davis was considering a move to Sin City as far back as 2014. While Davis’ intentions with Vegas didn’t become public until 2016, a dinner with NFL executive VP — and stadium-financing point man — Eric Grubman he wanted to take the Raiders to the desert. But Grubman was far more skeptical at the time. “Mark, you’ll never get approved to Las Vegas,” Grubman said, via Don Van Natta Jr. and Seth Wickersham of ESPN.They’ll oppose it on principle. It’s not gonna happen.” Davis described it as a “good market” at the time and eventually won out, largely because of Oakland’s inability to craft a stadium plan the NFL viewed as viable.

Here’s more on the Raiders and the latest coming out of the AFC.

  • Sheldon Adelson did attempt to force Davis into giving him a stake in the Raiders. Davis refused, and part of Adelson’s removal from the project stemmed from the NFL owners having doubts about the casino mogul’s involvement. Van Natta and Wickersham allude to Adelson being irate at the Raiders for their tactics during this relocation push. This could be something to monitor down the line, with Davis and Adelson set to operate as high-powered figures in the same city relatively soon.
  • Dolphins owner Stephen Ross viewed the team’s exit of a top market as questionable. Miami’s top decision-maker wondered if the Raiders should be stripped from the NFL’s revenue-sharing program for a decade because of the team downsizing considerably in market size — going from No. 6 to No. 40 — and accepting $200MM via NFL loan, the ESPN reporters note. Ross was the lone dissenter among NFL owners regarding the Raiders’ move to Nevada.
  • Dont’a Hightower has bonuses of $54K per game during each contest within the four-year deal he signed to stay with the Patriots, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reports. Hightower also has $2MM per year in incentives that are largely tied to playing time. The middle linebacker would receive $375K if he played in 65 percent of the Pats’ snaps, plus separate $250K incentives for 70 and 75 percent snap counts. Another $125K would come Hightower’s way if he took part in 80 percent of New England’s defensive plays. This seems to tie into the kind of health-based concerns the Jets and Steelers had when considering (and offering) Hightower. He played in just more than 67 percent of New England’s defensive snaps last season.
  • A scenario involving a Jets trade of their 2017 first-round pick for a 2018 first-rounder — in an attempt to corner the quarterback market via two first-round picks next year — doesn’t make as much sense, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes. Despite the belief better quarterbacks will be in that draft, the job security for Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles is not strong enough to make this kind of transaction. New York has been linked to Mitch Trubisky at No. 6 but obviously selected Christian Hackenberg last year before signing Josh McCown. Another rookie might stall an effort for Bowles to convince ownership the Jets are headed in the right direction.
  • The Broncos took the third-fewest snaps out of the shotgun (411) in the league last season, but that figure is expected to rise. Mike McCoy is expected to incorporate more gun looks, likely with an eye on aiding Paxton Lynch‘s development, Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post notes. Lynch told Jhabvala he’s “excited” about more shotgun sets being implemented because of his work in that formation at Memphis. McCoy famously made radical changes to Denver’s offense during his first stint as OC, tailoring an offense to Tim Tebow‘s unique abilities midway through the 2011 season before pivoting back to a pass-first attack once Peyton Manning arrived in 2012. Lynch, though, may have work to do to unseat Trevor Siemian, who fared much better in Gary Kubiak‘s offense.

NFL Helped Raiders Secure Vegas Funding?

When the Chargers announced in January they were taking the NFL up on its offer to join the Rams in Los Angeles, the NFL foresaw a possible route to San Diego for the Raiders. The league did not want that, so it shifted focus from helping the Raiders procure a new stadium in Oakland to making sure the Las Vegas deal didn’t fall though, Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN.com report in an expansive story chronicling the Raiders’ move to Sin City.

As the Raiders’ Vegas deal was flailing after the departures of Sheldon Adelson and Goldman Sachs in during the winter, league executives joined Raiders president Marc Badain in contacting Bank of America, according to Van Natta and Wickersham. The company soon replaced Adelson as a backer, injecting new life into the Raiders’ Vegas venture, and pledged a near-$1 billion line of credit to cover cost overruns from the impending stadium construction project.

Jerry Jones also played a role in this key chapter of the Raiders’ relocation process. Mark Davis said to Jones at one point last year, “you screwed me on L.A.” and Jones began to act feverishly to help the Raiders relocate. The Cowboys owner put his full support behind the project, something the league and the Raiders appreciated, according to the ESPN reporters, and attempted to procure financing for the endeavor. But some around the league are concerned with the fallout.

Jones’ push helped bring some owners off the fence, paving the way for the 31-1 relocation vote. But it irked another influential owner. Robert Kraft took exception to Jones’ stake in Legends Hospitality, a merchandise and concessions company that could stand to benefit from the $1.9 billion stadium deal.

Sources told Wickersham and Van Natta that Legends emerged as a contender to partner with the Raiders for nonfootball revenue. Kraft spoke to Adelson, a longtime friend who played a key role in helping secure the Raiders the record $750MM in public money before stepping aside due partially to a falling out with Davis, and told him “Jerry is running wild; I can’t believe this.” Adelson, according to the ESPN reporters, then said he would “kill” the Raiders’ deal in Vegas if Kraft wanted. But Kraft, who had been a backer of the Raiders’ effort, did not want to exercise that prospective option.

Kraft wasn’t the only high-powered NFL figure who was suspicious of Jones’ help here. The Dallas owner helping sway his peers while potentially factoring into the stadium’s finances would cause “a major conflict of interest,” a longtime aide to an NFL owner told ESPN, who added the question of “won’t Mark Davis always be beholden to Jerry Jones?” Bank of America has served as the Cowboys’ bank for 25 years, along with a team sponsor. It’s also the Raiders’ longtime bank.

Davis and NFL executive VP Eric Grubman were working toward different goals, with Davis concentrating solely with Vegas and Grubman working to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Grubman, who also attempted to work with St. Louis last year while Stan Kroenke set his sights on Los Angeles, concluded in December — according to ESPN — Oakland did not have a viable proposal. At that same December league meeting, Badain called Oakland’s proposal a “political, cover-your-ass joke” and said in October, per ESPN, “it would have been better if (Oakland) had offered nothing.”

The stadium proposals received from Oakland are dependent on various contingencies and involve a number of significant uncertainties that membership concluded cannot be solved in a reasonable time,” the league’s statement on the Raiders’ relocation reads (via Scott Bair of CSNBayArea.com, on Twitter), also citing the lack of Oakland progress in a two-year period after the league denied relocation applications in 2015 and placed the Raiders behind the Rams and Chargers in the Los Angeles pecking order a year later. “The proposal to relocate to Las Vegas involves a clearly defined and well-financed proposal for a first-class stadium.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mark Davis “Dead Set” On Las Vegas

This will not come as much of a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, but Raiders owner Mark Davis is reportedly “dead set” on moving his club to Las Vegas and has abandoned all pretense of hearing out plans to keep the Raiders in Oakland. Elliott Almond of The Mercury News writes that Davis has not met with Oakland officials in over a year, and he did not speak with Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio two weeks ago, when Davis listened to Cappio and other officials make a pitch in Florida to other NFL owners.

Mark Davis (vertical)

Indeed, Davis has not so much as commented on the stadium plan put forth by Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott, though as Almond reports, sources familiar with both plans say Oakland could still have a chance to win over enough owners to keep the team where it is. Some owners, apparently, still have concerns about “funding infrastructure” in Las Vegas.

We learned last week that the Raiders will likely not have a lease agreement for a proposed Las Vegas stadium in place before the league owners meet later this month. Nonetheless, the absence of a finalized lease agreement does not mean the league owners will be precluded from voting on the relocation proposal. Instead, they could conditionally approve the relocation as long as the lease adequately addresses issues that are important to the league.

While Davis’ apparent reluctance to even consider Oakland’s overtures will surely anger and frustrate Bay Area fans, Almond reports that Lott’s plan has a fair share of flaws and has been met with skepticism by key league executives. Plus, the city’s proposal is still six to eight months away from being fully complete, which means that Oakland’s fading hopes are contingent upon league owners either postponing the relocation vote or voting against the move altogether, the latter of which seems highly unlikely.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Oakland, Las Vegas Stadium Efforts

Mark Davis has yet to publicly acknowledge the recent efforts the city of Oakland has made to keep the Raiders in the Bay Area, but some progress between the team and its current city came to light on Monday.

Raiders officials were to meet today with Bay Area stadium proponents from the NFL and the city of Oakland, according to an NFL Network report (via CSNBayArea.com). This comes a day before Oakland and Alameda County are slated to vote on a stadium proposal term sheet — a $1.3 billion project with a substantial financial pledge from the Ronnie Lott-fronted Fortress Investment Group.

The first known meeting between the Raiders and integral players behind this proposal represents a step, and it comes when the farther-along Las Vegas venture has hit a snag.

Davis and Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson, who has helped spearhead this prospective Vegas site for the Raiders, have encountered difficulties making a deal, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. While Nevada governor Brian Sandoval and the state legislature have already approved the $750MM in public money to be put toward this new stadium, additional funding for the $1.9 billion domed venue would come from the Raiders, the NFL and Adelson’s group. That hasn’t proved to be a smooth process, and Florio notes Davis not yet denouncing the Oakland stadium effort could be a calculated move to maintain some leverage in the Vegas talks.

Florio reports the past two weeks have been difficult between Davis and Adelson as they negotiate. One of the potential sticking points could be the casino mogul being expected to push for partial ownership of the Raiders and a path to control of the team. That could also be an issue for the NFL, with its past (and potentially present) hesitancy regarding placing a team in Sin City. This also isn’t the first time word of contention between Adelson and the Raiders has surfaced.

I negotiated to bring in the Oakland Raiders, an NFL football team from Oakland, because they don’t have a stadium there, that I would build a stadium and rent it out to the Oakland Raiders,” Adelson said in October. “They want so much. So I told my people, ‘Tell them I could live with the deal, I could live without the deal. Here’s the way it’s gonna go down. If they don’t want it, bye-bye.”

Davis and Adelson are still expected to strike a deal, per Florio, who notes that won’t occur because Adelson suddenly gives in. This will be a key topic of conversation at this week’s owners meetings, with a December summit again featuring relocation as a major issue.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Raiders, Cowboys, Redskins, Draft

More details of Oakland’s scrutinized plan to keep the Raiders emerged this weekend, but things aren’t too much smoother on the Las Vegas front for the franchise. As recently as two weeks ago, Mark Davis was told he did not have enough votes from his fellow owners to move the team to Sin City, Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com reports.

This status could obviously change since a relocation vote hasn’t been scheduled yet, but the Raiders owner has not participated in the Oakland plan. Despite owners’ public preferences on Vegas mostly a mystery at this juncture, although obvious hesitancy persists due to the market size and Vegas’ gambling connections, the recent emergence of a Bay Area plan without the Raiders on board leaves the league in a strange spot regarding the future of one of its most famous franchises.

Ratto notes the NFL is not particuarly fond of a business arrangement with either Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas, or the Fortress Group in the Bay Area despite Ronnie Lott‘s involvement. He can envision a scenario where the league stalls this process until one of the solutions becomes tenable in its view.

Here’s more from around the league on the eve of Week 14 Sunday.

  • Today’s extension for Jamar Taylor could mean the new Browns regime is eyeing a trade of Joe Haden. The veteran corner has struggled in back-to-back seasons, and Tony Grossi of ESPNCleveland.com tweets the Browns will potentially see what kind of market exists for the veteran corner on draft weekend. Pro Football Focus rates Haden as its No. 96 overall corner, and the former first-round pick — signed to a five-year, $67.5MM deal in May of 2014 — played in just five games in 2015.
  • The Cowboys will be playing without return specialist Lucky Whitehead against the Giants due apparently to a Snapchat-induced issue, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. A team-rules violation officially kept Whitehead from traveling with the team to New Jersey, and Charean Williams and Drew Davison of the Star-Telegram report a missed meeting factored into this as well. Whitehead’s returned 19 punts and 10 kickoffs this season. Lance Dunbar and Cole Beasley are listed as the specialty backups.
  • Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are headed for free agency and it has been said that the Redskins will not retain both players. Which wide receiver should be retained? Mark Bullock of The Washington Post dove deep into game footage to figure out which player is more valuable for Washington. He concludes that the Redskins should keep Jackson because he is still a legitimate deep threat, something the team lacks without him. In addition to his own touchdown bombs, Bullock says that DJax can open up space for Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder.
  • Reed is expected to return to action Sunday against the Eagles after missing Week 13 with a shoulder injury, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.
  • Cancer survivor James Conner will forego his final season at Pittsburgh and enter the draft, Jared Shanker of ESPN.com reports. Conner scored 56 touchdowns — the most in ACC history — in just three seasons and beat Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just as Eric Berry did. The running back claimed ACC player of the year honors in 2014 but tore his MCL a year later and misssed that season. The cancer diagnosis came in December of 2015, but Conner returned to the field in September and rushed for 1,060 yards this season. He joins Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and D’Onta Foreman as early-entry backs but isn’t expected to go in the first or second round like that trio is.

Zach Links contributed to this report

Latest On Futures Of Chargers, Raiders

It’s conceivable that either the Chargers or Raiders could relocate to Los Angeles in the coming years, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday the “ideal” scenario is for the two teams to stay where they are (Twitter link via Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com). Goodell was in attendance when the Rams broke ground on their $2.6 billion stadium in Inglewood, Calif., where the Chargers have the option of sharing the soon-to-be built facility with the Rams. They must decide by Jan. 15 whether to do it, and while an extension is possible, the Chargers haven’t asked for one, Goodell revealed (Twitter link via Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News).

Chargers owner Dean Spanos said last week that he’s tabling relocation thoughts until the end of the season, which wouldn’t leave him much time to negotiate a deal with the Rams’ Stan Kroenke. His organization would gladly team with Spanos’ franchise, though, with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Damoff saying, “We’d welcome [the Chargers] with open arms” (Twitter link via Gonzalez).

Mark Davis (vertical)

If the Chargers stay in San Diego – which is possible for at least 2017 – and the Raiders’ Las Vegas plans fall through, there’s “growing support” within the league for the Silver and Black to return to LA, per Bonsignore. Although an October report indicated the NFL could force Raiders owner Mark Davis out, a high-ranking league official told Bonsignore that notion is “total BS.” On the contrary, there’s “growing admiration” for the job Davis has done since taking over the Raiders after his father, Al Davis, died in 2011.

While the league would be OK with the Raiders going back to LA, where they played from 1982-94, or staying in Oakland, Bonsignore writes that Las Vegas remains the likeliest option. The Raiders aren’t interested in remaining in Oakland, relays Bonsignore, as the city hasn’t made much known progress toward a new stadium to replace the 50-year-old Coliseum. Meanwhile, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has already signed off on $750MM in public money toward a potential $1.9 billion Raiders facility.

Davis will file for relocation in January, and once that happens, he’ll need 23 approval votes from the league’s other 31 owners to make his Las Vegas dream a reality. Goodell isn’t fully on board with the Raiders going to Vegas, but Bonsignore doesn’t expect Davis to have difficulty garnering the necessary number of votes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Goodell May Exert Influence In Las Vegas Vote

Roger Goodell still prefers the Bay Area as the Raiders’ long-term locale to Las Vegas, and the commissioner may wield enough power to swing the Raiders’ upcoming relocation vote, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com reports.

Ownership sources told La Canfora the commissioner’s ability to rally support behind causes he feels strongly about shouldn’t be underestimated regarding the seminal vote set likely for early 2017. A matter as significant of a team relocating from a top-five market to the No. 40 market could meet Goodell’s standard for exerting influence.

Even if this came to a vote early next year,” one source told La Canfora, “I wouldn’t at all discount Roger’s ability to garner 9-12 votes against [a move] if he believes firmly that Oakland is in the best interest of the league.”

The Raiders need 23 additional votes to green-light their long-rumored Vegas move. This news comes after a report earlier this week appeared to see owners softening their stances on a team trying to set up shop in the nation’s gambling mecca. Although most owners’ beliefs on this would-be seminal venture aren’t yet known, Goodell feeling the need to play a key role here could be a sign support is growing.

Mark Davis is also seeking to have this vote as early as possible, but the league looks set to delay it. Davis secured the $750MM in public money quicker than owners expected, and the NFL is trying to catch up in this process. Davis still wants the Raiders to play at the Oakland Coliseum in 2017-18 before hopefully relocating to Vegas in ’19.

The owner is no longer interested in discussing a future in Oakland or Los Angeles, La Canfora writes, but Goodell maintains the league needs to look into what can be salvaged in Oakland as well as research what a Las Vegas move would entail for the league.

I would expect the league to delay any vote for as long as possible,” one ownership source said. “Mark is adamant that they are gone, but the league isn’t in any rush to bring this to a head.”

The vote that sent the Rams to L.A. and kept the Chargers and Raiders in their longtime markets occurred in January, and Davis wants this expected vote to take place in January 2017, when he’s expected to file for relocation. But that doesn’t look to be on course right now.

Goodell and the NFL have been linked to having discussions with Oakland civic leaders, talks in which Davis is not currently participating. The league is exploring “several stadium options” in the Bay Area, per La Canfora, who continues the theme of pointing out how the NFL is more attracted to the Bay Area’s business infrastructure advantages compared to Las Vegas’.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.