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Graney: Pin the blame on Mark Davis for Raiders’ failures

Updated November 2, 2023 - 11:25 am

Mark Davis is looking in a mirror. It’s the right place for him.

This mess is on him. His team, his franchise, his responsibility, his hires.

The Raiders owner needs to — yeah — own all of it. And he has.

“I consult with a lot of people, but I’m the one who makes the decisions and I can’t run from that,” Davis said. “I believe we’ve been very successful off the field since my father (Al) passed (in 2011). I’m a failure on the field. I admit that. I haven’t been able to win yet, and that’s what this is all about.”

He swung and missed big time.

Josh McDaniels is out as coach. Dave Ziegler is out as general manager. The duo from New England didn’t last two seasons in their jobs. Also didn’t do much to prove they deserved to.

McDaniels, though, was the seventh coach (including interims) since Davis took control of the team after his father’s death. Seven.

Davis needs to come to terms that this isn’t a well-run organization on the football side of things. You can’t have this much turnover at such critical positions and expect to produce a consistent winner. Any kind of one.

When it came to McDaniels and Ziegler, I’m certain Davis took a large sip of the Patriots Kool-Aid, obviously enamored with the slew of Super Bowl rings New England has gathered over the years. Perhaps thought it would all translate with their arrival.

It never did.

The only thing that resembled the Patriots around these parts were the numerous former New England players that Ziegler and McDaniels brought in. And that certainly didn’t lead to any success.

Winning with Aces

Next door to the Raiders’ training facility is one for Davis’ other team, the two-time defending WNBA champion Aces. The side on which Davis hired the league’s best coach (Becky Hammon) and features one of the top front offices.

It all proves he can get the right people in place.

Sure. The league is different from the NFL. Basketball is different. Much smaller rosters. And it’s rare for a pro football team to have five or more of the best players at their positions in the world.

But it’s still surprising how — in the near three years he has owned the Aces — Davis has made so many correct decisions with them and not the Raiders. The team he has known his entire life.

The Aces just had another victory parade. The Raiders just recently lost to an undrafted rookie quarterback from the Division II level playing for the awful Bears and looked pathetic offensively against the Lions on “Monday Night Football.” A national audience watched how bad things were.

It all had to weigh on Davis.

So give him credit for making this move now. McDaniels and Ziegler certainly hadn’t done anything to warrant remaining employed, but such firings midseason don’t often occur.

It gives Davis even more time to decide where he wants to go next.

He needs a legitimate leader. Someone players truly respect. Someone they will follow and run through that proverbial wall for. That wasn’t McDaniels.

He lost the locker room while failing as a coach in Denver and was close to doing so in Las Vegas. Players were losing hope. Nothing was working.

Back at it

“I’ve said often with the Aces that I have three strong women who know their roles and I just get out of the way and they take care of business,” Davis said. “We’ve given them all the tools to succeed, and they have … I’ve tried to do the same things with football with a state-of-the-art training facility and stadium, but we haven’t been successful … I’ve been doing this my whole life, trying to find the right leader.”

He thought he had him in Jon Gruden and didn’t get the chance to see things through. Thought he had it in McDaniels and was dead wrong. Might have had it in interim Rich Bisaccia and chose not to offer him the full-time gig following a playoff appearance. So he is back at it, searching, wondering, hoping, trying to finally get this thing right.

“We’ve had issues building the roster from the inside based on not being very successful with the draft over many, many, many years,” Davis said. “Something we have to fix. It’s player personnel, it’s coaching, it’s players, it’s all of those things.”

It’s an owner who needs to do much better. Who can’t strike out this time.

The mirror doesn’t lie.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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