The Al Show

January 19

Al Davis held a news conference Tuesday to tell everyone what a bad dude Tom Cable was. He also held the press gathering to tell reporters they didn’t know what they were talking about.

Oh yes, and Hue Jackson is the new head coach.

Jackson sat there — in a lower chair — while Davis commanded a room for the lion’s share of 95 minutes. When Davis’ media “relations” guy tried to conclude things, Davis told him he “f—ed it up,” saying he wanted to “satisfy” the reporters. If they were looking for another hour of bizarre theater, then satisfy he did.

Jackson continued to sit there on the biggest day of his career, with his family in the audience ( including a baby that could be heard from time to time ) as Davis went on about the professional and personal failings of Cable. Davis explained why he docked Cable’s pay ( the subject of a Cable grievance ) and why Cable wasn’t going to get any money back.

Just as bad in Davis’ mind, Cable said “we’re not losers anymore” because they finished 8-8. Apparently Davis is convinced they’re still losers. On top of that, there was certainly a disagreement on the quarterback situation and Davis said Cable is a “zone-blocking purist,” which Davis is not.

There was no overhead projector, but Davis spent another news conference trying to vaporize a coach. He doesn’t want Cable to get another cent, and set about to put his dirty laundry out in public.

Of course, he could have fired Cable last year if he was so upset about his transgressions, or done a better background check before hiring him. Instead he accused Cable of lying about the extent of his legal troubles.

Davis might actually be in the right, or at least mostly right. Cable allegedly punched a coach and had some skeletons in his closet, but I doubt he’s the only NFL coach with personal problems. Davis, however, is the only owner in the NFL who consistently puts his ex-coaches on blast.

( Apparently the Seahawks weren’t too concerned about Cable’s problems — they hired him as offensive line coach today. )

Jackson sat there for this display of venom, and I wonder if he asked himself “is this going to be me in a year ?” It’s why many coaches worth their salt, including Jim Harbaugh, passed on a chance to be put in that position. When asked if he had misgivings about wading into these waters, Jackson laughed and said that’s in the past. Umm, maybe.

Jackson deserves some credit for the Raiders’ offensive improvement in 2010. So does Jamarcus Russell by virtue of the fact he vacated the premises for a career in pharmaceuticals. Jackson might have what it takes to bring the Raiders to the next level, but with Davis at the controls, this ship could go anywhere.

Davis and Cable had a messy divorce, but Cable was perfect for Al: he was cheap and sue-able. If Davis was upset about the legal fees Cable has incurred, why did he spend so much time in court before Cable arrived ? Al loves conflict, on or off the field, he loves money, he loves to win — and if you disagree with him you’re dead to him.

I won’t go into Davis’ physical appearance Tuesday. He is 81 and his health is not good, but he had the stamina to hold court for almost two hours, showing a reasonable amount of piss and vinegar.

His mind ? It’s still there, in some form. He has a generally good recall of details, except for certain names ( Lance Kiffin? Kim Newton ? ), and he went off on tangents about Jim Plunkett and “eulogizing” Steve Young ( who is still with us ). More than anything, he is set in his ways. He is sheltered in a silver and black world of his own creation.

Some are embarrassed for him and the Raiders. Some wonder if it’s time for someone else to take over the team. That isn’t going to happen.

The Raiders are Al Davis’ life, and he’ll be in control for as long as he has to live. That might not be long, but that’s the way it is. The question is, what will the Raiders do when Al is gone ?

Until that time, Raiders fans continue to deal with this dilemma: how do they support a team with such a bizarre power structure, where stability is only a word, and winning is rare ? 49ers fans have had no problem ripping the Yorks, but many Raiders fans I know just sigh and say, “that’s Al.”

He’s stubborn, he’s snarly, he’s difficult to work for, and he’s a towering presence in NFL history. Unfortunately, that legacy gets smaller in the rear-view mirror. For many, Al Davis has become a parody of himself — and that’s saddest of all.

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