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COHN: Raiders owner expresses frustration, preaches patience

Oakland Raiders safety Mike Mitchell tackles New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram during the fourth quarter Sunday in Oakland.

CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat
Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 10:27 p.m.

OAKLAND -- A significant thing happened after the Raiders lost to the Saints 38-17, after they dropped their third game in a row by a combined score of 135 to 69, after their record fell to a hopeless, hide-your-head-under-the-pillow 3-7.

Mark Davis, son of Al and current owner of the team, entered the silent, mostly empty, very gray locker room. He stood in the area where the offensive linemen get dressed. He made it clear he was available to talk, made it clear no questions were impertinent or off-limits. He wanted to — needed to — get something off his chest. There he stood.

The reporters got to work and he worked with them.

Are the Raiders rebuilding?

“I don't know what the word would be,” he said, looking for the word. “I know that we didn't have the talent at the beginning of the year to be a Super Bowl team. I thought that we had definitely potential to get, maybe, in the playoffs and beat our division. Obviously, that hasn't happened.”

This was an opening salvo filled with frustration and criticism and it meant the coaches — especially Dennis Allen — have not extracted the most from the players.

And Davis was mostly correct. The Raiders are rapidly getting worse and their defense is disgraceful. It's like they don't even have a defense, just a bunch of paid actors who stand there and watch opponents run past them. And all that is on Allen. But Davis was wrong about one thing. He always was wrong to think his team could win its division. The Raiders are a mirage of a football team — rookie owner, rookie general manager, rookie head coach, inexcusable roster. They never stood a chance.

Does Davis still feel the Raiders can turn things around this year?

“Take it game by game,' he said, “but, uh, I don't know. I know they're going to fight.”

Not exactly a vote of confidence from Davis — and you've got to love him for expressing real, unfiltered, unedited thoughts. He does not know if the Raiders can turn it around. He has serious doubts. He should because the Raiders cannot turn it around this season.

What were his goals heading into the season?

“I think finding a direction for the franchise,” he said, “and moving forward and seeing progress week to week, but you know that's still possible.”

Now Davis was arrowing in on Allen. The phrase “finding a direction,” surely implies Allen has not found a direction. Well, he's found “down” but that's not an acceptable direction.

Is the challenge of making the Raiders good more daunting than Davis expected?

“No, I wouldn't say that,” he said. “I wouldn't say that. I think, again, it's just the results of the game. You win or lose. We haven't been winning and it hasn't been close the last three weeks.”

More implied criticism — actually, not so implied, kind of blunt.

Is the subpar roster, the roster lacking depth, the result of salary cap problems?

“As I said, coming in, I didn't know that we had a Super Bowl team,” he said. “But you can't blame it on the salary cap. You have players and you coach them and you play, you've got to be Raiders.”

Again, criticism of the coach — “you coach them.”

And now came the big one. Someone mentioned the players say they won't give up.

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Davis said. “I'm just saying right now I'm a little disappointed with the regression, but like I say, they'll fight.”

Incoming rockets. Direct hit. The word “regression” was an exploding bomb. It said the owner thinks the team has regressed. It has. And the coach has presided over the regression.

How frustrated is Davis?

“I couldn't put it on a one to 10,” he said. “I'm not happy. I'll put it that way. But why should I be? Why should we be? Why should anyone in this room be? But they'll fight and fix it.”

Then he pulled his foot off the throttle, just a little. Do Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie get a pass this year?

“Like I say, I'm patient. I'm patient,” he said patiently. “But I want to see progress. I don't want to see regression. Nobody does. And that's why I'm unhappy today. But as far as a pass, I wouldn't call it a pass. They've got contracts, they're going to be here.”

Call that an important concession. No one can blame Allen or McKenzie for the total disarray of the Raiders. Blame that on Al Davis. It's too early to blame Allen and McKenzie, but Mark Davis is reminding them of high standards — the correct standards — reminding them someone holds them accountable.

Here is a final note on Allen, a man we're still getting to know. It's not his fault he's so boring after a loss. Listening to him, you want to die. His answer for every problem is that his team works hard. He made this point about 10 times, give or take. Here are a few representative examples:

“The only way I know how to fix things is to go back to work and keep grinding.

“The only thing I know how to do is go back to work.”

I could go on like Allen, but you get the point — the Raiders are a great bunch of guys and they work hard enough to win. An old football coach once said to his players, who complained they worked hard but didn't get results, “Tell that to someone who gives a (darn).”

No one cares that the Raiders work hard. Every team works hard. The Raiders need to work well, and that's on Allen, and Mark Davis is watching.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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