With the news today that Lane Kiffin was put out of his misery as coach of the Raiders, and following the incredibly classless press conference held by Al Davis, one thought occured to me: is Al Davis, and by extension his Raiders, a bigger joke in the sports world that Donald Sterling, owner of the hapless Clippers? I know, I know: it's hard to surpass the Clippers and their slum lord owner. But Al Davis has turned a once proud franchise - with a still proud fanbase - into a laughingstock.
If we're going to compare these two owners, we have to compare entire franchises, from the decision-makers on down. In Sterling's case, he hired Elgin Baylor, who was a very good player and is a very bad general manager, aside from 2006, not coincidentally the Clippers' only good year since he was hired in 1986. Football, though, is the only sport in which the owner can still be the general manager in the 21st century and it flies. See, for example, Jerry Jones in Dallas. Well, Al Davis exercises the same kind of power in Oakland, which has doomed the Raiders to his biases and bad choices. (For example, focusing on an aerial and speed attack while virtually ignoring the running game.) He also has a virtual fetish for reclamation projects, which work out sometimes but not most of the time.
Logically, then, because of the myopic ownership, the teams should not be very good. The Clippers have proven to be consistently terrible, making the playoffs 4 times and being over .500 three times in Sterling's regime. This points to something terribly wrong, organizationally speaking. Davis's Raiders teams started out good, winning a lot of games in the first 15 years of his ownership. Since 1985, though, it has gone downhill. Since then, Davis has presided over 16 seasons at or below .500, including every year since 2003 (each of those 5 years has seen double-digit losses, too). Something has gone terribly wrong in Oakland. Davis could be going senile or he could just be making a half-decade long series of mistakes. Either way, there is nobody else to blame except Davis.
This leads to the players. The Clippers have had good players over the last few years, the best of which was probably Elton Brand. But somehow the Clippers curse remains in force. Witness the horrible records. The Raiders, meanwhile, can't seem to reconcile Davis's desires (long passes) with what wins in the NFL (running the football and defense). He continues to sign flavor-of-the-month CBs, like DeAngelo Hall, while refusing to build the offensive and defensive lines (number 2 pick overall Robert Gallery excluded) to give the team a ground attack or a chance to pressure the opposing QB. News flash: you can't win with a defensive full of CBs!
So, while the Clippers have tried a little lately, the Raiders are subject to their demented owner's whims. Consequently, the Raiders are, in my estimation, the biggest joke in US pro sports right now. Hang in there, Raiders fans: Davis won't be around forever. I think.