Leave it to Davis to turn coaching presser into theater of the absurd
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It started out fine. Just like just a normal introductory press conference.
But nothing normal happens with Al Davis and the Raiders.
And, sure enough, Tuesday's press conference took a sharp left into a bizarre drama of blood lust and vengeance.
Welcome to your new world, Hue Jackson.
On Tuesday, Davis gathered the media ostensibly to introduce Jackson, the 17th head coach of the Raiders, the sixth since 2002. The news was fairly anti-climatic because Jackson had been the heir apparent to placeholder Tom Cable ever since arriving as offensive coordinator last season.
Still, the gathering was an event. A Davis press conference is high theater, where one can hear vicious allegations and charges that make the Jets' trash talk seem like baby's babble.
But, in increasingly frail health, Davis' public appearances have become more infrequent. This was his first in 16 months and only his second since breaking out the overhead projector while firing Lane Kiffin, and introducing Cable, whom he could barely identify.
That was a moment that couldn't be one-upped, could it?
Davis sure gave it his best shot Tuesday. About halfway through the 100-minute session -- one that included Davis staples like paeans to dead Raiders, a varnishing of Jim Plunkett's legend and barbs thrown at reporters -- the lauding of Jackson quickly turned into a disembowelment of Cable.
This was less about a hiring and more about the firing of a man who had recently earned some credit for guiding the Raiders to their least embarrassing season in eight years.
"I knew it would be difficult to bring him back because he had lied to me," Davis said. "He had not done a good job."
Cable was hired by the Seahawks precisely as Davis was vivisecting him. Which is a good thing, because it sounds like Cable is going to need some steady income.
Davis spoke of lawsuits against Cable: One brought by former assistant Randy Hanson, who claims Cable broke his jaw, others brought by women who have charged Cable with domestic abuse. In both cases, the Raiders were also named. Cable, in Davis' view, was putting the Raiders at legal risk.
He said he began fining Cable -- taking $20,000 out of his paycheck for six weeks -- as a form of legal insurance, "because we don't know what the final verdict will be in a lawsuit."
Davis also said that he disapproved of Cable bringing one of the women involved in a lawsuit on road trips with the team. Davis added that he was told one incident allegedly happened on a road trip.
"All this stuff goes a long way against my wishes, against my way of living, against my life and against the Raider way, and I just wasn't going to take it anymore," Davis said.
But Davis seems to be operating a sliding scale of morality. The Hanson lawsuit and the abuse charges, which were first documented by ESPN, were revealed in the late summer and fall of 2009. Jackson was hired last offseason. Yet Davis continued to employ Cable until it was clear the Raiders wouldn't make the playoffs and until his contract was up, so he wouldn't be paying him for nothing.
Cable's greatest undoing might have been announcing, after finishing the season 8-8, "we're not losers anymore." That infuriated the owner of the "team of the decades," though Cable was right. The Raiders had been losers since the 2003 season.
"Coming in .500," Davis scoffed. "That's never been my goal."
In his long-winded question-and-answer session, Davis took on some blame for the team's problems. When asked if the club that has turned its legal power on its last two coaches did background checks, he snapped, "We're very bad at it."
"I have made mistakes, no question," he said. "You're saying 'Should I take some of the blame?' I certainly do. You guys give it to me. "
Why didn't he fire Cable earlier?
"We'd been in turmoil," Davis said. "I didn't think we needed another uproar at this time."
That was the line of the day. Davis seems to thrive on uproar, picking up his team and shaking it upside-down over and over again.
He did it again on Tuesday. Jackson, a well-respected offensive mind with a wealth of NFL experience, could be the best hire Davis has made in a while. But Davis made sure no one would remember the day was about Jackson.
As Davis unspooled his allegations against Cable, you could see Jackson shift uncomfortably in his seat. Jackson's family, gathered in the front row, stared up at the new boss, in slight disbelief.
A reporter interrupted the Cable-bashing to ask Jackson, "Are you wondering what you've gotten yourself into?"
Jackson smiled and shook his head.
"That's about the past, and we're moving on," he said.
But there's no moving on. There is only holding tight to transgressions and grudges and then airing them for public viewing and vindication. That's the Raiders version of normal.