This article takes the form of a fictional letter to Al Davis on behalf of Raider fans and the NFL. If you don't agree, please comment, and please don't be offended. This piece is intended to by symbolic.
Dear Mr. Davis,
The AFL, NFL, and most of all the Raider Nation thanks you for your contributions to the sport and to the Raider franchise which you personally built into one of the model franchises in all sports.
The gratitude of Raider fans for what you have accomplished here cannot be adequately expressed. Three Superbowl victories, one of the highest winning percentages in football, and the Raider mystique which made this team unique.
We now feel however that it is time you stepped aside. Whether you are able to keep running the franchise and whether you should are different issues. By all accounts you are still more knowledgeable about football than almost anyone else in the league, and your track record speaks for itself, but your time has come.
Even the greatest men in history reach a point where they must go before they are pushed. As Christian Bale recently put it in 2008's "The Dark Knight": "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
It is because we still respect and admire you that we ask you to step down now, while your legacy and that of the Oakland Raiders is still largely intact. Even after the worst six years of football in NFL history, people still think of all the great achievements of the Raiders organization and of your personal achievements over the years.
This will not be the case after another season or two of losing. People will begin to look primarily at the recent futility rather than the glory of the past. It will become difficult to overlook and most of all could well supercede the past successes. What if it takes longer, what would become of this team after a decade of disastrous results? How long might it take for this organization which you love, and we love to recover?
It is your legacy which could be the most diminished however. At the moment you are one of the most recognizable and iconic figures in sports. You are a football institution. But it will not be long before you are seen not as the man who built a franchise and a league, but simply an old man who held on too long. Whether it is true or not it will be very difficult to dispel that view.
Granted, what people think of the franchise isn't important to you or to us. But the Raiders are becoming a laughingstock. They are still the most hated team in football by the fans and the league, but no longer respected by them. The aura is fast disappearing, and in this modern world once it is gone, it will never come back.
A generation of sports fans will know the Raiders as the standard of futility in the league, rather than the standard of excellence. All the history will mean nothing compared to the present.
You have always been a renegade so far as sports ownership is concerned. A trailblazer in your running of the franchise. It is for this reason we ask you to step down. There are few men in sports who have had as great an impact on their team and the sport as a whole than Al Davis.
Names such as Lombardi and Walsh come to mind in football. In basketball, it is names such as West and Auerbach. In baseball, Lasorda and La Russa. This is still your legacy, if you step down now, and gracefully leave the stage.
Tragically, it seems the only way for a great legacy to remain intact is for its owner to be tragically cut down before their time. Such was the case with Vince Lombardi. Others such as Tommy Lasorda and Jerry West were forced or convinced to abondon their careers due to health issues. Only a select few, such as Walsh and Auerbach have the neccessary combination of good fortune, wisdom and circumstance to quit while they were ahead.
Your conviction, stubbornness and refusal to compromise has made you successful, and it has made the Raiders successful. But time has run its course, and for the franchise, it is time for a change.
Even if the change is a simple as installing a general manager or handing over the day to day running of the team to your son. All things must come to an end, and the players don't play as they once did. They don't bleed Silver and Black as they once did.
Few players in recent times owe as much to this organization as Rich Gannon, and while his words were poorly chosen, he is right that the franchise is in need of new blood, a new start. Just looking at these performances the past few seasons you know this is not good football, and you know the players aren't pulling their weight.
Bill Gates would have been able to continue running Microsoft for many years, but he stepped down so that a succession plan could be implemented and the company could get used to his not being a constant presence. We feel that this would be the best course of action for yourself and the Raider organization.
It is time to bring in new players and staff to re-introduce a "Commitment to Excellence." It is time to start over.
You are the leader this organization deserves, but as of 2009 you are not the leader it needs.
Once again, we thank you for everything you have done for this organization, the city of Oakland and professional football. You are a hero to Raider Nation, and we're sorry, but you have to leave. For our good, for yours and for that of the Oakland Raiders.
The Raider Nation
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