Al Davis dead at age 82

The Oakland Raiders announced that Al Davis died in his home. He was 82 years old.

Davis was one of the true icons of professional football. For years the Oakland Raiders were one of the perennial powers in the old AFL and then the National Football League. The Al Davis Raiders won three Super Bowls, and the team always carried the image of its brash owner. The “Silver and Black” were always one of the more intimidating teams in the NFL. They talked a good game and they could back it up. Davis was known for his “Just Win Baby” attitude, and he loved speed and power football. With quarterbacks like Kenny Stabler and Jim Plunkett, Davis loved to throw the ball downfield.

Al Davis was his own man, and he had his own epic battles with the NFL and later with his own coaches. As the years went on, however, Davis continued to have a hands-on approach to the Raiders, but his obsession with old formulas led to botched draft choices and toxic relationships with his coaches. he let Jon Gruden go, only to watch Gruden lead Tampa Bay to a victory over the Raiders in the Super Bowl the next season. That seemed to start a downward spiral, and the Raiders never really recovered.

In recent years it became apparent that Al Davis had lost it as an elite owner as the Raiders became one of the worst teams in the league. Their consistent “Commitment to Excellence” was replaced by consistent ineptitude.

Yet that doesn’t take away from Davis’ accomplishments. The man is a true legend, and he will be missed.

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Jon Gruden’s QB Camp: The Complete Collection

Here are Jon Gruden’s QB Camp videos with Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett and Andy Dalton.

Cam Newton

Blaine Gabbert

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Could Browns have hired Gruden if Holmgren wanted to?

Peter King mentioned a pretty interesting quote by Browns president Mike Holmgren about former head coaches Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden in his latest edition of Monday Morning Quarterback:

“Everyone is not privy to the information. I talked to [Bill] Cowher and I talked to [Jon] Gruden and they’re friends of mine. Of course Jon worked for me. There were a lot of reasons why that didn’t happen. In Bill’s case he wasn’t ready to come back and he was very honest about it and we had a very candid conversation. In Jon’s case, he said he would come back for me, but I said I needed a little more than that. You shouldn’t just come back for me, you should want to do this … He really enjoys TV and he’s good at it.”

— Cleveland president Mike Holmgren, to KJR in Seattle via sportsradiointerviews.com, on considering Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher for his vacant head-coaching job before hiring Pat Shurmur.

Holmgren’s comments about Cowher make you wonder if the former Pittsburgh head coach will ever return to the sidelines. After the 2011 season, it will be five years since Cowher last coached. As King hits on, will Cowher ever have the hunger it takes to return to the sidelines?

I don’t have the faintness idea what it’s like to lose a beloved spouse (Cowher lost his wife Kaye to skin cancer seven months ago), but I would have to imagine that one never gets over it. Maybe Cowher will never have the desire to coach again. Maybe the timing will never be right. Or maybe he’ll be ready to return as soon as next year. Who knows?

As far as Gruden is concerned, I think it was smart of Holmgren not to try and convince Gruden to return to the sidelines if he’s not 100% ready. As Holmgren pointed out, Gruden would have returned to the sidelines if asked, but that’s not what Holmgren wants. He wants somebody that will have the passion to take over a young team in much need of leadership and direction from their head coach. If Gruden wasn’t all in, Holmgren wasn’t going to be either.

49ers targeting Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach?

Jim Harbaugh continues to be one of the hottest names in football and if he wants to leave Stanford for a bigger job next season, he’ll likely have opportunities at both the college and pro level.

According to Matt Maiocco of Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the 49ers are interested in Harbaugh as head-coaching replacement for Mike Singletary (who was fired on Monday). The Niners view Harbaugh’s work with Josh Johnson and NFL prospect Andrew Luck as a sign that he can develop quarterbacks. And seeing as how that was one of Singletary’s downfalls, they would love to secure a head coach who knows how to manage signal callers.

Maiocco also confirms that Trent Baalke will be promoted from V.P. of Player Personnel to General Manager. The team wanted to have a GM in place before they sought a head coach and now that they have one, you can expect them to start interviewing coaches once their season wraps up this Sunday (if not sooner).

One name I keep throwing onto the table is Jon Gruden, and for the same reasons the Niners like Harbaugh: he can work with quarterbacks. Gruden had success in the NFL with Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia, so if San Fran is looking for a coach who knows QBs then “Chucky” may be the perfect fit.

That said, who knows if Gruden wants to come out of the booth right now. He enjoys working with the Monday Night Football crew and he may not be ready to return to the sidelines yet. But if he does, I don’t see why the Niners wouldn’t at least pick up the phone and gauge his interest in returning to the Bay area. Harbaugh would be a fine choice, but if San Fran is looking for more pro experience, then you can’t beat Gruden’s resume, which includes hoisting a Lombardi Trophy.

Who will the 49ers target as their next head coach after firing Singletary?

Mike Singletary’s tenure in San Francisco will inevitably serve as a lesson to all teams that just because a man can motivate doesn’t mean that he can be a head coach.

Towards the end, Singletary even had a tough time motivating, too. He was fired by the 49ers on Monday following yet another putrid offensive performance and a screaming match between him and one of his quarterbacks. During the second half of the team’s 25-17 loss to the Rams on Sunday, Singletary and Troy Smith went toe-to-toe after Singletary wanted to bench the QB in favor of Alex Smith. Ironically, Singletary also got into a sideline confrontation with Alex Smith in a game earlier this season against the Eagles.

Singletary ends his coaching career in San Fran with an 18-22 record over just two and a half seasons on the job. He’ll mostly be remembered for his fiery press conferences, his mismanagement of quarterbacks and his failure to make in-game adjustments. Obviously some of the blame falls on the players for not executing, but it’s up to the coaching staff to make adjustments when the original game plan isn’t working. Singletary failed to do that. In fact, I’ll venture to say that he and Jim Mora (the son, not the father) are the worst in-game coaches the league has ever had.

So where do the 49ers go from here? The Niners want to hire a general manager before they hire a head coach, which is fine. But once that GM is in place, the first phone call I’d make if I were him is to Jon Gruden. After the Singletary debacle, this team needs actual leadership and someone that the players can trust. This team needs someone who actually knows the X’s and O’s of the game and someone who can manage quarterbacks. Gruden has won with Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon and even Jeff Garcia. He can also finally provide some consistency on the offensive side of the ball, which is something the 49ers haven’t had for two and a half-plus years.

Gruden may not want to come out of the booth and down to the sidelines again but if he does, I’d make him an offer he couldn’t refuse if I were Jed York.

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