Q&A with Raiders owner Mark Davis


Had a chance to sit down for an exclusive interview with Raiders owner Mark Davis Monday at an East Bay restaurant discuss training camp and his expectations for the coming season after an active off-season. A transcript follows:

Q: Commissioner Roger Goodell floated the idea of the Raiders playing in Santa Clara as a possible solution while you’re working towards a stadium. What is your reaction?

Mark Davis: If you want to know what I think about the stadium issue, all you have to do is go back and read what I said. I’ve been consistent. I feel the same way still.

Q: When you hired general manager Reggie McKenzie and met the press for the first time, you said, “I know what I don’t know.’’ You’re in your third year as managing general partner and presumably have learned a few things. Has your level of involvement changed over time?

Mark Davis: No. I think when I said, `I know what I don’t now is a very truthful statement. When I said that, I said I’d hire people that know more than I know. A lot of people might have taken that to think I don’t know anything about this. But I’ve been in this 50 years, and the Raiders have been my life for 50 years. I know a lot about football. But I hired somebody that knows football personnel and I put him in a position to give the Raiders a chance to grow. I think letting him do his job is a real important thing. Do I know more than I knew then? I can’t say that I do. I suppose over the last few years I’ve learned a lot but at the same time I’ve been letting Reggie do the job.

Q: You went to combine this year, sat in interviews with players and participated in the process, that would suggest more of a hands-on approach, wouldn’t it?

Mark Davis: Again, I don’t know if you’re aware, but I was scouting for the Raiders back in the 80s. I was doing the Japan Bowl every year. I’d go to Japan every year with the college all-stars. One year it was Bo Jackson’s group. I’ve been in scouting and all that stuff before. I’ve never been that interested in the combine. I don’t get enough out of it. I like watching people play football. I think guys that are scouts, that are true scouts, they know what they’re looking for in players. I prefer to see football more so than running track and the 40. The interviews were interesting, but it was so fast, and these kids are so schooled in what they’re going to say, you don’t really get to know them. It’s the follow-up interviews and things of that nature that mean a lot. But it is good to see the kids, how they interact with others, but they’re so schooled now. And the agents are all there. It’s part of the process. The scouts get something out of it, the general managers, they get what they want out of it.

Q: In terms of free agency, did you at any point this year talk to any prospective free agents, or did Reggie take care of all that?

Mark Davis: No. Reggie took care of all that.

Q: Never a point where the owner steps in and talks to a free agent . . .

Mark Davis: It’s all the G.M.

Q: The one blip in free agency is when the Rodger Saffold situation came down, and you were clear in that you advised against signing him because of a shoulder injury. Did Reggie make the call on that or did you make the call? Or was it your advice that swayed Reggie?

Mark Davis: My advice to Reggie _ Reggie had the final say on it _ but I was pretty strong in the fact that if it was me, I wouldn’t do it. Reggie had the final say on it, but I would think I might have had a lot to do with his thought process. I don’t know. You’d have to ask him. I got a call in the morning from the trainer, and Rod Martin says I’ve got some bad news. And he said Rodger Saffold failed his physical. I said what do you mean he failed? He said in a report from St. Louis, he had a torn labrum. I had no ideal what a labrum was. He said it’s a shoulder muscle. They took him and did some pictures of him. I asked what does that mean? He said he could play with it, have pain, and play with it, but at some point it’s going to tear. We either let him play with it or we do the surgery now, fix it now, and he should be ready by training camp. I said what do you mean, should be ready? After last year, with DJ (Hayden) and the injuries and things like that and how things kept coming up, I got scared. There’s a lot of money on the line for this season with him. So I talked with Reggie, and said, he failed his physical and you’ve got to make that decision, but I wouldn’t go ahead and do it. And he decided not to do it. It’s one of those things you’ve got to make a decision on.

Q: But the decision was his?

Mark Davis; The decision was his. Every decision is his, because that’s his job. But at some point in time, I’ve got to have something to say, or at least be a sounding board for him. I would think more so than utilizing the power to say, `sign this guy, sign that guy,’ I would think that if anything I have the ability to veto something versus make him go ahead and do something. I haven’t utilized that.

Q: The Saffold situation aside, how did you feel about the offseason?

Mark Davis: I thought he did a phenomenal job. I’m real excited about the way the team looks. I think we had a good offseason. I really do. I think at the first rookie three-day camp, on the third day, No. 52 (Khalil Mack) made a play that made me go, `wow.’ So I saw a little bit of what Reggie saw in this guy. Now whether that’s going to translate into pads and into the game, I don’t know, but he showed he could be something special. When they had the mandatory camp with everyone in town, I saw a guy wearing no. 91, Justin Tuck. Certain football players, to me, I can see if they look like a pro. You know, a pro’s pro? And I can see that in him. So I was really excited about that.

Q: Tim Brown is of the opinion that bringing in all the veterans reminds him of 1998 through 2002, when veterans were brought in _ William Thomas, Jerry Rice, John Parella, Bill Romanwoski, etc. _and this is getting back to a Raider way of doing things. Do you agree with that assessment?

Mark Davis: Yes, but there was a good base here to put those guys on top of. We had that home grown base that those guys came in and did a pretty damn good job. And Jon (Gruden) also did a great job.

Q: This current team is more of a complete rebuild . . .

Mark Davis: There isn’t as much of a veteran base to put these guys on top of. You bring in Jerry Rice, but Tim Brown was already here. All those guys. Charlie Garner. Fantastic. They were guys that filled holes. This could more like the ’80 team maybe, that filled a lot of holes. Burgess Owens, Dwayne O’Steen, guys like that. This year we’re still bringing in a quarterback.

Q: Did it bother you when two organizational developed players _ Jared Veldheer and lamarr Houston – left in free agency _ you sat back and let Reggie do his job and it just happened that way?

Mark Davis: Absolutely.

Q: Was that disappointing?

Mark Davis: It’s part of the game. I was close with Veldheer’s family. His mom, his dad, his sister, his brother. I got along great with them. I guess it became a business _ which it is _ and they had to make a business decision. And that’s what they did. They made a business decision in Jared’s interests as far as they were concerned.

Q: You’ve been clear about the chain of command _ you hired Reggie, Reggie hired Dennis Allen as his coach. What’s your assessment of your head coacha through two years?

Mark Davis: I’ll let Reggie answer that, as I always have. I hired Reggie, and gave him the ability to build the football side of the organization, and results speak. That’s where it’s at.

Q: There was some optimism early on last year, but it ended with a six-game losing streak and there were debacles against Philadelphia and Kansas City. There was speculation as there always is that there would be some organizational changes. Yet you stayed the course. How come?

Mark Davis: Talking it over with Reggie and the game plan we had when I hired him, I believed we still had to give it time. Obviously nobody’s happy with the way that season ended. We’ll se what happens this year. This year is the year, there are no more excuses. We’ve done a great job of getting the cap in order, getting the financial thing in order, getting the whole roster in order so to speak. There are no upside-down contracts. And they got the coaching staff Dennis wanted this year. He got all the coaches he wanted to hire.

Q: Would you describe yourself as patient?

Mark Davis: (laughs). With my hands tied to the chair . . . I try to look ahead to the longterm. I truthfully didn’t feel we were going to win the Super Bowl last year before the season started, and that is the goal. But progress is a thing I would like to see. I haven’t seen it yet. And this year is the time to see it. It really is.

Q: Do you think the fortunes of the Raiders in terms of a stadium is at all tied to the won-loss record? Can a good season jump-start that process?

Mark Davis: No. Two separate issues.

Q: The coaching staff thinks Matt Schaub is a top 10 NFL quarterback, how did you feel about that acquisition?

Mark Davis: I don’t know. I don’t know. He’s been a very effective quarterback. The key thing, is do we trade for him, give up the sixth round pick? If they believe in him as much as they did, then it was a smart move to trade for him and get him in here early instead of going through free agency and losing that time. I think that was an effective move. I’m all for it. If it works, it’s great. You’ve got to have a quarterback. That’s why I went after Carson Palmer. I still think you need a quarterback.

Q: You mentioned Khalil Mack, everyone comes out of a draft optimistic, but do you have a sense that this year’s draft could be immediate contributors.

Mark Davis: I do.

Q: Based on feedback or what you’ve seen?

Mark Davis: On what I’ve seen. I use my own judgment. Like with Matt, I’ve got great hopes for him, but I want to see it. The draft choices, I saw something in that three-day minicamp. I think Derek (Carr) has got a chance to be a player in this league. Gabe Jackson looks like a monster. The corners (Keith McGill and TJ Carrie), big size guys. Jelly (Justin Ellis). I think we’ve got some football players. At that last mandatory camp, it looked like we had a team.

Q: You’ve always had a close tie to players, some of your best friends are former Raiders. Your dad once said he didn’t know if you could run a team because you were too close to the players and you couldn’t cut people. Although that’s Reggie’s job, you’re still in charge . . . have you changed your interaction with players?

Mark Davis: No, I haven’t. But I don’t know if I’m as close to the players as I was back then because I’m in a different era. It’s not the same as when I was a kid coming through the ranks. But I’m always going to be close to the players, that’s what it’s all about. My dad was probably right (laughs).

Q: The schedule is extremely difficult _ five games against last year’s final four teams _ opener on the road against the Jets, Week 4 in London after going to New England _ taking that into account, plus all the turnover again, is it realistic to think the Raiders could get to double-digit wins and be a playoff team?

Mark Davis: Right now, we’re undefeated. We’ll see. Have to take them one at a time. We always play the Broncos twice a year, we always play the Chargers twice a year, we always play the Chiefs twice a year. That’s nothing new. Playing the NFC West, they’re all strong right now. I think all four are strong to be honest. We’ve got the AFC East. New England and the Jets, two East Coast games. It’s going to be tough.

Q: The Super bowl is the goal . .

Mark Davis: Every year. But it’s been 30 years since we won one.

Q: But considering where the franchise has been the last 11 years, since the last Super Bowl appearance . .

Mark Davis: I don’t count that Super Bowl because we didn’t win it.

Q: But was a division champ and a conference champ . .

Mark Davis: OK . . . (Losing) the Super bowl is worse than what happened last year. It sticks in your craw. We got our ass kicked.

Q: But there was success . . ..

Mark Davis: Yeah, but you’ve got to finish. That’s what it’s all about.

Q: So you want to see progress. What would constitute progress in your mind with this team?

Mark Davis: You can feel progress. You can see it in games. Are we finishing games? Are we starting off games well and not finishing them? There were games last year where we didn’t show up. The Kansas City game. One play four times? The same guy (Jamal Charles) scoring four touchdowns? Philadelphia, seven touchdown passes? It wasn’t there. That can’t happen anymore.

Q: Fans are constantly coming up to you with encouragement, support, suggestions, do you sense an increased level of optimism based on fans that you’ve talked to because of the offseason?

Mark Davis: I don’t see anything different this year in fans. I think Raider fans are realistic. Pretty smart bunch of people, really.


Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer

  • marks hair

    The Raiders or Pats?

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    A bag of reds. That’s funny.

  • 0ak R8rs

    LISFRANC. Bust. Should just cut him now. Worst pick of the first 2 rounds of 2013.

  • Blog pimp Jerry actually writing something (Cork????)


  • ForHundred8
  • marks hair

    Most GMs and HCs lie to keep competitive secrets… our guys lie to sell tix and keep the press from raping them..

  • 909RaiderLifer

    That’s harsh…Middlekauf must have been raised in a kool-aid free home…

  • Buenos Días Nacíon Raderio. Ès supremo día ès be a Raderíos fan. ¿Ès lo ès no so? Ès so supremo día ès be a Raderios fan.

  • marks hair

    it’s not very harsh if you look at it objectively rather than from a hopeful fan’s perspective..

  • seymour bush

    Moving a 4-12 team to front running capital on Earth? With no new stadium? Might as well just host a gang summit in south central.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    Once again.

    Walking boots, also known as walking casts, are removable, usually stiff supports designed to immobilize the ankle and provide increased support during walking. They have been proven effective in the treatment and healing of sprained ankles and even minor fractures
    When you use them according to doctor’s orders, walking boots can be extremely effective in helping your sprained ankle to heal

    A walking boot is a way to immobilize the ankle joint, and is an alternative to a cast. A walking boot is useful in patients who have injuries that can tolerate weight being placed on the extremity, but would benefit from immobilization of the joint. Common injuries where a walking boot may be useful include:

    Ankle sprains
    High ankle sprains
    Certain ankle fractures


  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    I saw it mentioned as well.

  • Dodgers have top attendance in baseball annually and they haven’t sniffed a WS in 25 years.
    And I don’t want them to move to LA, but with a new stadium they would have sellouts on day 1.

  • DJ Johnny

    Just put Hayden on the pup list and let’s get on with our lives.
    -Despite saying “Our # 1 priority is to sign our good young players” he failed to sign either Veldheer or Lamarr Houston…arguably the team’s best young players.
    -Drafted DJ Hayden in the 1st rd. after the player almost died on the field. A risky pick at best for a team that couldn’t afford a risk like that. He has suffered numerous injuries and missed significant playing AND practice time since…
    …just two of the most prominent items to be listed on McKenzies epitaph if things go south in 2014.

  • plunkhead

    I thought Jerry put MD on the defensive in that interview.
    Does it sound like MD was a little ticked? Does to me.

  • Maybe that’s it, fractured ankle.

  • RaiderCDE

    DJ on the day before he went down in 2nd OTA practice.

    “It will definitely be beneficial—me being a little bigger, a little stronger—because we do have physical receivers in this league, and I think it will be good to be somewhat big,” Hayden said. “I made it through one OTA. I’m definitely excited I made it through one.”

    One and only one.

  • marks hair

    Agreed.. the As are in 1st place and nobody goes..
    The Lakers were historicaly bad still had solid attendance at home and top 3 on the road..

  • plunkhead

    Moose antler dope? Ask Veld about buffing up

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    And Lisfranc is an area of the foot. The middle. A Lisfranc injury is any injury to the middle of the foot. That’s all. But there is a lot going on in that area.

  • RaiderCDE

    Might as well or even IR him – at least it frees up a roster spot and we can grab another vet or waiver cut. Playing the wait game like last year is just stupid – saying it’s day to day is a joke – Branch last year was terrible.

  • marks hair

    Its a foot

  • RaiderCDE

    Just go across the bay to our friends Santa Clara 49ers – they’re all juicing over there and *noone* is getting tested.

  • 0ak R8rs

    Haha. Jamal Charles finally stays healthy one year and now he’s holding out. I’m all for guys making what they can when they can. But what happened to production?

  • PlunkforHOF

    Would they put him in a boot then? Or is this more conspiracy theory subterfuge?

  • marks hair

    New post

  • plunkhead

    That is because they are all scared of that demon inside of harbourgh

  • RaiderCDE

    Hold out I say! It’s called greed and that’s what this whole business is all about.

  • Hardcore fans will go watch teams play in parking lots and are who makes 85% of the crowd noise. But killer venues will bring people out who walk around, spent money, take selfies, and drive up revenues.

  • DJ Johnny

    I say just go on as if he doesn’t exist and pretend he was a # 1 pick we gave up to acquire Tuck…I don’t know.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    For a bad Lisfranc injury? Absolutely. I’m responding to those spreading misinformation on the uses of walking boots.

  • Purvisman/Eternal Optimist

    There is, but mine has no comment section.

  • DJ Johnny

    Yet another 1st rounder for the Raiders that is not making any impact whatsoever. Can’t blame players for being injured I guess…but very frustrating nonetheless.

  • DJ Johnny

    My bad. I thought it was the same day the article came out. Well…some guys are just injury prone…and this looks like a tremendous whiff by Reggie right now.

  • RaiderReloader

    Yes it is a passing league, this means you have to be able to move the ball vs other teams starting D not vs the water boy then talking about garbage time performance.

    Get it done no more garbage time is ok stat excuses

  • Twinkle

    I’ve let Mark know of your personal preferences and he’s on board wit you doo.(as the vernacular goes around here). Mark selling this team to corporate America is simply a horrendous thought for me to come to terms with……..move it where ever you want but never sell it.

  • Twinkle

    No doubt about Boeing’s technical prowess or sometimes lack thereof but apparently there are a few kids out there after your job old fella.Good to see you have other options.I believe it is why they put a tail gunner in the fortresses.

  • Twinkle

    Four TD’s against us ain’t production ? Give the man biggest raise possible.It’ll only help KC regress back to the swamp with quickness.I’m all for that.

  • 0ak R8rs

    I don’t consider much of anything that’s been done against us the last decade as “production”. But yea, I agree w the rest.

  • Howard Benner

    invariably on the lookout for my “six. . .”

    If I had a dime for every time some whipper snapper asked me how they could procure my job (first I have to die. . .) I could have retired two years ago. . .

    But it has to do more with what the company is attempting to do to my job title. . .high dollars, lots of research, lots of infrastructure & logistics knowledge involved. . .they want to lop our numbers by 60% & in order to secure our pension retire in 27 months. . .department of “handwriting on the wall. . .”

    The two things Boeing does great are wings & airframes. . .there is an adage; “if it ain’t Boeing, I’m not going. . .”

    But with the new emphasis on slave labor, the lack of quality & other factors I will have to think long & hard about that. . .however, I surmise the competition is employing similar tactics & as of recent Airbus has taken a bit of a plunge. . .

  • Mike_Trail

    No, the list is long and painful….How bout Russell over Peterson…..