What Happened To The Raiders?

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A few weeks ago I took to comparing Jerry Jones to Al Davis. That was a mistake. And may it always be so:

The timing was perfect: Raiders head coach Tom Cable was reportedly interviewed by police in Napa, Calif., on Monday about his role in the alleged assault of assistant coach Randy Hanson. As a general rule, you could do worse than to pay attention to the Raiders all the time, just for the unpredictability and unintentional comedy, but the past week has been amazing even by their lofty standards.

Late last week they tried to ban former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon from the team's facility. Gannon was on the CBS announcing crew for Sunday's game against the Broncos, and the Raiders tried to keep Gannon from attending a pre-production meeting at team HQ, and then tried to ban him from doing the color commentary for the game.

It didn't work, but Gannon ended up being late and missed the meeting. Before that, one of the team's employees -- their titles are all nebulous and deliberately intended to throw you off the scent -- managed to launch into an inspired diatribe against Gannon.

Telling the San Francisco Chronicle that Gannon has made several comments that the Raiders should "blow up the building and start over," Raiders front-office exec John Herrera said, "We think in a post-9/11 world that's not a very proper thing to say. It's uncalled-for. He seems to be a guy who can't get over the fact that he played the worst Super Bowl in the history of the game and he wants to blame everybody but himself. I guess it's our fault he threw five interceptions."

So there you have it: Rich Gannon, terrorist. In the annals of Raider weirdness, where the owner trotted out an overhead projector to outline his reasons for firing Lane Kiffin, and where the head coach is a suspect in an assault on an assistant, a team executive savaging a former team captain -- creator of some of the few positive memories over the past 10 years -- qualifies as significant. They don't know where, or how, to stop.

I wonder how much of the Raiders decline has to do with professionalization of football. It was obviously always professional. But I wonder if you could get away with a lot more sloppiness, say, 30 years ago.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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