Raiders fire P.R. director, Mark Davis squanders benefit of the doubt


I don’t say this very often, though it happens far more often than I say it.

I was wrong.

And here’s something I say even less frequently:  Mike Silver was right.

Rewind to January 2012.  Silver, a good friend of the site and a well-respected figure in NFL media circles, penned (or at least typed) a body slam of new Raiders owner Mark Davis.

Silver compared Davis to “Tommy Boy,” the inept cinematic son who inherits the business from his father and proceeds to bungle everything.  Silver believed that Davis would rid the organization of everyone who witnessed the manner in which the late Al Davis treated (or, as the case may be, mistreated) Mark.

When long-time Raiders CEO Amy Trask announced her resignation with the kind of blunt tone that suggested there was much that she was restraining herself from saying, I considered admitting defeat then.  Now that Mark Davis has fired the P.R. director who was hired on the new owner’s watch, I’m ready to concede the point to the man whom former Raiders spin doctor John Herrera once defamed as the “smoke pot . . . smokin’ buddy” of Tim Kawakami.

Via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Raiders have parted ways with Zak Gilbert.  Hired presumably at the strong recommendation of new G.M. Reggie McKenzie, Gilbert had (in our view) worked very hard to shed the aura of misguided secrecy that previously had emanated from Oakland.  And Gilbert had done (in our view) a very good job of transforming the P.R. department into something resembling a non-dysfunctional media-relations operation, with press releases and cooperation and all the things that we come to take for granted from most of the other 31 teams.

According to Tafur, however, Mark Davis wasn’t pleased with the manner in which an April article in Sports Illustrated portrayed him.  So Davis put Gilbert on leave while deciding what to do with him, and Davis has since decided to fire Gilbert.

Here’s the part where I gripe about old-media companies hiding two-month-old content behind a pay wall, since that’s where the link in Tafur’s story took me.  I’ll otherwise keep looking for the story so I can see whether Davis has any legitimate reason to be upset.  [UPDATE:  Actually, we should have griped about Tafur linking to the pay-wall version of the story.  It’s currently available free of charge, which means that SI likely will survive in this new-media age longer than Pro Football Weekly.  Oh.]

And here’s the part where I gripe about Mark Davis, who absent compelling evidence that Gilbert did something to encourage Sports Illustrated to write the story that painted Mark Davis and or his father’s final decade or ownership in a not-so-favorable light is being way too sensitive about widely-held opinions.

The widely-held opinions are that, since the team’s Super Bowl berth to cap the 2002 season, the Raiders have been trapped in a quagmire of dysfunction.  From horrible free-agent decisions to abysmal draft picks to mismanagement of the salary cap to the “smoke pot . . . smokin’ buddy” attacks on the media, the Raiders became the NFL’s laughing stock.

By cleaning house and hiring his own G.M. and head coach, it seemed that Mark Davis realized drastic change was needed.  That’s why we tried to downplay Silver’s take on the situation, assuming he was primarily trying to defend the oft-erratic coach Davis had fired, Hue Jackson.

Recent events, culminating with the termination of a P.R. director who was trying to lead the Silver and Black out of the dark ages, make us agree with Silver.

But we’re still not ready to compare Mark Davis to one of Chris Farley’s most memorable characters.  After all, Tommy Boy finally gets his act together and saves the company.

43 responses to “Raiders fire P.R. director, Mark Davis squanders benefit of the doubt

  1. I don’t know anything about Mark Davis, but I think it is a little rash to conclude he is inept because he decided to change directions in the P.R. department. Of all the things that go into making an NFL franchise, that could be the singularly least important. I know that you media people lose sight of that, and this is a great example. I’ll wait and see what happens with the team on the field.

  2. The sooner Mark gets away from “fire everybody” and Raiders start winning again, the better off the franchise and fans will be. Tyler Wilson, DJ Hayden, Veldheer, Ford, Denarius Moore and most of all, Darren McFadden need to take it up a notch….

  3. Being the P.R. director for the Raiders has to be the toughest job in the world.

  4. Just wait until Mark decides he knows the football end of things well enough to get involved there.

  5. I hate to tell my friends in Raider Nation this, but nothing surprises me anymore with that organization.

  6. So … what does the future hold for Reggie MacKenzie?

    He will always be welcome back in Green Bay.

  7. Winning cures all. If Raiders are a winning team in the next year or two all this is pointless. Its truly amazing what winning does. It makes everyone look better. Believe me, a ton of these teams in the NFL are dysfunctional… We just don’t always hear about this stuff.

  8. Good lord, this site can be frustrating. But I will try it again.

    How does firing someone you hired prove that you are determined to get rid of everyone who was around before you took over?

    Pretty simple, inoffensive question.

  9. I’m going to withhold judgment of any kind until I see what their W/L record is the week before the trade deadline, and if it’s not good then I want to see what kind of transactions they make to rebuild and fix that which is broken at the time. Then I will either anoint Mark Davis as a good owner or a lousy one, because it very likely should be obvious by then depending on how he does and what he does. Good luck to him come judgment day.

  10. Sad! I worked with Zak Gilbert and he’s one of the finest human beings you’d ever meet. Very capable and a gentleman. His work was excellent and the writer obviously agrees.

    Mark Davis obviously has an ego that gets in the way of better judgment. The Raiders continue their dysfunctional ways..

  11. I think we should document the actions of Mark Davis for a little while longer before we paint him as a bad owner who gets rid of people for his overly sensitive reasons.

    Mike Silver’s view of Davis getting rid of everyone who saw him mistreated still seems flimsy to me. Everyone Davis got rid of were contributors to a decade of bad decisions and losing seasons. They are a part (some bigger than others) of the reason the Raiders have this laughing stock reputation now.

    So is that not a sound decision to completely start from scratch and restructure the organization with new people?

    His firing of the P.R. director could be the start of some irrational oversensitive actions, but it has only been a year in the rebuilding of this organization. Things are settled quite yet.

  12. Now that Mark Davis is the principal owner of the Raiders, any chance he can change the Lloyd Christmas hairstyle?

  13. The only mistake that Al Davis made, was hanging on at the Raiders’ helm for too long. There comes a point in every man’s life where he loses touch (to varying degrees with reality). But with the lack of real leadership that Mark, is showing, it makes one wonder if Al, stayed in control past a departure date that he may have set for himself, simply because he “knew”, his son wasn’t up to the challenges of running an NFL franchise?

    For those that say, all the Raiders have to do is win and that’ll cure everything, permit me to cure your myopia. It is because of dysfunctional relationships within the organization that the Raiders aren’t winning. Mismanagement at the top of any small corporation will quickly work itself down to all levels. Without stability generated from the top down, no team can be expected to perform at 100%.

    Take Tom Cable, (personal problems aside), who was miserable running the team, and who is now an absolutely sensational coach at Seattle, much beloved by his players. Obviously there were conditions at Oakland, that led to his downfall there. Who’s to say that internal problems didn’t undermine the confidence of JaMarcus Russell, to the extent that he became a flop under center?

    The team isn’t going to be successful if there are internal strifes that manage to filter their way to the locker room. When nagging details of instability begin to fill the player’s heads, there may not be enough room left over for the details of playing football.

    Let’s hope that wiser heads prevail and soon, or the silver and black are in for a long and bumpy ride.

  14. Mike Silver is a Raider Hater from way back.He really hates the Davis family because Al wouldn’t give him the time of day,rightfully so because he’s a no talent hack with an axe to grind.Good writers are fair and objective and don’t let personel feelings get in the way of the story.Silver consistantly has written negative articles about Oakland ,even when they were winning.He’s from the Bay area and never could get to be an inside guy with the Raiders,couldn’t gain Al’s respect, so he bashes them now whenever he can.Reggie McKenzie will turn around the fortunes in Oakland within the next 2 years,mark my words.As far as Mark Davis goes,he deserves the time to let us see what kind of owner he will become,not enough evidence yet to determine is legacy.He does need to get a new hairstyle ASAP.

  15. It is amazing what an attack dog you have become…
    But you are a liberal so not really surprising…
    You have that shows name change is not necessity or even popular, but claim their is overwhelming support, you have attacked the owner at every chance. One day congress is going to investigate and regulate the stories you write… The Wh has already done it, and congress isn’t far behind!

  16. I have been a Raider fan for over 35 years and nothing in that article is news to me. I felt it was well written as well as accurate. I do believe we are heading in the right direction, but another tough year is ahead. Allen is the right guy, but needs a little time to fix his rookie mistakes. If Mr. Davis was around he probably would have pulled a “Shanahan” and fired a bright young coach before giving him a real chance to mature into the role. Reggie is addressing the positions which take the most time to develop players first (lineman and DBs), in hopes of getting a few more pieces in the 2014 draft to begin making a run. Glad to see the smell of desperation has cleared the building and the foundation for a dynasty is being built.

  17. Mike Silver “well respected”. I don’t think so Florio! He is the poorest excuse of journalism I can recall. The fact he is employed is remarkable. The Tommy Boy article is the most disgusting and tasteless example. People admit they respect him? Such depravity.

  18. Since when does firing a PR Director determine the success of an NFL franchise??? This is a non issue. The Raiders have always been a closed operation when it comes to the Media. The doors got cracked opened and Mark Davis closed the door once again.

    In the immortal words of Don Corleone when talking to Sonny… ” I think your brain is going soft from all that comedy your playing with that young girl. Never tell anyone outside the family what your thinking again”!!!!!!!

  19. There are few “fanatics” as delusional as raider ones. I have no earthly idea why so many of you are jumping mad about the stories coming to light. What did you think was going on? Arguably, one of the worst teams in all professional sports, the raiders have done nothing to change their dysfunctional ways. Al Davis may have done some positive things back in the 70’s and early 80’s. But his final decades of ownership were beyond disastrous. Clearly, the son has no idea what he’s doing, and those of you barking about giving him extra time are just delaying the inevitable. The best you can hope, is that the spawn sees the writing on the wall, and puts the team up for sale. Getting better minds in control would give “your” team a chance at at least getting back to mediocrity, because right now they are the furthest thing from such.

  20. I love it when Mark Davis does the “fat guy in a little coat” bit!

  21. Amy Trask resigned because she didn’t like the fact that the new regime was trashing and tarnishing the legacy left behind by her boss she loved for over 20 years. Not that he hadn’t lost his grip, but that is another point. Mark is responding by firing the guy who is in charge of protecting that legacy in the public image and for chasing away a long time loyalist to the team. Reggie is doing a decent job putting the pieces back together, but don’t stab a legend in the back in the process. Media types are over reacting because this is one of their own. Raiders will be back and haters can applaud the comedy of errors made by the big market teams. Us against the world just as it has always been. Go Nation!

  22. I’m not a Bay area guy but I have always pulled for the Raiders, particularly since Reggie took the GM job and wanted to see the former Packer guy have success there. Likewise I started reading Mike Silver thinking, ‘this guy’s a pretty good columnist’. Well, then I saw the pitiful Hue Jackson articles the guy has put out since his firing and now I see Silver as simply a hack and a tool. Just don’t get the blind shilling for Hue thing.

  23. Way to take a stick and poke the hornets nest, Florio.

    Mike Silver is in no way an expert on anything that has to do with the Oakland Raiders, and his opinion of them comes across as a bit biased. Agreeing with him about presumptuous and subjective observations and opinions sinks you down to the very same level. Neither of you have a clue as to what the real situation behind the termination was.

    Making these claims about Mark Davis is no different than me calling you, or Mike, an idiot. I can only make that judgement by what I see on the surface, but that doesn’t make said judgement correct. Get the point I’m making?

    I’ll bet you that Mark Davis knows more about football than anyone who contributes to this site or even posts in the comments section. He’s been exposed to it a lot more than any single one of has.

  24. This guy Gilbert is gone because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut, plain and simple (Hayden leak information, Barkley and Nassib fiasco) and you profootball talk guys might not be too happy after his source fo Raiders information is gone, shame on you comparing Mr Mark Davis with this movie actor.

  25. Benefit of doubt squandered when he wants his own guys?

    What makes Al’s people witnessing him mistreating Mark and their departures cause the benefit of doubt for Oakland to go away?

    Al’s people witnessing his mistreatment of Mark and their departures costing Mark the benefit of doubt makes no sense.

    In fact, I thought that anything with Al Davis’ fingerprints being removed was ALWAYS good.

    Even if Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis allowed Dennis Allen to hire the reputably inept Gregg Knapp for a second Oakland failure as OC it was always a good idea because it was anti-Al.

    Removing your dad’s people for whatever reason is not a problem. Every owner has the right to have his or her people. Hire offensive coaches and personnel that clearly stink is what should lower Mark’s benefit of doubt.

  26. Once a joke of a franchise always a joke…….. markie boy will always stomp out any hope these fans will ever have of this team ever being any good.

  27. Sad to watch two once great franchises in the hands of legends like the Lakers with Jerry Buss and the Raiders with Al Davis pass on to such pathetic offspring. At least the Raiders have a shot in hoping their clueless heir sells soon because the Raiders have no stadium or contingency plan. The Lakers, not so much.

  28. I think press people are all making this story seem like a big deal because they worked with Gilbert pretty often. They understand the need for a good PR person more than the average fan does.

    Even as a Chiefs fan, I can’t call Mark Davis, Dennis Allen, and Reggie McKenzie bad at their jobs yet. What they inherited was nothing less than an absolute dumpster fire, and it’ll take a few years for them to get back into contention. It makes cleaning up after Scott Pioli’s mess look easy.

    That being said, I do think they’ve made some moves in the right direction. Tyler Wilson is a promising QB prospect, and the Raiders have a few decent young WRs. The defense is a huge question mark, but there’s no question that they did improve their awful secondary this offseason. They need to find a way to get the running game going again, and find some stability at the QB position.

    I’m ready for the Chiefs and Raiders to duke it out for the division title every year. It’s a shame that the rivalry isn’t what it used to be.

  29. Raiders fans and sports fans who have read the Trotter story can see it wasn’t all negative. It shows the struggles of the last 10 years which has been evident to even the most loyal Raider fans. But it talks about the positive moves Reggie is making and his knowledge and competence in football. The reality is NFL when you rebuild it has to get worse to get better. I can see that happening by next year when their salary cap is under control and there is a young core which it looks like there will be…..

  30. How many of the people slamming Mark Davis for firing Gilbert were actually there when the conversation about the article happened? Who can speak to Gilbert’s tone of voice or whether he was directly disrespectful or insubordinate to his boss, Mr. Davis? Who among you knows EVERY detail of what happened or didn’t happen? Maybe behind the scenes Gilbert himself was disrespectful of Mr Davis and his father and this was a long time coming. Everyone seems eager to believe that Gilbert was fired based solely on one single story, but I have yet to hear anything about what was said behind closed doors or how Mr. Gilbert related to the Davis family behind the scenes. It used to be that journalists tried to get all the facts before condemning someone. These days however, if you have a blog, you can create faux outrage simply by posting the bare minimum facts and assuming the rest. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not defending Mark Davis, and personally, I wish he would leave all of the hiring and firing decisions to McKenzie since McKenzie seems to be a bit more level-headed. But, the fact remains that there is little proof that Davis fired Gilbert for that article alone and for no other reasons, such as perhaps an accumulation of things, or a disrespectful attitude towards the Davis family in general. Real journalists pave a path of facts to their conclusions or they don’t make them at all – today’s “journalists” have no problem whatsoever in jumping to them time and again.

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