On Tuesday, two of the co-authors of the new book, Al Davis: Behind the Raiders Shield, Jon Kingdon and Bruce Kebric, answered our questions about the book and about scouting in general. We had a few more questions, and their answers are below.
Did Al evaluate scouts and front office personnel? If so, how?
Kingdon: In his own way, Al would evaluate the scouts. He would rely more on the opinion of the better scouts in the department. He was very loyal to his employees and did not fire people easily. If someone proved to be disloyal to him or the organization, that was certainly grounds for termination. The coaches were a different story.
Kebric: He did know who could perform and who could not but remained loyal to certain individuals. On a number of occasions, he would tell us just to “work around so and so.” Of course, this created a burden on the rest of us.
Al was an innovator. How would he look at the rise of analytics in the game today?
Kingdon: I once heard a historian talk about the greatness of our founding fathers like Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison and Adams. They wrote this amazing document using quill pens in bad light. It would be amazing to think what they could do with the facilities of today. I think the same think about Sid Gillman, Al Davis and the other great football minds that would sit in a room, cutting and splicing film as they put together their offenses. I’m sure that Al would have analyzed the analytics from all angles and perspectives and found a way to maximize its use in ways that may not have been considered.
Kebric: Perhaps, because of his health decline, Al did not adapt to modern devices (e.g., computers, cell phones, etc.). He remained reliant upon daily faxes and used an overhead projector to detail particulars of the Lane Kiffin firing. I once made mention to him about all the data that could be located on a computer and he replied that, “Jon Kingdon provides me with that information.” The book contains a comment from Al to the effect that history repeats itself and that what worked in the past once again will work in the future. He never really left the 1960s (Sid Gilllman’s vertical passing offense, etc.) and so, analytics would have been a tough sell.
Thursday, we ask Jon and Bruce the biggest mistake a team can make during the scouting process; how they think Davis would have dealt with evaluating players in college offenses that don’t translate to the NFL; and why some scouts and executives lose their effectiveness over time. Don’t forget to check in tomorrow, and make sure to check out their new book.