Today, we offer the final segment of our three-part series with former Raiders scouts Jon Kingdon and Bruce Kebric, two of the co-authors of Al Davis: Behind the Raiders Shield.
Do you think Al Davis would follow the trend of hiring young people with minimal football background or would he seek more experienced scouts for his staff?
Kingdon: Outside of Ron Wolf, Bruce Kebric and myself, the scouting department was primarily comprised of former players so I imagine he would have continued that process.
Kebric: No. He wanted experience and expertise.
What’s the biggest mistake a team can make in scouting and evaluation?
Kingdon: It’s important that a scout have a conviction in his opinions. I worked with a scout that would change his grade from a second round to a seventh round to a third round depending on what was the latest report that he heard. It’s a lot easier to defend your own opinion than someone else’s. A scout needs to be strong enough to admit when he is wrong and strong enough to admit when he is right. You can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Scouting is the process of humans evaluating humans so by definition, you are going to be wrong sometimes. Just learn from your mistakes. If you make a mistake, make it a mistake of commission, not omission.
Kebric: Hiring friends and “yes” people. You need people who do the work, stand up for their convictions, but are willing to admit a mistake. The best advice that I ever received came from a veteran coach who early on in my career said, “Believe your eyes, not your ears.”
The spread offense has created challenges for scouts, especially when it comes to evaluating the OL and QBs. How would Al have dealt with this challenge?
Kingdon: Scouting is scouting. Probably the same issues came up when teams were running the wishbone, wing T and run and shoot offenses.
Kebric: I think that the lack of patience more than the collegiate offenses is the primary problem. Players at these two positions are immediately put on the field today instead of being given two or three years to learn the NFL game. I watch Aaron Rodgers and wonder what his career would have been like if he had been forced to play immediately. Everyone wants instant success. Years ago, teams had three- and five-year plans; now it is one and two. My first two years with the Oilers, our record was 2-26. The next two it was 17-11 and then it was on to “Luv Ya Blue.” Do you think we would have been around for Year 3 today?
In Al’s final days with the Raiders, the team didn’t enjoy a lot of success. The same could be said for a lot of the game’s legends (Beathard, Landry, others). Is there a shelf life for success in the NFL?
Kingdon: There’s no way to come up with a palatable answer to this question.
Kebric: Merely a lack of patience on Al’s part. His mounting health problems created a desire for instant success and as the book mentions, he never recovered from the loss in the 2003 Super Bowl. Al won three championships with two coaches over a 19-year period. After that, he was making near bi-annual changes with both his head coaches and the offensive scheme (Vertical vs. West Coast).