Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis held a press conference Tuesday to announce the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin and the hiring of Kiffin's replacement Tom Cable. After an extended session with the media, including showing the contents of a letter given to Kiffin, Davis held court with the media in an informal gathering for follow-up questions.
One of the questions posed to Davis was about the decision to trade wide receiver Randy Moss to the Patriots during the 2007 NFL Draft. In his response, Davis claimed that former Raiders personnel guy Mike Lombardi helped the Patriots acquire information on Moss before the trade. According to Davis, the way the Patriots obtained the information constituted tampering.
The discussion was recorded by San Jose Mercury News' Tim Kawakami:
But what's his name knew he could run, he's a friend of Belichick's. Mike Lombardi. Mike sold what's his name, Belichick, on the idea that he could run. They tampered with him. I remember Bob Kraft saying that he had to look him in the eye and all that. They went down and worked him out, he could run. He's their team, of course, with the quarterback.
In the discussion, Davis tried to explain that Kiffin and his new coaching staff didn't want Moss around. Davis also said that no one wanted Moss, including Denver and Green Bay.
Ironically, part of the friction between the Packers front office and former Packers quarterback Brett Favre was because the team didn't do enough to pursue Moss when they had the chance.
"That guy in Green Bay thought he couldn't run any more," said Davis.
That guy in Green Bay traded Favre to the Jets during the off-season, where he hooked up with his new receivers to do something in New York that he hadn't done in 15 seasons in Green Bay - throw six touchdowns in a game.
Moss finished last season by breaking former San Francisco 49er Jerry Rice's single-season touchdown record with 23 TDs. Rice finished his career in Oakland.
Davis wasn't finished making accusations with just the Patriots. He also leveled cheating accusations at the Denver Broncos, who are coached by former Raiders coach Mike Shanahan.
"When Shanahan left me, he went to Denver. He was there for about four or five years as an assistant and they fired him for insubordination," said Davis. "Dan Reeves and he had a big battle. He went to the 49ers and he learned their style of football and when Dan Reeves failed in Denver, the first guy they had was Wade Phillips, I think
then he brought Shanahan back. And Shanahan had success. But Shanahan has an asterisk next to those two Super Bowls, because they were caught cheating."
Bitterness was prevalent throughout Davis' interaction with the media yesterday. The Raiders owner still holds a great deal of animosity toward a great many people, but the tampering comment from yesterday can be connected with one final comment Davis made about New England, and it wasn't about the Patriots directly. Davis was responding to being asked if he was concerned that Kiffin might follow in the footsteps of other former Raiders coaches who left Oakland only to achieve more success elsewhere.
Davis touched on the 2001 AFC Championship loss to New England, during Jon Gruden's last season in Oakland. Gruden left Oakland for Tampa Bay where his Buccaneers defeated Raiders in the Super Bowl the following season.
"Jon [Gruden] was a good coach. But don't forgot, I took Jon, no one else even knew who he was," Davis said of Tampa Bay's head coach.
"Jon's first two years, he was in tough. He won a big game [Kansas City] that kept him alive," said Davis. "The Tuck Game [vs New England] was the undoing of a lot of things."
Davis is consumed by bitterness. He accuses people of lying when things don't work out It could help explain why Davis continues to make accusations against the Patriots. During the 2008 off-season, Davis leveled lying charges against former Raiders running back LaMont Jordan who joined New England days after receiving his release from Davis in Oakland. Davis accused Jordan of violating an agreement that he wouldn't join the Patriots if the Raiders released him. For the record, Jordan's agent claimed no such agreement existed. Jordan has also said as much.
One thing is clear when listening to Davis; he's still in charge. And while he's in charge his reign will continue to be marred by personal bitterness toward a large number of people, probably none more so than New England.