Lechler's departure a necessary change

Lechler: 'Mr. Davis offered something I wasn't turning down'

Lechler's departure a necessary change
March 22, 2013, 8:30 pm
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Shane Lechler’s departure reinforces how much McKenzie has had to do in order to change the face of the Raiders. (AP IMAGES)

This day has been coming for Shane Lechler for years. He has been an Oakland Raider far longer than either he or they ever thought, both beneficiary and victim of Al Davis’ legendary loyalty, but some day it was going to end.

Thus, when Davis died, and then was replaced as football maven by Reggie McKenzie, change was mandated. Huge, sweeping, enormous change, and since Lechler was in many ways the best defensive player the Raiders have had over the past 10 seasons, his departure to the Houston Texans was both not surprising and a sea change.

[RELATED: Lechler signs with Texans]

At this moment, the only old-regime Raider left of any measure is kicker Sebastian Janikowski, and though Lechler made more money than any other punter and had started to show some leg wear on a team that will be using its punter a lot in the next couple of years, his departure is jarring.

Not unnecessary. But jarring nonetheless.

Lechler’s departure reinforces how much McKenzie has had to do in order to change the face of the Raiders. It is a decision that most general managers would not have to face because they would not lavish such loyalty or money on a punter. But it is a measure of Davis in the latter years of his life that he would do such a thing and stand on it as proof of his enduring genius.

The problem, of course, was that he couldn’t solve the conundra of the other 22 positions for any particular length of time, save perhaps Nnamdi Asomugha. And Lechler chafed at times under the burdens of the Lost Decade, hinting that he would welcome some change-of-address cards.

But money always brought him back, because Davis’ generosity, while quirky, was also unrepentant. He believed in kickers as he believed in big-armed quarterbacks, and he paid both Lecher and Janikowski far beyond what the otherwise cruel NFL market dictates for kickers. If Lechler wanted to go, he never wanted to go badly enough.

And now, he goes because of the flush years of the past. The Raiders are cap-strangled, draft-pick poor and generally in the middle section of a full-on excavation from the final excesses of the previous management, and Lechler was a particularly lavish luxury.

He may relocate his essential passion for the game and the job, the passion he lost because of years of muddled losing and the distractions that filled that void. Houston is closer to his home, and the Texans are not the depressed operation the Raiders are. Shane Lechler wins.

And Oakland? Who knows? There’s no fun in just shoveling snow 24/7, but that’s the job. And it’s going to continue to be the job for McKenzie, or whomever succeeds him as the man tasked to fix what Al Davis built.