Saffold disaster reveals disconnect in Raiders front office

Saffold disaster reveals disconnect in Raiders front office
March 13, 2014, 7:30 am
If Davis is pulling the plug on deals McKenzie has worked out, the general manager is now superfluous to the owner’s needs, and that never ever ever ends well.
Ray Ratto

Because the National Football League free agency season is largely a liar’s bazaar, the Rodger Saffold story may simply be another walk through the nonsense promenade.

But based on what we already know -- which is hilarious -- the Oakland Raiders have now reached the stage where they can’t even give money to people. It’s a wonder, frankly, how they get anyone to take their calls.

So what do we know? They let tackle Jared Veldheer go to Arizona because they preferred Rodger Saffold of St. Louis. They signed Saffold to a five-year deal. Then they announced that Saffold failed his physical because of a shoulder problem that requires surgery. Then Saffold’s agents, who swore up and down that the shoulder was fine, went back to the Rams, who immediately offered up a five-yaer deal of their own based on the fact that Saffold’s shoulder was, well, fine.

From there, we get into nebulous he-said-she-said areas, but here, from Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch is literally the one that should drive some Raider fans into becoming Broncos fans, and others into giving up football entirely.

“After an initial meeting with Raiders officials, a meeting that (Saffold’s agent Alan) Herman said included the team's chief financial officer, and an attorney representing the team, among others, Herman and (fellow agent Jared) Fox then met with Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie before they left the building.

“’He apologized profusely,’” Herman said of McKenzie. “’I shared my displeasure in very strong terms. Jared and I were sitting there in disbelief. We got out of the building and we got back to the hotel.’”

(The entire story is here.)

So the obvious question is, why is McKenzie apologizing? The obvious answer is because he thinks Saffold was done wrong. And who did Saffold wrong? Apparently Mark Davis, who according to reports is the one who killed the deal, leaving the Raiders once again as The Gang Who Couldn’t Load The Gun Straight, Let Alone Shoot It.

How does such dysfunction happen? How does Oakland’s $60 million in cap space turn into confederate bank notes? How does one not conclude that the next item on the team’s to-do list is a new general manager and coach?

Would anyone of good sense believe otherwise?

Screwing up the Saffold signing would not seem on its face to have that power -- he is, after all, a middling offensive tackle of what is a middling NFC team -- not exactly the face that launched a thousand ships, if you know what we mean and we think you do.

But at the other end of this pipeline of hilarity, it seems fairly evident that Davis no longer trusts his general manager on things like player acquisition. And even if that’s too harsh and he just thinks McKenzie merely erred in offering the contract, it must surely mean that Davis believes himself to be either the pre-eminent football decision-maker in the building, or a better doctor than his team's doctors, who originally told Saffold the shoulder was (that word again) fine.

Either way, the phrase “Look Out Below!” leaps immediately to mind.

After keeping a low profile through the first two years of his stewardship of his father’s edifice, Mark Davis is now getting very involved in everything with the Swords Through The Head logo. He has been posturing without leverage about a new stadium in Oakland, blaming the East Bay political structure for a mess that also has the Raiders’ fingerprints all over it. And now he’s decided, if the reports are true, that his will must supercede all others in the assembling of the football team he owns -- a notion that has worked so very well for Jerry Jones and Danny Snyder, to name but two owners who think they know what they do not.

Only Jones and Snyder have money to burn. Davis does not -- his only equity is his team, and if he can’t get that right . . .

You may argue that McKenzie should never have gone after Saffold to begin with, that he should have re-upped Veldheer and avoided the whole problem. Maybe, and maybe not. The season to come will bear that out.

But if Davis is pulling the plug on deals McKenzie has worked out, the general manager is now superfluous to the owner’s needs, and that never ever ever ends well.

In other words, it’s one more run-through of the GIF that is the Oakland Raiders, only with a twist. They used to spend money on the wrong items. Now they can’t spend it at all.