Oakland Raiders: Mark Davis Suddenly Holding Some Very Advantageous Cards

Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis looks on before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis looks on before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Oakland Raiders’ search for a new and permanent home drags on – but it suddenly appears that one venue is gathering real and legitimate steam.

Turns out, Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis might actually be pretty savvy when it comes to running his franchise. Okay, it’s been bumpy at times, and there have been some questionable decisions, but like his GM Reggie McKenzie, Davis seems to be growing into the role. So much so, that with the Raiders’ relocation fight still very much on, Davis suddenly finds that he’s the one holding some of the most advantageous cards.

We can all agree that Davis and the Raiders had the deck stacked against them – and never had any real shot – in the three team race to LA. The votes were cast and the NFL’s hand picked team, the Rams, got the nod to move to Southern California.

The league and the owners – thanks to his enormous checkbook – wanted Stan Kroenke in LA from the start. But with three teams jockeying for position in a two team market, the league opted to give the Chargers the green light to join Kroenke’s Rams in Inglewood.

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The Raiders never stood a chance in that fight. They never stood a chance because the league and the other owners desperately want to keep the Raiders out of Los Angeles. Mostly because they – and Kroenke – know that should the Raiders make the trek south to the City of Angels, it will be the Rams who are the second rate team in the market. Again. The Raiders have a fanbase in LA that Kroenke could only dream of having.

And given that Kroenke and the Rams are the league’s new cash cows, they are going to want to make sure he stays happy, fat, and healthy.

However, things appear to be changing and a nightmare scenario is beginning to unfold for the league. With the Chargers making a real push to stay in San Diego – a push that is rapidly gaining steam and could very well come to fruition – that would mean the door is open for Davis to bring the Raiders back to LA. Which would make the league and the owners very, very unhappy.

The city of Oakland is not even attempting to play ball with Davis to work out a long term deal. Not only did they jack the Raiders’ rent rate up dramatically, but Oakland City Concil member Noel Gallo recently said, “I’m ready to kiss and say goodbye and help him pack his bags.”

Which leaves the Raiders in a bit of a quandry regarding the place they’re going to be calling home in the not too distant future. But Davis is working on that.

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The flirtation between Davis and the city of Las Vegas has escalated pretty quickly. If everything goes as expected later this week, it might even be fair to say that they’ve moved out of the flirtation stage and are now going steady.

This Thursday, Davis is scheduled to meet with the Sands Group, which is the hotel and casino company that is interested in building a stadium for the Raiders and the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV to share. It’s being reported that if this meeting goes well and the financing package is approved, Davis is expected to make his relationship with Vegas “Facebook Official.”

Davis’ pledge to move the team doesn’t guarantee it will happen, of course. There is the whole annoying “owner’s vote” hurdle to clear. There are undoubtedly some of the old school, hardline owners like John Mara of the Giants wouldn’t back a Raiders move to Sin City because of its proximity to all of those evil casinos.

But that stand is as hypocritical as they come given the fact that the NFL worked deals with the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel – deals all of the owners are profiting from, by the way. However, the willingness to work with those two sites could mark a shift in the thinking of gambling as it pertains to the NFL and the Raiders might face less resistance to the idea of a move there.

The ultimate bargaining chip Davis has in his pocket though, is Los Angeles. Assuming the Chargers can work a deal to stay in San Diego – and Roger Goodell is doing all he can to ensure that happens – the Raiders are the next team up. There won’t be another vote – it’s already been done. The simple fact of the matter is that if the Chargers don’t move to LA, the Raiders will be able to pick up and move to SoCal at will.

And as already mentioned, neither the league nor the owners want that.

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If the door opens for a move to LA, Davis’ play will only need to be that if the owners support his move, they have Southern California as the ultimate bargaining chip for other teams who are trying to leverage new stadiums out of their home city. Kroenke is building a stadium that will accommodate two teams and already has a plan in place to host said second team.

If another team looking for a new stadium is having trouble getting a deal done, all they need to do is point to LA and threaten to move – and voila, a new deal gets done. All of which goes to fatten up the owners’ pocketbooks – the one thing that drives all of their decisions.

It’s in the best interests of Kroenke and his cabal of owners who originally voted to shut Davis out of LA to rally around him if he chooses to move to Vegas. If Oakland politicians like Gallo and Libby Schaff are any measure, there is no future in the city for the Raiders. A state of the art stadium that is regularly sold out in an as of yet untapped market – a market known for its extravaggance and wealth – will bring them plenty of money. And what NFL owner can pass that up?

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Things are heating up out in the desert between Davis and the city of Las Vegas. And for once, it’s Davis on the offensive, which has given him some pretty advantageous cards. It’s something that would undoubtedly make the late, great Al Davis smile. We’ll have a better idea this week if we should all start getting used to the name, Las Vegas Raiders.