The Oakland Raiders are in a peculiar position with head coach Jack Del Rio. After presiding over a team that went from one of the best in the league to one of the worst, the extension Mark Davis gave Del Rio last offseason is looking even worse than it did at the time. With Del Rio looking more like Mark Jackson than Steve Kerr, this disastrous season has people justifiably concerned about whether Del Rio can take this team to the next level or if he will just bury them.
The problem is, it might be too expensive for the league’s poorest (least rich?) owner to fire Del Rio given that shiny new extension. Because it’s not just about eating the guaranteed portion of Del Rio’s contract. If you’re going to do that, it’s only worthwhile if you’re willing to spend the money it will take to get a very good replacement. That means at least a few years of a very high cost for your head coach.
But despite that, Mark Davis’ best financial move might be to lose money in the short term so that he can make money in the long term.
The Raiders have at least another year in Oakland and then they are off to Las Vegas. Not only do they want to make as much money in Oakland as they can before leaving, they need to start strong in Vegas in order to make the most money there as well.
If they go to Vegas with a bad team, it’s going to be an uphill battle to build a fan base. Of course there will be those fans who are just excited to have an NFL team and will follow the Raiders because it’s the team for their town. But there will also be a ton of potential fans who will need to be convinced that the expense of being an NFL fan is worth it. Because while television revenue is important, it’s not everything. You need fans who will fill the seats and spend their hard earned money on Raiders paraphernalia.
The Raiders will be fine to start because of all the excitement surrounding a new team moving to town. But much like Davis needs to look beyond the now in terms of coaches, he needs to look beyond the now in terms of finances as well. Getting a fan base in Vegas won’t be that hard. Keeping them if you produce a poor product on the field is a whole other question.
Raiders fans in Oakland had been fans dating as far back as the 1960’s, the Raiders ran in the blood of Oaklanders long before they hit the decade plus of ineptitude that plagued the team through the 2000’s. Many Vegas fans will be new to the team and if Mark Davis puts a bad team on the field, he won’t be able to keep many of those new fans.
So in the long run, moving on from a coach who turned a winning Raiders team into an embarrassment could be far better for the finances of the Raiders, even if it hurts in the short term.
The only question is, can Mark Davis land a coach who is guaranteed to be better than Del Rio? I think he can, but we will talk about that if Davis actually decides to move on from Del Rio.