The Oakland Raiders fired public relations director Zak Gilbert. Ok, I know this is not exactly breaking news since it happened on Sunday, but I wanted to let the dust settle a bit before getting my hands dirty on this one. I wanted to give the story some time to marinate and allow other tidbits of information to come out before developing an opinion.
Not surprisingly, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the situation, the biggest of which is why did Mark Davis actually fire Gilbert?
First, it was believed that he fired Gilbert due to an article written by Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated. This, however, did not make sense to me. Maybe if it was a couple of years ago and Al Davis was still running things, but not in the new administration. At least that is what many hoped — that Mark Davis would not be prone to rash and emotionally charged decisions, as his father would be at times.
Al Davis was a football man. He is one of the few owners in NFL history who worked his entire life in football, rising through the ranks of the league to become an owner. He had no greater passion than the game of football and his Raiders.
Mark Davis is by all accounts a businessman. Businessmen make rationally calculated decisions based on achieving certain goals. It simply is not good business to fire an employee for an article Gilbert had nothing to do with.
This is why I waited. It’s not surprising that many believed the firing was due to Trotter’s story. With the way the Raiders were run in the past, that would have been a logical assumption. Now, with Mark Davis, there is likely more to the story than just one article. Somewhat surprisingly, it was a man who is not thought of very highly in the Raider Nation, Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports, who penned a piece that posed a much more likely scenario.
Though I am not one of them, many in the Raider Nation commonly refer to Silver as a Raider Hater. There is a strong belief among many in the Nation that the media in general has a strong bias against the Raiders. In that supposed camp, Silver is enemy number one. Despite that fact, Silver appears to be the only one willing to bet that the story behind Gilbert’s firing is more complex than Mark Davis being mad about a Jim Trotter article. In his piece, Silver suggests that this is much more likely a calculated shot across the bow by Davis aimed at General Manager Reggie McKenzie.
Silver suggests that Davis may have been unhappy with the overall message being put out by the PR department over the past year and a half. More specifically, the continuing message that the Raiders were in such a mess that it will take McKenzie at least a few years to fix things.
Gilbert was a McKenzie hire and the two knew each other from Green Bay. While it is true that McKenzie was tasked with a very difficult job, I can understand Davis not being happy with a PR campaign that emphasized the errors of his father’s regime while touting the efforts of the new general manager.
With the continuous message that the Raiders had a lot of work to do, public perception of McKenzie was that he was almost untouchable for the first two to three years of the rebuild. It has been assumed that Davis will give him that much time to fix things before deciding to move on.
Gilbert’s firing was more likely a message to McKenzie that he isn’t untouchable, as opposed to Mark Davis freaking out over a one specific article. Then again, these are still the Raiders so one thing is certain … we will never know what really happened.