Al Davis

The Raiders are feeling mighty neighborly lately

The Bay Area was never big enough for the two of them. You think the Giants and the A’s have a feisty little squabble going over territorial rights? That’s a lovers’ quarrel compared to how the Raiders and 49ers have interacted with each other for decades.

For Al Davis, life has always been “Al vs. The World,” and it was no different at home. During most of the Raiders’ tenures in Oakland, the Silvuh and Black and the 49ers would rather trade team colors than trade with each other. Davis and Ed Debartolo couldn’t stand each other, although Debartolo let Carmen Policy stick up for him publicly rather than get into media spats with the Oaktown don sporting the white and silver track suits.

Lately, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before the Raiders and 49ers are not only sharing the same Stadium, but practice facilities, Gatorade recipes (dilute it by 10% for optimum flavor) and cheerleaders as well. Gone are the days when the Al and the Raiders lived to overpay recently-released 49ers, now they’re trying to set up the 49ers to win the NFC West for the first time since (some) people thought Ricky Martin slept with women (sorry, had to).

Maybe they learned a lesson when they signed Kwame Harris. Since then, Albert drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey with Michael Crabtree still on the board, and now the Raiders are primed to trade for Donovan McNabb.

“Wait,” you’re thinking. “Isn’t McNabb better than any 49ers quarterback since Steve Young?”

Yes. Yes, he is. Still, the Raiders are doing the 49ers a favor simply by bidding up the price for McNabb, whether or not they’re successful in their attempts to acquire him.

If the Raider-rumors come true, the Arizona Cardinals will start the season with Matt Leinart as their No. 1 and Derek Anderson as their No. 2. If the Cardinals traded for McNabb, the 49ers’ status as NFC West favorites would immediately vanish.

Even though 2010 is an uncapped year, it simply doesn’t make sense for the 49ers to spend money like this. McNabb isn’t just owed $11.2 million for the 2010 season, he’s also due to get a $6.2 million roster bonus on May 5. I’m normally against worrying about how much money professional sports franchises spend (which is why I couldn’t care less about how whether the extensions for Brian Wilson, Matt Cain and Jeremy Affeldt cost the Giants $1M/year or $50M/year; the only thing I care about is what else the Giants are going to do to get back to the playoffs).

However, the NFL has done OK in the years since instituting the salary cap, so it stands to reason that the cap will be back sooner rather than later. So changing paths at this stage of the game and spending eight figures on an over-the-hill QB who’s never won anything (and is looking for a mammoth extension that some dumb team will probably give him) doesn’t make a lot of sense. And for a team with a rundown stadium and limited means to increase their revenue stream beyond the NFL revenue sharing plan, spending $17.4M for one year of McNabb, who’s averaged over 3 games missed per season since 2004, is going to do nothing but get your fans’ hopes up.

Perhaps not coincidentally, 2004 was also the last year McNabb made the Pro Bowl. Not the NFL All Pro team, the Pro Bowl. Here’s a list of NFC quarterbacks who’ve made the Pro Bowl since 2004: Jake Delhomme, Matt Hasselbeck (twice), Michael Vick, Drew Brees (thrice), Marc Bulger, Tony Romo (twice), Brett Favre (twice), Jeff Garcia, Eli Manning, Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers. You can ask any fantasy football owner unlucky enough to have drafted McNabb in the past five years (myself included), or you can ask Andy Reid. When you’re talking about Mr. Campbell’s Chunky, the costs outweigh the benefits.

That is, unless you’re the Raiders, who would immediately look about 10 times better with McNabb in the mix than hoping Bruce Gimpkowski or Big Baby Russell can will the Raiders to their first 6-win season since 2002.

As for the Niners, trading for McNabb would leave them with four quarterbacks, unless the Eagles requested the Niners’ second round pick AND Nate Davis — a trade that would make myself and several others more nauseated than McNabb during a Super Bowl. I’d rather give Alex Smith a chance to improve on his best season to date, and if that doesn’t work early on, hand the keys to David Carr, a quarterback who’s as accurate as McNabb at one-fifth the price. Remember, McNabb is the guy who made Tony Romo look like a competent end-of-the-season QB last season. We’re not talking about the opportunity to pick up Jay Cutler before he hits his prime, or even Kurt Warner during his last season. This is McNabb, a guy whose entire career has been marked by the inability to please the coaches and fans who’ve been watching him for the last 11 years.

So instead of whining about how the 49ers are cheap (they are) or the fact they don’t have a general manager to even talk to the Eagles’ GM or McNabb’s agent in the first place (they don’t), let’s give thanks that the Raiders are being as supportive and generous as could be expected from any neighboring franchise. Jed York should send Al a nice fruit prune basket to return the favor.

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