Possible L.A. return presents hurdles for Raiders

The death of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has led to rampant speculation around the NFL about the team’s future, as my Yahoo! colleague Michael Silver deftly pointed out on Monday. One factor that could certainly impact plans is that the Davis family, which is essentially Al’s wife, Carol, and son, Mark, only owns a little more than 40 percent of the team, according to NFL sources. That 40 percent is still defined as “controlling” interest of the team and the other Raiders owners (the team has many limited partners) are specifically barred from combining to mount any challenge for control. However, for all those people who think the Raiders are on the first Southwest flight from the Oakland Airport to LAX, just hold on for a second. For that to happen, the Davis family would likely have to sell the team outright.

[ Related: Al Davis’ passing has domino effect on relocation ]

Both of the current Los Angeles stadium proposals (the Anschutz Entertainment Group plan in downtown and the Ed Roski plan in the City of Industry) include those entities buying a share of the team that comes there, according to sources with both groups. Phil Anschutz has asked the franchises his people have talked to for anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of a team at a discounted rate as a safeguard against the $1.3 billion (at least) that he plans to spend on the stadium, according to four sources familiar with the circumstances. Roski has asked for less (one AEG source has put it at a nominal 5 to 10 percent), making it possible that the Raiders could go to that site. However, Roski’s group was not particularly focused on the Raiders at this point because of the questions about how much the Davis family really owned, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

“It’s really hard to sort out that situation,” the source said of the Raiders.

Unless demands are significantly lowered, the Raiders can’t really go to the AEG site unless the Davis family simply wants to sell, and going to the Roski site would also weaken the family’s share significantly.

For now, any sale of the team seems improbable. In the aftermath of Davis’ death, it’s hard to see Mark Davis, 56, parting with the family business right now. The Raiders have been in the center of Mark Davis’ life essentially since he was born. “You would think it would be a very emotional thing for Mark to sell the team, so I wouldn’t expect that anytime soon,” a league executive said. “He’s going to have to sort out how he feels.”

Of course, Mark Davis could be forced to sell at some point. When his mother passes, Mark Davis will likely be forced to deal with estate taxes. Additionally, Davis will need money if he wants to move to a new stadium, even in the Bay Area.

[ Related: NFL unhappy with downtown L.A. stadium plan? ]

In short, there are some dominos that could fall that would force a quick change.

Finally, there is this bit of angling in the background: The NFL’s preference (not a strong one) is that the Raiders stay in Oakland and eventually share a stadium with the San Francisco 49ers. That plan is viewed as the safest option for the financial viability of both teams, particularly in California, where stadium building costs can get expensive fast.

Ultimately, that may be the easiest way for the Davis family to stay as the owners.

“If Mark really wants to stay as the owner, he could probably borrow enough money for his part of [a Bay Area] stadium and keep control as long as he wants,” the league source said. “We’ll see what he wants to do.”

QUICK SLANTS

Rodgers is league’s top gun

Aaron Rodgers(notes) has thrown 14 TD passes and just 2 INTs this season.
(Getty Images)

I won’t get as in-depth as the cool post by Shutdown Corner’s Doug Farrar last Friday, but here’s another bit of statistical data to prove that Aaron Rodgers is playing some incredible football. Over his past 16 games (the equivalent of one full season), Rodgers has a quarterback rating of 119.1. That run includes four playoff games against, presumably, good defenses. During that time, he has completed 366 of 518 passes (70 percent) for 4,726 yards (an excellent 9.1 yards per attempt), 39 touchdowns and six interceptions. If that were an actual season, it would rank as the second-best ever in terms of quarterback rating (Peyton Manning(notes) posted a 121.1 rating in 2004; Tom Brady(notes) had 117.2 in 2007). Considering the playoff games add to the degree of difficulty, it’s arguable that Rodgers’ past 16 games would measure up with any span of contests all time. Most important, the Packers have gone 14-2 during that run, including a Super Bowl victory. At least here, it leads to this conclusion: Right now Rodgers is playing better than Brett Favre(notes) ever did at any point in his career. Rodgers may not end up with the number of milestones Favre accomplished for his career, but I would rather have drafted Rodgers.

[ Related: Brett Favre says Aaron Rodgers ‘fell into a good situation’ ]

Ill-prepared Castillo

There has been a lot of ranting about Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid’s decision to promote Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator, particularly given the defense’s poor start this season. Castillo, a linebacker in college and the USFL, had never coached defense prior to this season after joining the NFL and Eagles’ staff in 1995. He worked his way up from offensive assistant and many people are now saying it was ludicrous of Reid to put someone in charge of the defense if they had never coached on that side. Some of that criticism is fair. However, there are plenty of great coaches in the NFL who played on the other side of the ball than what they eventually coached. The real problem with the jump Castillo made is that Reid never gave him time to transition into the job. It got worse by the fact that there was no offseason for Castillo to work with players and the Eagles brought in so many free agents. Not the best work by Reid.

Top five
1. Green Bay Packers (5-0):
Will the Thanksgiving Day game at Detroit be a preview of the NFC championship game? That would be cool.
2. Detroit Lions (5-0): Awesome story, but second half of the season features New Orleans, San Diego and Green Bay twice.
3. New Orleans Saints (4-1): The offense is fine, but the defensive line and linebacker depth are suspect right now.
4. New England Patriots (4-1): Defense is troubling, but offense has 13 straight games with 30 or more points in the regular season.
5. Baltimore Ravens (3-1): Bye came a little early, but Ravens should cruise to 11 or 12 victories given their schedule.

Bottom five
28. Denver Broncos (1-4):
Can Tim Tebow(notes) resurrect the Broncos? Yeah, I had to ask. Let’s just see if he can play first.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-4): You can’t help but conclude that Jack Del Rio is basically begging to get fired.
30. St. Louis Rams (0-4): Next three games are at Green Bay, at Dallas and New Orleans at home. Can you say 0-7?
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-5): Despite current mark, it still looks like this team could win four games easily. Still have Jax twice.
31. Miami Dolphins (0-4): Several NFL folks believe Jon Gruden will be at the top of Stephen Ross’ list. Pretty safe guess.

This and that

One other interesting aside about Rodgers’ past 16 games is that he hasn’t thrown 40 passes or more in any of those contests. He’s averaging just over 32 in that run. Though Rodgers is getting lots of opportunities, he is being very efficient with those chances.

As a follow-up to the bit of news that Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay would prefer to draft Andrew Luck at No. 1 and let the Stanford quarterback sit behind Peyton Manning for a few years: Some people have mentioned that’s a no-brainer move. To an extent, that’s true. However, it should be noted that the Colts’ roster is not that good right now. While Irsay dismissed the question of age with the likes of Reggie Wayne(notes), Dwight Freeney(notes), Robert Mathis(notes) and Dallas Clark(notes), the truth is that football players over 30 aren’t great bets. Aside from those guys, the rest of the Colts’ roster is highly questionable, particularly at the skill positions. Pierre Garcon(notes) and Austin Collie(notes) have flashed talent at times, but they’re hardly mainstays. As great as it would be to have Luck, making another run at a championship might require a haul of talent you would get from trading away the rights to Luck.

[ Related: Colts would consider drafting, sitting Andrew Luck ]

The big question Jacksonville faces as it likely gets ready to jettison coach Jack Del Rio is what direction to go next. If the team is committed to developing quarterback Blaine Gabbert(notes) properly, one idea is to promote offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. However, there is some thought that the Jaguars will not stop at replacing Del Rio. General manager Gene Smith could also be on the block. If that’s the case, Koetter would be in trouble, too.

Speaking of Jacksonville, let me repeat something to the fans who continue to live in denial: Your team is in play to move to Los Angeles. You can rant all you want about sellout streaks and non-blackouts, but that stadium is very empty on game day and the city couldn’t be much more apathetic.

Here’s one final thought about the NFL Players Association and the controversy over the eight players who were allowed to be suspended by the NFL: For all those who think those players were wronged by the union, let’s get a clue. There is no way that the NFLPA was going to hold up a new collective bargaining agreement over eight guys who have repeatedly gotten into trouble. No way at all, and players who have spoken up on the behalf of those players are missing the point on that.

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Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011