COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Bill Belichick have several notable connections that are timely to revisit with the teams getting set to square off Sunday in Mexico City, such as the time Belichick apparently thought he had a trade for receiver Randy Moss consummated for a sixth-round draft choice.
Then Al Davis stepped in.
That’s the way it is told in the entertaining and insightful book “Al Davis: Behind the Raiders Shield” by Bruce Kebric and Jon Kingdon with Steve Corkran.
In the book, the authors noted how the late Davis “respected and consulted with Belichick” and “their relationship reached the point where Davis interviewed Belichick for Oakland’s head coaching vacancy in 1998.” That was the year the Raiders ultimately hired Jon Gruden, but it didn’t stop Davis and Belichick from working together on several trades.
The Moss deal, in particular, had a notable backstory.
From the book:
“It would have been even more one-sided if Davis hadn’t intervened. ... After two seasons with the Raiders, Moss made it known that he had no interest in returning for a third. Davis agreed it was time for a parting of ways. The only question that remained was, could Davis save face and recoup some of the high cost from trading for Moss in 2005?
“Davis changed coaches after the 2006 season, firing Art Shell and replacing him with Lane Kiffin. One of Kiffin’s first tasks was to trade Moss, and Kiffin’s personal assistant Mark Jackson was charged with the task of making a deal.
“Jackson had worked with Kiffin at the University of Southern California, and he had some prior NFL experience with the New England Patriots. He soon found himself on the phone with Belichick, someone regarded as one of the most savvy football minds of all time.
“Jackson and Belichick finally agreed upon a sixth-round draft pick for Moss.”
The book details that Davis “was aghast” at the price.
That’s when Davis, according to the book, “phoned Belichick from the Raiders meeting room and accused him of taking advantage of Jackson, who had no experience in this area.”
Belichick responded that he was simply agreeing to what was offered, and then, according to the book, asked Davis what he was seeking for Moss. When Davis said a fourth-round pick, Belichick agreed to the terms.
When Moss went on to have great success with the Patriots, the fourth-round pick seemed like a bargain. But as Davis explained in the book, there wasn’t a trade market for him.
“You know how many teams turned him down?” Davis said. “That guy in Green Bay thought he couldn’t run anymore. Even Denver, where they’ll take anybody, turned him down.”
On Tuesday, I asked Belichick about his recollections of dealings with Davis, and the Raiders organization in general.
“It’s a great franchise. Al Davis did a tremendous job with the franchise when he took over [in 1972]," Belichick replied. "Al Davis is in the Hall of Fame, as he should be. His contributions and success in professional football, both in the AFL and NFL, are very highly regarded -- the great Super Bowl teams that they had, his development of players and uncovering of players, especially in the '70s and early '80s with some of the smaller schools. They became great players, Hall of Fame players, a lot of people had never heard of until they started playing for the Raiders.
“They have a great tradition, a great fan base and intensity. Those guys play hard. They play with a lot of passion. They’re always a tough, physical team, which they are again this year. Al Davis -- I’ve always had a ton of respect for him. I had an opportunity to talk with him on many occasions. He was always very insightful and [it was] a pleasure to be around the guy with his passion and love for football, the coaching part of it, the scouting part of it. He was very special."