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Davis ends press blackout

Al Davis held court for the first time in two years Wednesday. Given that his slam-dunk choice as the next coach of the Oakland Raiders was neither slam nor dunk, the event was definitely fortuitous.

After all, you rarely get someone to say the only person in football he can't legitimately compete with is God.

But more on that later. More immediate is the news that his coaching vacancy is still more vacant than coach, and will be for the time being.

Sean Payton, the Cowboys assistant head coach who was essentially announced by every media wisenheimer in the contiguous 48 as the successor to Bill (Captain Queeg With A Whistle) Callahan, apparently isn't the guy after all. Either he turned down the Raiders (his version), or the Raiders never offered him the job (Al's version).

Whatever the case, the Pride And Poise Noise is on the boil.

Usually, this means a whole lot of nothing, because the Raiders keep their cards pinned to their chests. But because Al chose Wednesday to play Show And Tell, much was revealed, leading us to the obvious question:

Why don't we do this more often?

Of the Payton matter, Davis said the job hadn't been offered, that Payton wasn't going to be the last interview, and that "I wanted something to happen last weekend that didn't happen."

Read: He wanted to talk to one of the Carolina or New England assistants (best guess, Patriot offensive coordinator Charlie Weis).

Of the thing that required a search the search -- the firing of Callahan -- Davis said he was disappointed to learn that Callahan went weeks without talking to his loudest antagonist, Charles Woodson. "I think with a coach, it's a good idea to see every player, even if you just nod at him, but to see every player on the team, every day," he said.

He also said he wasn't terribly fond of Callahan declaring his team "the stupidest team in America in terms of the way we play the game," or of sending Woodson and Charlie Garner home before the meaningless game in San Diego in Week 17.

Thanks to Callahan's stern sense of discipline, Davis said he probably would have fired his coach with or without the mutiny. Then Davis finished with a perfectly Al-esque flurry:

"I don't know how I'd respond to a disciplinarian."

Who'd have guessed that?

In fact, he even announced that if he dies (because with Al, death is still something he thinks he can beat), his piece of the team would be given to his wife, Carolee, with son Mark as the next choice, "although he doesn't seem interested in running the team."

Of course, since Al isn't going to die, he could have said the team would be run by the future First Prefect of Jupiter and nobody would have batted an eye.

As for his seeming inactivity while the team imploded, Davis said he left the details to Callahan, but that he would now take a more active hand.

"I have to watch everything in the future," Davis said. "This is a perfect example that my hand isn't in everything. But if there's something going on and I have to go in and dominate and cut it out, then I'll go in and dominate it and cut it out."

Al's best moment? It might have been when, after being asked about the flurry of changes involving the team in the wake of the great stink bomb of 2003, he hailed change as a huge part of football -- and in doing so, left us this glorious Al-phorism:

"There were two guys we've had who retired when they didn't have to retire, when they still could play," Davis said. "(Running back) Napoleon Kaufman became a minister, and (guard) Steve Wisniewski became a minister."

Meaning: Al couldn't beat God, which represents something of a concession for him, as opposed to Him.

But Al will do that when he consents to hold up his brainpan for public inspection. He doesn't give you everything you asked for, and some questions just make his face go all pruney. But he slips in moments that put most news conferences to shame -- like when he tweaked Callahan for trying to hire Oakland tight end coach Jay Norvell, who apparently is still under contract with Al.

"Bill's a good guy. He just lost track of which rules he was going to follow. We're gonna be tough on (breaking) curfew, but we're not going to follow a contract."

You can't make this stuff up. Unfortunately, most of the time, you have to, since Al avoids the limelight. His last public whoop-de-doo was two years ago when he offered up Callahan as the man to prove that "The Greatness Of The Raiders Is In Its Future." That's a long time between platitudes, especially for a team that has poor spokesman depth.

In fact, the only really false moment of the 45-minute tap dance was this exchange:

"How are you doing?"

"I don't know."

Yeah, right. Like he would ever admit that.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com