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Mark Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders. (D. Ross Cameron/Staff File)

Less than 24 hours after the 49ers officially broke ground on their stadium in Santa Clara, Raiders boss Mark Davis sat in his favorite East Bay restaurant expressing profound admiration for the local NFL competition.

"I'm happy for them," Davis said blissfully. "I really am. It's not easy to get a stadium these days, so this is a big deal for them."

Such casual graciousness is one of many characteristics setting Mark apart from his father, the late Al Davis, whose stridently autocratic but mostly successful ownership of the Raiders lasted nearly a half century.

That, however, does not mean the Raiders yearn to share the Santa Clara stadium site. Though Davis would not "close the door" on the idea, he conceded there is but a fraction of a chance for joint tenancy.

Meanwhile, as he attempts to find a permanent home for the team, Davis is committed to seeing the football operation go in a new direction. In the six-plus months since Al Davis died in October, the operation has undergone radical overhaul.

After decades as a collective anachronism, a one-man operation among a league of corporate titans, the Raiders are at last entering the 21st century.

For the first time since 1962, they have a full-time general manager, Reggie McKenzie, hired by Mark Davis to be responsible for the entire football aspect, and a coach, Dennis Allen, with the authority to hire his own assistants.


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They have their first full-time life-skills coach. LaMonte Winston, an Oakland native who spent nearly 20 years in that job for the Kansas City Chiefs, conceptually fulfills a role unavailable to the likes of JaMarcus Russell, Barret Robbins and the late Darrell Russell.

They have a team chaplain, the Rev. Napoleon Kaufman, a former Raiders star who retired in 2001 to enter the ministry but maintained an allegiance to the franchise.

The Raiders, who have spent years stoking an adversarial relationship with the media, even hired a new media relations director, Zak Gilbert, who vows to tear down that wall.

"Everything you see regarding the football team is Reggie's doing," Davis said. "I'm not making these decisions. He runs things past me, but I want him to build the best possible football operation. I believe he can. That's why I hired him."

Gone are the days when Raiders employees, even the executives, dreaded bringing suggestions to the boss, fearful of being curtly dismissed or incurring the wrath of Al.

Growing up on the Oakland Raiders of the 1960s and '70s, Mark Davis was around enough to realize such severe management not only intimidates employees but also makes it difficult to assess their true value to the organization.

"Reggie is handling football, but I'm still trying to find out -- especially on the business side -- who does what and how well they do it," Davis said.

Chief executive Amy Trask, who knows the NFL boardroom better than anyone else in the building, remains in charge of business matters including marketing, promotions and assisting Davis in determining the team's geographical future.

A future that Davis insists he'd like to preserve in Oakland, where the team has operated, with mixed results, since 1995. His personal second choice also is in the Bay Area, the Camp Parks site in Dublin.

"Oakland is my preference, though," he said. "I see us as an urban team, being in a city. I want it to work here. I'd like to stay here.

"But we have to find a way to (generate more revenue). We need people buying season tickets. We're in a deficit-spending situation, and we need to start getting our revenue up."

Davis said he was "impressed" by a recent meeting with civic officials representing Oakland in its attempt to retain the Raiders -- as well as the A's and the Warriors -- with a proposed project on the Coliseum Complex footprint that would contain three facilities, providing separate space for baseball and football.

"We have to do something," Davis said. "We're opening the season on a Monday night, national TV, and we'll be playing on dirt."

For once, he added, there was a sense that something could be accomplished, that Oakland might be getting its act together. Previous sessions were genial, Davis said, but always felt unproductive.

"They brought in the right people this time," he said, "and those people said the right things. There's a vision. It's a positive step. We'll meet again soon to see if we can actually get something done."

Davis said he is not courting Los Angeles. He emphatically denied a recent report that he joined Southern California developer Ed Roski, who is chasing a franchise for L.A., at a Clippers basketball game.

"I have Clippers season tickets, just like I have Warriors season tickets, but Ed Roski was not sitting with me," he said. "Why would I do that? I wouldn't. That's not how I plan to do things."

No, Mark Davis does not wish to antagonize. He wants to avoid alienating the fan base, no matter where it is. He is, in this regard, and many others, not his father.

He is, however, like his dad insofar as he has a weakness for quality football players and a strong desire for success on the field and on the bottom line.

And he's not ashamed to acknowledge that the 49ers, his local rivals, are at the moment further along in both places.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.