NFL pioneer Al Davis, the iconic owner of the Oakland Raiders has passed away at age 82 .
Love him or hate him, the mark that Brooklyn, NY born Al Davis left on the game of football and the NFL is undeniable.
In 1963 he became the coach and general manager of a struggling AFL franchise that was playing at a high school stadium and finished 1-13 the year before he arrived. He turned them into the intimidating force that was the winningest team in professional sports during the 60s’, 70’s and 80’s and claimed three Super Bowl championships in 1976, 1980 and 1983.
If there’s a controversial event or iconic play in NFL lore, the Raiders
are involved. Whether it’s the ‘Heidi Game’, the ‘Immaculate Reception’, the ‘Holy
Roller’, ‘Red Right 88’, or the ‘Tuck Rule Game’, the history of the NFL and the history of the game thanks to Al Davis has an unmistakable silver and black thread and swagger.
And yeah, some of the innovations and rule changes you’re familiar with in modern day NFL football are the result of the Raiders in many cases, too.
When your team’s offense employs a ‘vertical’ passing game or plays ‘bump
and run’ coverage, thank Al Davis and his Raiders for popularizing it.
He was one of the few owners left in the NFL who made his money strictly from the income of the team and was an equal opportunity employer when it came to finding the best players and people to play for, coach and run his organization.
He was the first to actively scout and mine HBCU’s for football talent. He was the first to draft an African-American quarterback, hire an African-American head coach in the modern era with his 1988 hire of Art Shell in 1988, the second Latino coach in Tom Flores, and the first female executive/CEO in Amy Trask.
And speaking of hiring coaches, he was responsible for the trend of hiring young coaches. He had some great ones such as Hall of Famer John Madden, Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden and Lane Kiffin, but as they will all tell you, the real coach of the Oakland Raiders was Al Davis.
In 1966 he became the last commissioner of the AFL and aggressively pursued NFL star players even as Lamar Hunt and other AFL owners were negotiating terms for a merger of the two leagues favorable to the AFL. Davis’ bellicose posturing and aggressive stances led to a common draft, the AFL-NFL Championship game that later became the Super Bowl and by 1970 the unified league.
One of the things he didn’t get was becoming commissioner of the merged NFL, which went to Pete Rozelle That led to a decades long feud between the two men, which fed into the Raiders ‘us against the world’ chip on their shoulders team mentality. He sued the NFL and won the right to move the team to LA in the early 80’s, then moved them back to Oakland in 1995.
But his feuds and innovations reshaped pro football over the last half century and fuelled its rise to become the most popular sport in the US.
“He is a true legend of the game whose impact and legacy will forever be
part of the NFL,” current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell
said in a statement.
One of the larger than life iconic personalities and owners of the league is gone, and will definitely be missed.