Al Davis Left a Legacy of Good and Bad
It’s amazing how a day many Raiders fans eagerly anticipated for years was received so differently. Longtime Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died Saturday at the age of 82. He was part of the team for 49 of its 52 years of existence, eventually becoming the face of the franchise. Known as a bright football mind, a pioneer, and a renegade, Davis left behind a legacy of positives and negatives.
Al Davis won three Super Bowls GM of the Raiders. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. He was the AFL Coach of the Year in 1963, and he became commissioner of the AFL in 1966. He helped force a merger between the AFL and NFL, and he constantly fought for the good of the overall game of football.
Davis was the first person to draft an African American quarterback, and the first person to heavily scout traditional black schools. Under Davis, the Raiders hired the first Hispanic head coach, the first African American head coach, and they became the first organization in major sports to hire a female for an executive role.
A true renegade who did things his way, Davis heavily valued specialists, venturing to draft kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Ray Guy in the first round.
While doing things his way, Davis butted heads with many people.
He moved his team from Oakland to Los Angeles without permission from the league, and later won a court case regarding the matter. He feuded with former Raiders running back Marcus Allen, ex-commissioner Pete Rozelle, and he often accused the league of penalizing his team on purpose.
Perhaps Davis’ greatest fault was not ceding control of the franchise when it was clear he was losing his feel for the game. The man who loved the vertical passing game constantly reached with his draft picks and turned his franchise into a laughing stock. After losing the Super Bowl for the ’02 season to the Bucs, the Raiders failed to win more than five games in a season until going 8-8 last year.
Davis clashed with many of his coaches, and he drove away two extremely talented young coaches in Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden.
A franchise that was a model of success in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, the Raiders enjoyed mixed success in the ’90s and turn of the century. They eventually became the worst team in football, disgracing the hard-earned reputation for which Al Davis had worked. As great as the franchise was under Al Davis, it’s impossible to ignore how bad the team became the last 10 years.
The Raiders were much better for having Al Davis, and they’ll now be better off without him.
A Hall of Famer and one of the most important figures in football, most people should only hope to have an impact in life the way Al Davis did.