Elvis Grbac: Mike Shanahan Ordered Me to Throw a Football at Al Davis’ Head
With the passing of Al Davis over the weekend came many stories about how he changed the game of football for the better. Davis was glorified by players, fans, and writers and much of the praise he received is deserved. While Davis left behind a legacy of positives — as we outlined in our piece on Saturday — the fact that he was not a very well-liked figure across much of the league has been somewhat lost.
On Wednesday, Rick Maese of the Washington Post dug up a 13-year-old NY Times article that reminds us Davis had as many friends as he did enemies when he was alive. One of those enemies was Mike Shanahan, who was the head coach of the Raiders for just over a season in 1988 and 1989 before a feud about money became too much for both men to handle.
In 1994, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers. Prior to a game with the Raiders, he was working with quarterback Elvis Grbac, who says Shanahan ordered him to throw a ball at Davis’ head from about 30 feet away.
“I can’t do that,” Grbac said he replied. “If I hit him, do you know what he could do to me?”
Being the control freak that he is, Shanahan simply glared at Grbac and said, “Throw the ball.” The quarterback obliged but Davis was able to get out of the way just in time, leaving the pigskin sailing just a few inches from his head. Unsurprisingly, Davis stared in the direction of Shanahan and made an obscene gesture. A former Raiders coach who witnessed the exchange confirmed it at the time the article was written.
There are a number of similar stories floating around out there about people who could not get along with Davis and had a run-in with the Raider legend at some point. Davis certainly left his mark on the game of football, but let us not assume that means his reign came with an absence of sworn enemies.