Raiders Al Davis: An NFL Legend, Visionary

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In a wonderful biographical account of Al Davis’ football life, Bruce Webber of the NY Times said it best.

“Before there were owners like George Steinbrenner or Jerry Jones or Mark Cuban, there was Al Davis, an outspoken and successful irritant to the N.F.L., who fielded teams capable of championship-caliber play.”

For those of you who don’t know much about the early NFL years of Al Davis, Webber’s recap of Davis’ place in the sport is a must read. Someone emailed me this morning that Davis was the Steve Jobs of the NFL. When you look at the influence he’s had on the game, both on and off the field, there’s actually some merit to that statement.

Davis, who as a coach was most noted for the vertical passing game, was one of the more public owners the league has ever seen. He’s also one of the few owners that made his entire fortune from the game of football. From the AFL/NFL merger to moving his franchise, Davis’ feuds with the NFL were legendary, even suing the league on multiple occasions. In his later years, it became vogue to poke fun at Mr. Davis as he had his hand in more than his share of draft pick busts.

Todd Marinovich is one that comes to mind. JaMarcus Russell may have been his crowning misfortune. But it wasn’t all bad, looking at the big picture of those who Davis ultimately signed off on and you’ll find that he got it right quite often as well. Nnamdi Asomugha and Charles Woodson are two stars that Davis gave the stamp of approval to that you’ll recognize. If you look at the total body of work with regard to draft picks under his jurisdiction, owners / GM’s / coaches have certainly done worse.

Under Davis, the Oakland Raiders are one of only two teams, along with the Pittsburgh Steelers, to play in the Super Bowl in four different decades. In his hay-day as a young man when he had a chance to display his prowess as an NFL coach and executive, there weren’t many better. In his three years as head coach of the Raiders, Davis compiled a record of 23-16-3. As an executive from 1967 to 1985, his teams won 13 division championships, one AFL championship (1967), three Super Bowls (1977, 1981 and 1984) and made 15 playoff appearances.

Like him or hate him, all in all considering the good and bad, Al Davis was one of the great characters of the game and helped shape the NFL to be what it is today. Davis has been an integral part of professional football for the better part of the last half century and the NFL as we know it today is a better for having had him as a part of it. Davis’ stamp on the game will be missed but not forgotten.

Mr. Davis was 82-years old and is survived by his wife, the former Carol Segal, and a son, Mark. RIP Allen Davis.

- Al Davis Bio Box -

The founder and former owner of MC3 Sports Media, Mike Cardano is the Sr. Business Administrator for RotoExperts and the Executive Director here at You may email Mike @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MikeCardano. Listen to Mike on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio with Scott Engel and the morning crew Tuesday mornings at 10am ET.