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NFL News: Al Davis, Raider Owner/Maverick/Enigma, Dies at 82

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NFL News: Al Davis, Raider Owner/Maverick/Enigma, Dies at 82

Say what you will about Al Davis, he changed football.

While the last years of his life were often filled with jokes at his expense—often made by myself as much as anyone else—his legacy is far greater than a bizarre rant with an overhead projector.

I didn't know him, obviously, and I can't speak about him all that well. I'll let Twitter do the heavy lifting.

Dave Goldberg—NFL Writer

Al Davis hired first African-American coach in modern NFL AFTER hiring first Latino coach. & NFL as we know it very different w/o Al.

When Davis' mom died at 102, Al talked like she was a QB. "Yeah,'' he said, "too bad. Hoped to keep her around for another couple years.

One other word to describe Davis that made NFL office folks cringe: "litigious.''

Michael Smith—ESPN

RIP Al Davis. Everyone I know who knew him always referred to him as "Mr. Davis." Regret I never got to meet him and talk football with him.

Summer 07 I reported/commented on the Jamarcus Russell holdout. Mr. Davis didn't like what I said. Had an associate call me and chew me out.

I was just flattered Al Davis actually cared what I said. RIP.

Peter King—Sports Illustrated

Al Davis, the most unforgettable person I've had the pleasure of meeting in 31 years in the business, dead at 82. RIP.

The bad recent Raider years? Ten percent of his legacy. Maybe less. The man SIGNED and COACHED Lance Alworth. What a history!

George Halas is the only one who truly compares in the NFL's 92-yr history ... and Al was more of an offensive innovator.

And of course, a nice write up by Gregg Rosenthal over at ProFootballTalk.

I could go on with tweets reminiscing about Davis. Love him or hate him, most respected him as well.

I also pretty much sit on that fence.

I was in Los Angeles during the last go around with the Raiders and it was always an interesting experience. The Raiders made some odd decisions and I'll be frank—I though Davis screwed both Los Angeles and Oakland when he left, fleecing them for as much money as he could. It left a tremendously bitter taste in my mouth, as have many things he's done in the last decade or so.

With Davis it was never enough that he win, you also had to lose.  He feuded with coaches and former players, had no issue screwing either out of money and reputation. His treatment of Marcus Allen was deplorable. He didn't care though—he was right, you were wrong and to hell with you if you disagreed.

Just ask guys in the media like Adam Schefter. Toe the line or get shouted down (not that Schefter ever paid attention). Just ask the NFL Legal office for the numerous lawsuits they and Davis got involved in.

So that will always color my perceptions of him.

I think I'm not alone in that. The key is to remember he was more than that last period of time.

Without Davis, I'm not sure the AFL survives, much less merges with the NFL.  Davis was brash and ballsy, a visionary who saw things from a unique angle and never settled for less than what he thought was the best.

'Just Win Baby'—maybe it's a bit of a joke now but there was a time when it meant tough, uncompromising football, a win at all costs that sometimes is hard to fathom with some of the owners and players in charge now.  Davis took chances on players nobody else would sometimes and more often than not it paid off.

As much as he hosed guys like Allen, Mike Shanahan or Lane Kiffin he could be fiercely loyal, sometimes beyond reason.

In an increasingly mercenary NFL, how rare does that feel now?

He may want to set you on fire if you crossed him but I think Al Davis would go to the mat and beyond if he felt you deserved it.

When the team was told this morning at 10am in Houston, it reportedly caught everyone by surprise (as it did most of us).  According to NFLN's Jason LaCanfora it was a very emotional meeting and the players and staff were hit hard. To me, that says a lot about who he was—that so many players (and reading the quotes on twitter, so many people in general) felt that connection to him and were touched by him.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you he was perfect. He had his issues, one might argue enough to fill a magazine rack.

He was human and that's what I think about today. He wasn't good. He wasn't bad. He was Al Davis.

There will never be another one like him.

Like the man himself, whether that is a good or bad thing is a very complex riddle.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (21) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackersRS's picture

Holy...

PackersRS's picture

Was kind of surprised to know he was 82, not gonna lie.

Very interesting to see who will follow and what's gonna happen with the Raiders.

andrewgarda's picture

Yeah I was VERY shocked he was 'just' 82. My grandfather has held up better at 93. I figured Al was up there with him....

Bearmeat's picture

Meh- he was a visionary... until about the late 80's. It's not a good thing to see anyone kick the bucket, but honestly the Raiders (and the NFL) are better off without him...

BCarver_78's picture

Stop it

packeraaron's picture

Give me a break Bearmeat...

Bearmeat's picture

What, stop calling a spade a spade? Al Davis was not a good guy. I'm not going to mourn his passing. He was a football (and a business) visionary for 30 years - and the game passed him by.

His teams in the early 90's were criminally loaded, yet they came up with bupkus.

I stand by what I said earlier. I hope this means the Raiders will be able to step up and play consistent football. Everyone knows that division needs a halfway good team besides the Chargers on a year in and out basis.

PackersRS's picture

Bearmeat is right.

For all that Davis has done "for" the NFL, he held the Raiders hostage for the last 10 years.

Can anyone discredit that Davis was one of the most inept owners of this century?

Does anyone think the Raiders were better off with Davis managing the club?

Bearmeat's picture

Yep. Yep. Yep.

I hope OAK is allowed to put itself together for a few yeas in a row now.. Continuity can do that..
it would be good for the division and the league.

Having consistent losers isn't so good for anyone involved. If you doubt this, call up the Pirates, Royals or perhaps Bengals..

packeraaron's picture

" I’m not going to mourn his passing."

Stay classy.

So, for all he did for not only the Raiders, but for the AFL/NFL merger - for THE VERY GAME YOU ENJOY EVERY SUNDAY - you completely dismiss it because he didn't win a Super Bowl in the 90s. That is one of the more ignorant things I have ever seen written in the Comments section of this site. A Comments section that has included the likes of Pack66 and Todd In Minnesota.

Seriously - the man hired the first minority head coach and THEN the first African American head coach - but yeah, you shouldn't honor his passing because he was crazy when he was an old man. That's what old men are - crazy! But you would throw away his whole life because he, what, traded Jon Gruden? Because his team didn't win a Super Bowl when they were "criminally loaded"? Oh - wait. WHO picked the players for that "criminally loaded" team? Oh that's right - Al Davis.

Bearmeat's picture

No Mr. Nagler,

I did not dismiss his whole life. I said he was a football and business visionary that the game passed by. The NFL would not be as good of a product without Mr Davis' past contributions, no doubt. For that, I am thankful. Lots of good things have come from less than wonderful sources.

However,

I'm not going to mourn his passing - more because he was a first class butthole that screwed over a lot of people, than his football acumen as an old man. His actions as a human being are what I'm mostly commenting on. The move from Oakland to LA and back, and the way in which it was done. The firing so many HC's 'with cause'. The repeated fights with the NFL office. The court battles that he pursued to harm others. I observe those actions over a long period of time and it becomes clear that Mr. Davis didn't care who got in his way or how he had to hurt them to get to pursue whatever path he wanted to. That reeks of the same lack of care for man and general hubris as many of the biggest scam artists in our recent past. All these problems involved Mr. Davis. So maybe, just maybe HE was the problem? Bottom line is that human beings matter more than one man's goals. The men who don't understand that are rightly vilified.

Now, onto the actual football performance side of the equation:

His teams since the early 90's... Have. Been. Pathetic. This "genius" has presided over the 83 losses since 2003. If you were wondering, that is the second worst record in the league during that time-span.. just behind the Millen led Detroit Lions. OAK has had THREE (count them) winning seasons since 1994. The one time they actually performed in the playoffs, they got blown out in SB XXXVII by their coach from the previous year, whom Mr. Davis allowed to leave for the draft picks that became Philip Buchanon, Langston Walker, Tyler Brayton... and on goes the list... Not exactly HOF material, huh?

But by all means, feel free to call my comments the worst this site has ever seen. Get mad if you want. Feel free to disagree. That is your opinion - but mine has plenty of merit on its' own.. with or without your approval.

packeraaron's picture

"I'm not going to mourn his passing" and "I did not dismiss his whole life." are incompatible statements. Period.

Bearmeat's picture

We're going to have to agree to disagree here. I do not at all buy your last statement, but this type of argument is not going to be solved over an internet blog comment section.

If I ever come to NY, I'll buy you a beer and will gladly talk all things Packers and non Packers (including this).

I love your site. I appreciate your analysis. I agree with 95% of the stuff you state every week.

Cheers...

CaLIPACKfAN's picture

Being a California Pack fan, I'm a little sad about this.

adc's picture

Nice post, Andrew - respectfully agnostic.

andrewgarda's picture

! Agnostic !

Thanks. I strove (strived? striven?) to be balanced. Davis was a complex man (not unlike Shaft with a track suit) and raises some complex reaction, as evidenced by the comments section.

Tim Backes's picture

Beyond all the on-field accomplishments his teams racked up, Davis also hired the first hispanic coach, the first woman to an NFL front office, the first black coach... he was a trailblazer (EDIT: Ah, just saw that Aaron mentioned that in a previous comment. Well, once more for emphasis then :P). Sure he was rebellious and hard-headed and a bear to work with, but he probably did more for the sport over the past 50 years than anybody but maybe Pete Rozelle.

RIP Al. Nice post, Andrew.

andrewgarda's picture

Thanks - without Davis we would not have the NFL we have to enjoy today.

andrewgarda's picture

In response to Bearmeat, Aaron ecetera - I think you guys sort of prove my general point in the article - Davis stirs some real emotions and it is hard to separate his early accomplishments—especially those of us really too young to have seen them—with the bat-s**t insane stuff he pulled the last few years.

As I pointed out in my original post, my opinion of him and the Raiders gets colored by my experience in LA in the nineties.

It's hard to separate the two, but important to try as he did SO much for the league (even if he did so much TO the league as well).

Bearmeat's picture

Fair Enough Andrew. I admit, being 30 years old, that the first Raider teams I remember were the Art Shell led failures.

I can read the league history, and understand it, but it's kind of like reading the history books about late 60's. I didn't live it - so I guess I don't fully appreciate Mr. Davis' contributions to the NFL and his team.

However, I don't think there is ever an excuse to intentionally hurt people, and that Mr. Davis did in abundance.

Stanislaw's picture

It's funny the same week that Steve Jobs died so did Al Davis - both 'California' guys who were icons in their industries and both complex individuals. Yes, they both had check marks on the 'bad side' of the ledger but I think most 'great' men have to have demons to balance out the heights they achieve. You do need an edge to get to that greatness and they certainly both did.

I don't think you have to love them (or agree with them, etc,) but when they die - a certain amount of class and respect is required because in most cases they have effected the way you approach their milieu. (whether you believe it or not)

I've seen on multiple message boards how Jobs didn't really effect computers to the level of what the media think he did or that Davis didn't do squat for the last nine years blah, blah, blah. But I think that those comments are written by small minded individuals who want to show how contrarian they are or how they won't follow the crowd and that they are so much smarter than the sheep who praise these giants. Really sad for them, it is almost embarrassing.

Rest in peace Mr. Davis.

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