How Al Davis Just Saved the NFL—Again

Michael SchulzeCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2009

A few NFL team executives were reportedly upset about the value of the Oakland Raiders' contract with All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.  These executives claimed the $28.5M, two-year agreement with a possible third year at a minimum of $16.8M was insane, and it would drive up NFL players' salaries.

However, it is very possible that by offering this new, highly expensive contract Al Davis just saved the NFL from itself again. 

Al Davis has always insisted on doing things his way, for better or for worse.  While so many of his actions and decisions over the last 40 years have been criticized and ridiculed at the time, Davis has improved the league, during critical junctures, many times.

It is widely assumed the current salary cap and collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) will be allowed to expire, making 2010 the last year under the NFL's hard salary cap.  When the last extension of the salary cap was negotiated, then NFLPA President Gene Upshaw stated that players would not accept a salary cap again.

The players felt like the NFL owners were unwilling to share enough of the teams' revenues with the players.  By signing his star cornerback to a massive contract, Al Davis may have just given the other NFL owners a taste of what is to come in 2011. That may force the owners to make some important concessions to the NFLPA.

If the NFL shares more of its revenue with the NFLPA, it may pacify the players enough to achieve a meaningful and longer-term extension to the salary cap.  This alternative would certainly be better than having to pay that "insane" contract amount to a large number of players.

This will save the NFL from having teams like the Cowboys and the Redskins signing the league's best players regardless of the cost.  It will keep the NFL competitive and vibrant and relevant.

Davis' history of saving the league:


1.  Integration:

Far too many fans fail to realize just how much Davis has done for the league.  In the early 1960's, Al Davis began drafting superior athletes from small black colleges.  He further helped integrate the league by hiring the first Hispanic and African American head coaches in the NFL. 


2.  AFL/NFL Merger:

In the 1960's, when the AFL decided its best chance of survival was to merge with the NFL, the NFL flatly refused and the rival leagues entered into bidding wars for the top college prospects.  For several years, there was a tacit agreement for the leagues to not tamper with each other's players under contract. 

When the NFL's New York Giants broke the agreement and signed the Buffalo Bills' kicker Pete Gogalak, the AFL retaliated by making then Oakland Raiders head coach Al Davis the AFL Commissioner in 1966.  Davis launched an all-out war with the NFL by having the AFL owners cooperate and sign the NFL's best players.  Davis immediately got the NFL's attention by signing eight starting NFL quarterbacks, including John Brodie and Roman Gabriel to contracts with AFL teams.

By June 8, 1966, less than six months after making Davis the AFL Commissioner, the NFL reconsidered its position and the leagues agreed to merge.  While he was opposed to the terms of the merger, Davis' actions forced the merger and saved the NFL from itself.


3.  Stadiums

The vast amounts of revenue the NFL currently makes each year can also be partially attributed to Al Davis.  The majority of the teams in the league have built new stadiums with luxury boxes and increased seat capacity.  The ability to get these stadiums built can be traced back to Al Davis' decision to move the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles. 

In the late 1970's, despite being one of the best teams in the league and having a full stadium every week, the Oakland Alameda Coliseum was already showing its age and the local governing body refused to make any upgrades to the facility.  Wanting more revenue to keep the team competitive, Davis decided to move the team to Los Angeles to the much larger stadium.  The NFL attempted to block the move. 

Ultimately, Al Davis' success in moving the team to Los Angeles provided other teams the ability to threaten local governments with moving the team in order to get the public to pay for new or upgraded stadiums.  These new stadiums vastly increased the NFL's revenue and popularity.

While it was not apparent at the time and while Al Davis was viewed as the villain, his efforts to keep the Raiders competitive saved the NFL from itself. 

The Raiders contract with Asomugha may possibly have the same effect. 

Davis recognized that Asomugha was a special player at the top of his game and did what it took to sign him.  The contract, which makes Asomugha the highest-paid player in the league, may be just what the league needs to see what life without a salary cap will be like for the owners' pocket books. 

Al Davis may have just saved the NFL once again.