Al Davis may have passed away on Oct. 8, 2011, but his legacy will live on forever.
When anyone thinks of the Oakland Raiders, Davis is the first person who comes to mind. He’s up there with Jerry Jones in terms of being the two most well-known team owners in the NFL. Davis’ mark on the game is impossible to forget because of his longevity and importance to the game of football.
Back in 1963, Davis was named the head coach of the AFL’s Oakland Raiders, a team that only won one game in the previous season and just three of their previous 28 games. In his first year as coach, he led the team to a 10-4 record and was named AFL Coach of the Year.
He went 23-16-3 with the Raiders before being appointed as the AFL Commissioner. See, back in the 1960s, there were two separate leagues competing against each other. Davis was ruthless, convincing star players to come over from the NFL.
San Diego-Union Tribune sportswriter Jerry Magee knew the impact Davis had on the game.
"[Davis] was the master of guerrilla warfare. Al Davis taking over as commissioner was the strongest thing the AFL ever did. He thought the peace [AFL-NFL merger] was a detriment to the AFL because they had to pay reparations to the 49ers and Giants."
Davis only needed two months atop the AFL to make a huge difference, basically forcing the merger to happen.
“Some people said that our league was teetering,” Davis said in a video interview replayed on ESPN. “We won the war and they know it.”
He returned to the Raiders as a part-owner of the team soon after and watched as the players he chose continued to succeed.
He eventually took over as a principal owner, and the Raiders became one of the most dominant and feared teams in NFL history.
Davis is famously quoted as saying, “I’d rather be feared than loved and respected.”
Raider Nation watched as their team was at or near the top of the NFL for a couple of decades. The Raiders won the Super Bowl in 1976, 1980 and 1983, with the latter coming when the Raiders were located in Los Angeles.
Surprisingly, the move to Los Angeles for over 10 years did not stop Raider Nation from staying vested in their team. Davis was an owner who truly cared about his players and fans, and he was able to move back to Oakland in 1995 without losing his fan base.
During his tenure in LA, Davis was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
The Raiders returned to the Super Bowl in 2002, and although they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a lopsided contest, it was yet another stunning run for the Black and Silver.
Davis was one of the most quotable figures in sports history, always displaying complete confidence in his team. Anything short of dominance was unacceptable for Davis.
Players and fans alike recognize Davis' importance, not only to the Raiders or even to football, but also to professional sports in general. Back in 1963, he was the first sports figure to be named Oakland’s Young Man of the Year.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen displayed his respect for Davis in a tweet on Saturday. Davis revolutionized the game of football in a way no other man can claim he did.
Right now, his Raiders are looking to move back toward legitimacy on the back of Darren McFadden. The Raiders are a team on the rise, as they gained some exposure by finishing 8-8, a three-win improvement over the 2009 season.
One thing is for certain, the Raiders will not start tomorrow’s game without paying some kind of homage to the person who brought the team to prominence.
In fact, many stadiums may pay a moment of tribute to one of the greatest figures in sports history. Then every team will take the field with one common goal.
“Just win, baby.”