Al Davis Legacy: The 5 Greatest Contributions Raiders Owner Made to the NFL

Mike KernsCorrespondent IIIOctober 8, 2011

Al Davis Legacy: The 5 Greatest Contributions Raiders Owner Made to the NFL

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    Regardless of how the younger generation views the legacy of Al Davis, long-time NFL fans know of the imprint the man left on the game of football.

    He changed the way the game was played, the way the league was run and the way an owner took the reins of his ball club.

    His hard-nosed and bully-like attitude didn't earn him a lot of fans outside of the organization, but it certainly earned their respect. Davis was a pioneer, and he will be remembered for being the legend that he lived up to even into his final days.

    Let us now look at five of the greatest contributions he made to the league that we now all know and love.


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    When Davis entered the league as an offensive assistant to Sid Gillman of the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960, he learned of the "vertical" passing game that Gillman had constructed.

    It was a system comprised of power running and deep throws down field, and Davis took the scheme with him to Oakland in 1963 when he was hired as coach and general manager at just 33 years old.

    He perfected the scheme and turned the struggling Raiders franchise around before being named AFL Coach of the Year as a rookie head coach.

    Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The NFL/AFL Merger

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    At just 36 years of age, Davis was named the commissioner of the American Football League, where he began his crusade to force a merger between the NFL and AFL. He fought the top brass of the NFL and even attempted to recruit their players into the AFL.

    He didn't last long as commissioner because of his brash actions, but it sped up merger talks, and the first Super Bowl was even played following his actions. By 1970, the two league's merged into the powerhouse that we all know and love today.

    Davis should get a lot more credit for this than he does.

    Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

Commitment to Excellence

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    Long before teams had catchy slogans or end zone dances, Davis demanded one thing of his players and coaches: winning.

    No owner before Al had ever been as strict or as involved with his coaching staff and players as he was, with his so called "Commitment to Excellence" as well as declaring that the other teams quarterback "must go down" and that he "must go down hard."

    He brought a swagger to the team that the players adopted to their own mentality, and it's still prevalent today. He took players who were outcasts and deemed bad character types and made them feel at home in Oakland. For that the players would have run through a brick wall for him, and they had no problems when Al told them to "Just Win, Baby."

    Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

The Hiring of Minority Coaches

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    Not only was Al Davis not shy about hiring minority coaches to lead his team, but he was the first owner to do so successfully when he named Tom Flores head coach in 1979, and he was instrumental in the Raiders' victories in Super Bowl XV and XVIII.

    In 1983, he made Art Shell the first African-American head coach in the modern era of sports.

John Madden

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    If Al Davis hadn't taken a chance on a little-known 32-year-old linebackers coach after head coach John Rauch left the team unexpectedly in 1969, we may have never gotten the chance to see the excellence that was John Madden.

    As the youngest coach in the NFL, Madden made the Raiders a perennial powerhouse who posted a 103-32-7 record (.763 winning percentage) as head coach and a Super Bowl title in 1976.

    Although most of current NFL fans know him more now for his video game franchise or his work in the announcer booth, the guy was one of the best head coaches in the history of professional sports. And fans and media thought Davis was crazy when he offered the job to John Madden.

    Good thing for us, Al was a maverick and a rebel whose legacy will never be forgotten.

    Photo courtesy of The Associated Press