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Al Davis Legacy: 4 Biggest Ways Oakland Raiders Owner Affected the NFL

Justin UseltonContributor IDecember 16, 2016

Al Davis Legacy: 4 Biggest Ways Oakland Raiders Owner Affected the NFL

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    With Saturday's passing of Al Davis, we're given an opportunity to reflect on what he meant to not only the Oakland Raiders, but the entire NFL.

    Davis brought a different element to ownership. He was more than any title we could truly give him. He was more than a coach, an innovator, owner or catalyst for change in the NFL. 

    There have been few whom have had the affect Davis has had on the league, and here are the top four ways he brought change to the NFL we now know and love.

The Vertical Game

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    As a coach, Al Davis relied on the philosophy of applying pressure to the opponent in all forms.

    Whether defensively or offensively, Davis felt the most affective way to victory was by breaking up the opponent's rhythm, and putting as many points on the board as quickly as possible.

    Davis took over as coach of the Raiders in 1963, after having spent time as an assistant coach under Sid Gillman in San Diego. Gillman used a more aggressive passing attack than most teams at the time. 

    After Davis took his post in Oakland, he updated Gillman's philosophy by implementing a passing attack with a goal of stressing a defensive secondary by throwing the ball downfield with regularity. 

    He termed his offensive philosophy the "verticle game." 

    The Raiders found success throughout the decades by running a flamboyant offense that was ahead of its time. Davis' approach relied upon a big-armed quarterback and fast receivers. 

    His strategy worked beautifully during the Raiders Super Bowl victories as Ken Stabler and Jim Plunkett torched opposing defenses in an era where most teams simply didn't have evolved passing attacks.


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    Davis was initially against the AFL/NFL merger, but stood as the primary reason it happened.

    In 1966, Davis was named commissioner of the AFL. He promptly led an aggressive campaign to sign top collegiate talent and current NFL players away from the more established league.

    The aggressive nature of the fledgling league eventually led to the bolstering of their presence and the legitimacy of the AFL as a competitor to the NFL.

    Had Davis not had the courage to go after NFL prospects, a merger would have never been needed, as the NFL would have never felt threatened by the young league. 

Brand Marketing

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    Prior to Davis' involvement with the Oakland Raiders, there were few teams that were truly popular outside of their locale. 

    Most NFL teams survived on generational fan-bases, such as in Green Bay and Chicago, while most other teams found difficulty establishing themselves as a true brand worthy of television marketing.

    Enter Al Davis.

    By design, Davis fostered a raucous home environment that welcomed the most outlandish fanbase in the NFL. He over-promised and over-marketed his team to create interest and passion among the fans that exists to this day. 

    His onslaught of catch-phrases add to Raider lore, and he brought a personality mirrored by teams with interested characters in a time when most NFL owners preserve a more buttoned-up image.

Minority Opportunity

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    While the Rooney family ownership in Pittsburgh gets most of the credit with the opportunity in coaching presented to minority candidates, Davis set the standard.

    In typical Al Davis fashion, he didn't just break down one door, he broke them all down. 

    Davis held steadfast to the idea that if you could coach, you could coach. It also helped if you were a former Raider.

    Davis hired both the first African-American head coach, Art Shell, and the first Mexican-American head coach, Tom Flores.

    Flores won Super Bowl XVIII against the Washington Redskins, making him the first minority head coach to win the Super Bowl. 

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