The passing of NFL legend Al Davis sent shockwaves through the league on Saturday. Davis’ death was sudden, as there was no recent news about any type of illness or health issues and Davis was recently spotted an Oakland Raiders game.
At one point Davis was considered an NFL visionary and a man who continuously pushed the envelope with his team. He later morphed into a man who allowed the game to pass him by at times. The Raiders were doormats of the league for many years during the past decade as he went through more head coaches than Kim Kardashian does men.
But nonetheless he was great for the league, and I will stand to say that the NFL would not be the type of league that is now without one Mr. Al Davis.
He leaves behind a legacy littered with success and a firmly planted tree full of players, coaches, general managers and owners who all ate from the fruit that Davis’ tree produced.
There are so many people with deep NFL connections who have been influenced by Al Davis that this list could go on for decades. But there are only a select few who can say that they are true legends, and that’s what we’ll focus on with this list.
Here are five NFL legends greatly influenced by Al Davis.
If you don’t know John Madden as a head coach then you probably know him as an announcer or as the man behind the Madden football series. But before he became synonymous with the words “boom!” and his deep love for Brett Favre he was a great NFL head coach.
Madden’s coaching career is probably more decorated than his time as an announcer as he has a Super Bowl victory, took the Raiders to five AFC Championship games, and retired as the man with the most victories in Raiders history.
He was football’s youngest head coach when he was first hired at age 32 and retired ten years later.
Davis’ influence on Madden is maybe the greatest of all of those than he had an impact on because Madden’s footprint may be even bigger than Al’s.
Gene Upshaw is a Hall of Fame football player who was once an Oakland Raider. He played for Oakland from 1967 to 1981 and he career was decorated with All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections.
But Upshaw’s presence was magnified when he was named the executive director of the NFL Players Association in 1983. He’s credited with bringing free agency to the NFL and improved players pay in the process.
Though his tenure was contentious at times it was nothing short of productive.
His sudden death in 2008 was probably more shocking than that of Al Davis because of Upshaw’s age and he appeared to be in good health. He’ll forever be remembered as a great player but I believe its safe to say that this NFL legend was heavily influenced by Al Davis.
Art Shell may not be an NFL legend to many but what Davis did with him is legendary. Davis hired Shell in 1989 as Art became the first African-American head coach in the modern NFL.
Shell took the Raiders to an AFC Championship game in 1990 and had a career record of 54-38.
There have been many to follow in Shell’s footsteps since that point but I would argue that his success led to coaches like Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith leading their teams to clash in Super Bowl XLI.
Due in part to Davis’ shrewdness to hire a black coach way back in ‘89 we had two black head coaches in one Super Bowl. I would say that’s legendary.
The creator and curator of the west coast offense has openly credited Davis with teaching him everything he knew about football. Walsh had three Super Bowl titles and he’s credited with having a coaching tree of his own.
But it was Davis who taught Bill the game and Walsh never forgot that. The west coast offense? Yeah that’s a version of Al’s offense.
Walsh passed away in 2007 from leukemia and he will always be remembered as a man who changed the way teams play offense and defense in the NFL. But we can trace that change back to Mr. Al Davis.
Jones, in my opinion, is the one NFL owner closest to that of Al Davis. Jones has always fashioned himself to be a coach and Al Davis actually held that position once. Jones has been an innovator as he changed the way NFL and their teams market themselves.
He has three Super Bowl wins as an owner and so did Davis. Both men constantly searched for the next victory and Jones’ quest for another Super Bowl continues
On Saturday Jones told ESPNDallas.com that not a month went by that he didn’t talk to Davis and that he was a great friend.
I'm really saddened by his passing," Jones said. "He was a great friend. He was someone that I admired. He was very loyal and very passionate about football. Gene [Jones' wife] and I were invited to his 70th birthday in Las Vegas, and we were the only people there -- period -- that were not Raiders. It was a real point of pride with me.
One thing that’s for sure about both men is that they love their teams and they’ll do anything to see them succeed.