What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

Why Al Davis Is So Important to the History of Professional Football

There will never be another NFL figure like Al Davis.

I would be lying if I said that I never criticized Davis.  Just a few months ago, I included him on my list of the 15 Worst Owners in Sports.  However, as I said in that piece, that criticism was reserved for the Al Davis of the past 20 years or so.

For those of you under 30, you may not believe there was a time when Al Davis wasn’t a batshit crazy Cryptkeeper look-alike and the Raiders were not the laughing stock of the NFL. In an 18-year span during the 70′s and 80′s, the Raiders won 13 division championships, made 15 playoff appearances, and took home three Lombardi trophies. This is the era when the Raiders were the winningest team in all of professional sports, and love him or hate him, Davis was a respected and visionary leader who helped build the AFL into a league so successful the NFL couldn’t beat it so they joined with it.

That paragraph only scratches the surface as to what Al Davis meant to the world of professional football.  Davis literally climbed the football ladder, going from college assistant coach to an NFL assistant coach, to head coach,  to owner to AFL commissioner, to Super Bowl champion,  and ultimately to the Hall of Fame.

Perhaps his single greatest honor is having made a record nine presentations of inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Al Davis made presentation speeches for  Lance Alworth, Jim Otto, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, and John Madden. Davis himself was enshrined in Canton in 1992.

Davis changed the game of football through sheer personality; a personality which was a collection of contradictions. At once, he was was loyal and rebellious;  cantankerous and vindictive,  yet sentimental.  Yet through all that, Davis’ name must be included amongst the founding fathers of the NFL; a name that must be mentioned with same reverence in NFL circles as that of George Halas.

Davis was a trailblazer in a number of ways. Davis first arrived in Oakland in January 1963,  At only 33 years old, Davis was the youngest head coach and general manager in all of professional football. The Raiders were picked to finish in last place but logged a 10-4 record, garnering Pro Football Coach of the Year honors for Davis.

In 1966, Davis became Commissioner of the American Football League. This was a post he accepted reluctantly. But AFL owners, in their battle with the rival National Football League, prevailed on Davis to accept the position.

Just eight weeks later, when pro football’s two major leagues put an end to their six-year war, Davis was credited as the man who brought the leagues to merge. He was also a major force behind the 1969 realignment of the newly-combined National Football League into two conferences — the AFC and NFC.

His contributions to the league as a whole notwithstanding, there the matter of his success with the Raiders. His trademark slogan weren’t just some words on a banner, it was a philosophy that propelled the three-time World Champion Raiders to the very top of the professional sports world. In the 48 year marriage between Davis and the Raiders, they had 28 winning seasons, including 16 in a row from 1965 through the 1980 World Championship season.

Part of the reason Davis and the Raiders enjoyed such success was the fact he would give opportunities to anyone. He hired the first Latino NFL head coach  (Tom Flores).  He hired the first black NFL head coach (Art Shell) since the 1920′s.  He hired the first woman as chief executive, (Amy Trask).

Al Davis made professional football what it is today. When Davis became part of the pro football world, it was a sporting after-thought languishing for fans behind baseball, college football, horse racing, and boxing. Davis leaves the NFL as the pre-eminent sports league in North America; one with a growing global profile as well.

The days of Al Davis’ greatness may be in the past, preserved in NFL Films documentaries and so many printed pages. However, it age doesn’t diminish it’s existence.  You can’t argue with three Super Bowl trophies in seven years.

Naturally, Davis didn’t go through this mortal coil without collecting his fair share of detractors…show me a man who has enemies, and I will show you a man who stood up for something.  I certainly don’t agree with some of the decisions he made, or some of the things he did, but like time, they do not detract from his amazing list of accomplishments.

The “big picture” on Al Davis is despite his faults, there is no disputing the impact he had on the NFL, and the continued growth and success of the league will be his legacy.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

16 comments on “Why Al Davis Is So Important to the History of Professional Football

  1. Mike
    October 10, 2011

    Great writing man! Well said! For all he did that people didn’t like, he did even more that people did like and that changed the game in a positive way.


  2. tophatal
    October 10, 2011


    Undeniably there’s going to be far more criticism than praise for Al Davis in some circles . But I look at this way long before the NFL simply took a turn for the worse he’d done a great deal to make the league relevant along with the likes of Wilson , Hunt , Rozelle and Rooney . Less we forget also he was one of the first owners in the league to make minority hiring relevant (front office and within the coaching fraternity) while many other owners were shying away from that stance .

    Did you by any chance catch that “puff piece” on “60 Minutes” last night on NFL agent Drew Rosenhasus ? If Scott Pelley had treated him with anymore deference I’m sure that the two would have ended up in a passionate embrace .

    tophatal ….


    • JW
      October 10, 2011

      I was afraid to watch the Rosenhaus piece for precisely the reason you mentioned.


      • tophatal
        October 10, 2011

        Without the Nev Shapiro incident you can clearly point a finger towards Rosehaus as one of the primary reasons the Canes’ are up sh_t creek without a paddle . They’ve allowed him to run wild across that campus with reckless abandonment and now Shalala and the entire athletics program will pay the price .

        I’ve just done a piece on the interview itself and tied it in with Shapiro . Will leave a link to it as well as via an e-mail if at all interested .

        tophatal ………


  3. sportsattitudes
    October 10, 2011

    Well done, sir. Well done.


  4. Good stuff, man. Definitely on the Mount Rushmore of professional sports ownership.


  5. tophatal
    October 11, 2011

    Other accomplishments of Davis not mentioned and often overlooked . First owner to hire a Hispanic American as a head coach ( Tom Flores) , first to hire an African American as head coach ( Art Shell) and the very first to have a female CEO within the NFL with Amy Trask .

    Rooney Rule asides how many NFL franchises can say that they have been that progressive ?

    tophatal ……………


    • JW
      October 11, 2011

      Except those were mentioned…


      • tophatal
        October 11, 2011


        You may well have mentioned that but in all honesty how many fans do you think would even be aware of that fact ___ much less even know who Amy Trask is ?

        The NFL has been in many respects for far too many fans has become about the here and now and not about what these pioneers set about in motion .

        So the Lions are still rolling will that now mean I can be content with seeing a great game (home against the Packers) on Thanksgiving Day ?

        After all these year it could well be I can stay awake while they’re playing . But then again will we have to be force fed another dose of the Cowboys on that day as well (they’re taking on the Dolphins at home) ?

        If not then I’ll have to consult with Dr Conrad Murray .

        tophatal …….


      • JW
        October 11, 2011

        “You may well have mentioned that but in all honesty how many fans do you think would even be aware of that fact ___ much less even know who Amy Trask is ?”

        That would be why I mentioned it…


  6. chappy81
    October 12, 2011

    Awesome post! Love him or hate him, he was great for football, and there’s noway we’d be where we are without him. It’s even more sad, because he finally built a decent team that can win again…


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