Al Davis owner and general manager of the Oakland Raiders.
Al Davis, pro football pioneer, a rebel with a cause, un-brought & un-bossed AFL & NFL owner of the Oakland Raiders.
His motto for the team is "just win baby", he also initiated the use of such team slogans as "Pride and Poise," and "Commitment to Excellence.
He influence and was instrumental in shaping the NFL for 50 plus years. When I started researching and writing this website I was very impressed with what Al Davis had contributed to pro football.
If I had known what I know today, the Oakland Raiders would have been my team when I switch teams in 1982 due to the
failure of the Atlanta Falcons owner Rankin Smith.
I choose the New York Giants instead, but once Arthur Blank brought the Atlanta Falcons, I became a Atlanta Falcons fan again.
I always wondered why pro football fans were Oakland Raiders fan even when they were not from California or the Bay area. Now I know, from my perception its the history, the fight for civil rights, black and silver colors and the mystic of the Raidaaasss.
College Coaching Career
Al Davis attended Wittenberg University and Syracuse University, where he earned a bachelors degree
in English. After graduation, he started coaching at Adelphi College as a line coach
from 1950 to 1951.
From there he serve as the head coach of the U.S. Army football team at Fort Beauvoir, Virginia from 1952 to 1953. His third coaching job was the chief recruiter and the line coach for the The Citadel.
His final college coaching assignment was at the University of Southern California as an offensive line coach from 1957 to 1959.
Oakland Raiders Coach and General Manager
Prior to joining the Oakland Raiders, Al Davis was an offensive ends coach for the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers of the American Football League
In 1963, the Raiders general partner F. Wayne Valley hired Davis as head coach and general manager. Al Davis became the youngest person in pro football history to hold two positions.
It was at this time that he created the image that would define him for almost half a century, the grease slick black hair,
Brooklyn NY speech, dark glasses and a very high intense will to Just Win.
Davis begin to implement the "vertical game" an aggressive offensive strategy based on the West Coast offense develop by the San Diego Charges head coach Sid Gillman.
His first season as head coach Davis improve the Raiders record to 10-4 their first winning season in franchise history and he manage to win one more game then the Raiders had won in their first three seasons.
He was name AFL's coach of the year in 1963. The team slipped fo 5-7-2 in 1964, it rebounded to an 8-5-1 record in 1965.
In April of 1966, Davis accepted and was named the American Football League Commissioner
Immediately he, led an aggressive campaign to complete against the more establish National Football League by signing several of the NFL high profile players to AFL contracts.
Davis strategy focused on signing quarterbacks and in just two months he persuaded 7 NFL quarterback to sign with the AFL.
Davis strategy was to win the bidding war for players but some AFL and NFL owners saw this strategy as being detrimental to both leagues.
So other AFL owners, not including Davis, held secret private meetings with NFL owners, and in just eight weeks into his tenure, the NFL being worn down by the years of competing with the AFL, agreed to merger of the two leagues.
Davis was against the merger because he believed the AFL
would be a superior league if allow to remain separate and because the AFL teams had to pay the NFL.
On July 25, 1966, Al Davis resigned as commissioner rather than remain as commissioner until the end of the AFL in 1970.
Civil Rights and Diversity
Al Davis broke several civil rights
and diversity barriers during his career with the Oakland Raiders. In 1963, the Raiders were scheduled to play a preseason game in Mobile, Alabama.
In protest of Alabama's segregation laws against black players, Davis refused to allow the game to be played there and demanded the game be moved to Oakland.
In 1965, the AFL All-Star game was initially scheduled in New Orleans until Davis protested due to racial injustice in the city at the time. He was instrumental in moving this game to Houston.
Al Davis was the first NFL owner to hire an African American head coach, Art Shell, he hired the second Hispanic head coach in the league, Tom Flores.
He also hired and a female chief executive, Amy Trask. Tom Flores went on the win Super Bowl 2 Super Bowls for Al Davis Raiders.
Al Davis actively recruited and signed black players from historic black colleges and small colleges that had been largely ignored by the NFL, giving those universities black players the opportunity to play professional football in the American Football League.
He also drafted several Hall of Farmers from black colleges and small colleges.
Oakland Raiders Ownership
After Davis resigned as AFL commissioner, he return with the Oakland Raiders as one of the general partners, along with Wayne Valley and Ed McGah.
He owned 10% of the Oakland Raiders and he was named head of football operations.
Davis hand picked John Rauch to succeed him as the Raiders head coach, and in 1967 the team won the AFL Championship by beating the the Houston (Love U Blue) Oilers 40-7 to earn a berth in Super Bowl II.
The Raiders went on to play in Super Bowl II where they lost to the Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers 33-14.
The Raiders went on to win the Western Division titles two years in a row but, they lost both AFL Championship to the eventual Super Bowl winners, the New York J E T S (1968) and the Kansas City Chiefs (1969).
In 1969 John Madden was hired as the sixth coach of the Oakland Raiders by Al Davis, under him the Raiders were one of the most successful franchises in the AFL and NFL, winning 6 division titles during the wonderful 1970s.
In 1970, the merger between the AFL-NFL took place with the Oakland Raiders joining the Western Division of the American Football Conference in the NFL.
During the first season of the AFL-NFL merger the Raiders won the AFL West with an 8-4-2 record and went to the AFC championship only to lose to the Baltimore Colts.
The Raiders finish with the same record of 8-4-2 but failed to win the division or earn a playoff berth.
The Oakland Raiders Ownership for the Taking
While Wayne Valley was attending the 1972 Summer Olympics
in Munich, Davis drew up a new partnership agreement that gave him nearly complete control over team operation and made him the new managing general partner.
The other general partner Ed McGah sign the agreement. Since two out of the team's three general partners had voted in favor of the agreement, it was binding under partnership law at that time.
Mr. Valley sued to overturn the agreement when he returned to the States but lost. He eventually sold his ownership interest in 1976, and from that point on, none of the partners had a role
in the Oakland Raiders operations.
Davis didn't acquire a majority interest in the Raiders until 2005, when he finally brought the shares held by Ed McGah's
In 2007, Al Davis sold a minority interest in the Oakland Raiders for 150 million and said he would not retire until he wins two Super Bowls or die trying.
Davis serve as owner and general manager of the Raiders until his death, he serve longer than any other owner in the league at this time.
He is one of three NFL owners who have the title of general manager, the other owners are Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones and the Cincinnati Bengals Mike Brown.
He has been one of the most hands on owners in professional sports and reportedly had more authority over day to day operation than any owner in sports history.
While Davis was in control, the Raiders became one of the most successful teams in professional sports. From 1967 to 1985 the team won:
- 1 AFL Championship
- 3 Super Bowls
- 4 AFC Championships
- 13 Division Championships
- 15 Playoff Appearances
The Oakland Raiders are one of two teams to play in the Super Bowls in 4 different decades, the other team being the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They also, appeared in 5 Super Bowls, the Raiders also played in their Conference-League Championship Game in every decade since their inception.
In 1992, the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted Al Davis into the Hall of Fame as a Team Member and League Administrator, and he was presented by the Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame Coach, Broadcaster and Video Game Maker John Madden.
Davis has been chosen to present a record number 9 Hall of Fame inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the Canton Ohio ceremony:
- Lance Alworth,
- Jim Otto,
- George Blanda, QB/Place Kicker
- Willie Brown,
- Gene Upshaw,
- Fred Biletnikoff, WR
- Art Shell, OT
- Ted Hendricks
- John Madden, Head Coach
Al Davis generosity was legendary when it came to helping former players who needed help, he routinely did so without publicity.
His philosophy was: "Once a Raider, always a Raider"
The Success of Signing Players
In 1967, Al Davis made a number of roster moves, including signing Buffalo Bills quarterback Daryle Lamonica
, a back-up for starter Jack Kemp on two AFL champion Bills teams.
Another signing that was thought to be desperate was the signing of former Houston Oilers QB George Blanda, who was 39 years of age but was still a very good placekicker, and had played on the first AFL championship team with the Houston Oilers, as well as with the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Colts.
Davis identified George Blanda as a mentor for Lamonica as well as a solid special teams man despite his age. That year he also drafted guard Gene Upshaw, the cornerstone of the Oakland Raiders offensive line well into the 1980s.
A shrewd judge of talent, especially early in his career, he became known for providing a home for gifted, disgruntled athletes, signing or trading for some players who were undervalued or given up on by other teams, like quarterbacks Daryle Lamonica, George Blanda and Jim Plunkett, and running back Billy Cannon.
He rehabilitated and gave others a football home, like receiver Warren Wells, defensive linemen Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak, and quarterback Ken Stabler, whose reputations were tarnished (either before or after they became Raiders) by allegations of criminal behavior, drug use, gambling or other transgressions.
Trading a Hall Famer and a Pro Bowler Who Wanted to Renegotiate Their Contracts
During the 1980 off season Pro Bowl Quarterback Ken Stabler was traded for trying to renegotiate
his contract with the Raiders. Stabler was a gunslinger who won the Raiders their only title at that time and he was a fan favorite.
The Raider nation were angered that Al Davis traded Stabler for Dan Pastonrini. Most fans view this as selfish seeking revenge while strengthening the team top AFC rival.
The Raiders beat Stablers Houston Oilers in the wild card playoff game 27-7. That same season the Oakland Raiders went on to win Super Bowl XV by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10.
Marcus Allen, the Most Valuable Player in the Oakland Raiders Super Bowl victory over the Washington Redskins was bench by Davis for two years following a contract dispute.
Davis said, that Marcus Allen was a cancer on the team. Marcus Allen said that Al Davis "told me he was going to get me." He's trying to stop me from going to the Hall of Fame.
They don't want to play me, Allen said. The Raiders finally release Allen in 1992 and he went on to play his last five years of his 16 year Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs.
I really think that Al Davis was trying to set a standard for the Oakland Raiders so that none of his players would try to renegotiate their contracts.
I also believe the Oakland Raider could have won Super Bowls with Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson. Both of them in the backfield did cause havoc for opposing teams but Al Davis stubbornish got in the way.
Just imagine Bo runs the ball, now Marcus comes in an runs the ball what a tandem. We can only dream.
The Losing Years, Bad Drafts and Free Agent Signings
After the Oakland Raiders
lost the Super Bowl in 2002, they fail to make the playoffs 8 consecutive years from 2003-2010, along with double digit losses in 7 consecutive years from 2003-2009.
The team hired several head coaches and sign several free agents who had won the Super Bowl the year before. Those players never blossom with the Raiders.
Plenty of the Raiders draft picks during their losing years were borderline at best, the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell their first overall draft pick in 2007 who is a bust and in 2009 they drafted Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, from Maryland over Hakim Nicks who is having 2 good years and is a legitimate number 1 wide receiver.
Al Davis Death
Al Davis died at the age of 82 on October 8, 2011. The team said that Davis died at his home in Oakland early Saturday morning.
Associated Press on October 28, 2011 disclosed, Raiders owner Al Davis died of heart failure.
The death certificate issued by Alameda County says, "Davis died at age 82 at 2:45 a.m. on Oct. 8 from an abnormal heart rhythm, congestive heart failure and a heart muscle disease.
Al Davis is survived by his wife, Carol, and their only child, Mark, a graduate of California State University, Chico.
Raiders chief executive Amy Trask said that the team "will remain in the Davis family."
Davis said, “All my life, all I wanted to do was coach and lead men,”
Mr. Davis said in an ESPN documentary.
"I don’t want to be the most respected team in the league,” Mr. Davis said in 1981. “I want to be the most feared."
The "11th man" on the Final Play of the Game.
The day after Al Davis' death, the Raiders played the Houston Texans. Oakland was leading in the game 25-20 late in the fourth quarter.
On the final play of the game, free safety Michael Huff intercepted quarterback Matt Schaub in the end zone to preserve the victory.
The Oakland Raiders had only 10 defensive players on the field
for that play. The play was referred to as the "Divine Interception" with media speculating that Davis was the 11th player on the field in spirit.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Al Davis "had his hand on that ball." Al Davis guided or slow that football down just enough for Michael Huff to intercept it.