He was known, if not for his trademark chain-linked sunglasses, but for his aggressive and, at times, rebellious way of running a franchise, as a man who greatly impacted the NFL.
Al Davis, team owner for the Oakland Raiders since 1966, passed away early Saturday morning. The longtime face of the organization was 82.
For more than a half-century, Davis ruled the Bay Area, making friends and plenty more enemies along the way. His methods were controversial, as was his penchant for being involved in every decision, both on and off the field.
His team’s slogan, “Commitment to Excellence”, encapsulated Davis’ mantra toward how to run a football team and helped mold the Raiders into one the league’s all-time greatest franchises. During the 1970s and 80s, his teams won three AFC Championships, each time going on to win the coveted Super Bowl. Since then, however, only a 2002 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay provided any hope as the Raiders otherwise struggled to return to glory.
For Davis, though, his career actually started in Baltimore, where at 24 he was named as an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts. After joining the Los Angeles Chargers of the newly-sprouted AFL in 1960, Davis was hired by the Raiders three years later as the youngest general manager in football history.
In retrospect, the Raiders were the perfect fit for Davis. His aggressive methods and passion for the sport mirrored the team’s play on the field, the fans in the stands, even the famous Raider Nation. With head coach John Madden at the helm, Oakland won six division titles in the 70s, en route to one of the most successful runs in sports history.
From 1967 to 1985, the Raiders won 13 division titles, one AFL championship and three Super Bowls. During that same stretch, the team produced some of the game’s finest players in history, guys like Fred Biletnikoff, Gene Upshaw, Willie Brown, Howie Long, Art Shell and Marcus Allen.
In 1992, Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Team and League Administrator. Almost immediately, however, the Raiders began to fall from the league’s elite teams. The team had some success in the early 2000s, reaching the AFC championship game in 2000 and the Super Bowl in 2002, but are still without a title since 1983.