Al Davis, July 4, 1929 – October 8, 2011
As a life long Raiders fan I have mixed emotions towards Al Davis. When I was a child he was just a guy with a big smile that kept saying “just win baby” or he was preaching about the Raiders “commitment to excellence”. You really don’t think of owners, GM’s and head coaches, You think of your favorite players and them scoring touchdowns and the Team winning games. So my early experience seeing/hearing Al didn’t really mean much to me. I remember him hiring Art Shell and it being a big deal because he was the first African American head coach, this was a typical Davis move based on loyalty, Shell was a Hall of famer and a true Raider and Davis loved him.
You hear a lot of stories of Davis’s love and loyalty for his players, but there are also stories about him acting like a scorned lover such as the situation regarding Marcus Allen. Allen was maybe the greatest Raider Running back and amid contract disputes Allen held out till the last minute every year. Things came to a head when Davis forced Art shell to bench Allen, calling him a “cancer to the team” and claiming he “had his own agenda and asterisk will be next to his name for all time” all because of Allen who was an NFL MVP disagreeing with what Davis thought was fair
As i got older and I really started to understand the complexities of the game did I really got to see what Davis was about. While I will always love his passion for the game, I will loath his decision making and his stubbornness for believing he was the only one who could guide the Raiders.
Davis is a legend and his impact was revolutionary to the league. He started the “vertical passing game” he went from Coach to GM to Owner and ran his team the way he saw fit at all times. This is part of the problem I have always had with Al, He fired Mike Shanahan for not doing things his way and ignoring play calls Davis had sent down from the owners box, He traded John Gruden because he felt he was getting to much credit for building a winner. He intervened on everything he could and it took its toll on the entire organization.
Davis helped the Raiders win 3 superbowls but he has hindered the organization more than he helped in the last 25 years. He drafted based on speed not skill or acumen. He wanted athletes with great attributes; it was like he was playing a video game. This led to a ton of questionable picks led by Todd Maranovich and going thru Jamarcus Russell, the Raiders have picked in the top 10 every year for about 10 years and the only one to have really done much is Darren McFadden, and he took some time to develop into what he is today.
The bottom line is every one will have an opinion on Al Davis, He will always be a huge part of the NFL legacy and he is well deserved member of the hall of fame. His life and contribution to the League and the Game should be celebrated. As a Raider fan I just wish he had stepped aside about 12 years ago so.
In the about me section of my blog I had “waiting for Al Davis to Die” listed as one of my hobbies, That was callous and wrong of me to write and I regret it, He loved the same team I do so much and it was his right to do what he saw fit, no matter what I think.
R.I.P Al Davis