Al Davis 1929-2011

Two Slogans. Six Words. “Just Win Baby” and “Tradition of Excellence.” No two phrases represented what one team, or one owner stood for better than these two did the man who made them famous: Al Davis.

The Oakland Raiders legendary owner who passed away at 82 on Saturday morning was the personification of the Silver and Black; a renegade owner who went against the grain and led his team to more success than any other franchise in the 70’s and 80’s.

But Davis was more than an owner of a great team; he was an innovator, a rebel and one of the most important people in shaping the NFL as we know it today.

Davis was a brilliant football mind and a terrific salesman who once lured an Italian recruit from New Jersey away from Joe Paterno and Penn State to play football for The Citadel. He was the youngest man to hold the titles of head coach and general manager and a one-time commissioner of the AFL who greatly influenced the merger with the NFL.

It was Davis who went against the grain to try and sign players away from the more established NFL which eventually led to the leagues coming together. It was Davis who hired both the first African-American (Art Shell) and Latino (Tom Flores) head coaches in the NFL. It was Davis who sued the NFL and voted against it even after he was part of it. Even this past year, Davis abstained from voting on the new NFL rules.

For the Raiders, Davis created the teams that had 16 straight winning seasons and won Three Super Bowl Championships with a cast of players that could best be described as outcasts. Ken Stapler, Jack Tatum and Lester “the molester” Hayes all suited up for Davis’ teams and helped lead the Raiders to greatness.

Davis cared about few things in life more than the Raiders. He was the owner, the general manager and for all intents and purposes, the coach. He selected his players through the draft and made sure that his team was full of hard-hitting, super athletic players who had some attitude. While many questioned some of his draft selections (especially in recent years) Davis stuck to his guns because that’s what made the Raiders great.

In his 49 seasons with the Raiders franchise Davis is believed to miss only three games (one of them two weeks ago in Buffalo) despite numerous health ailments over the past few years.

Giants owner Steve Tisch summed it up best “The Raiders personified Al Davis. Al is the Raiders.”

The team, which found out yesterday morning of Davis’ passing, will play in Houston today against the Texans.

Jason Campbell summed up Davis’ feelings toward the Raiders, saying, “The only thing Mr. Davis would want us to do is win. That’s the only thing he ever talks about is winning, and going out there and playing as hard as you can play.”

The NFL will hold a moment of silence at all games to honor Davis, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 1992.

Used with permission of the author.

Brett is the editor and a contributor for He has covered MLB and the Braves for numerous websites and is a regular contributor to Sports Climax. Follow Brett on Twitter.

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