He was an innovator and a maverick. A winner and a rebel. He was set in his own ways and wouldn’t change for anyone. Raiders owner Al Davis was a Hall of Fame legend and changed the face of the NFL as we know it.
Davis passed away this weekend at the age of 82. He had been in poor health over the last few years, but was still the eyes and ears of the organization. He served as not only the Raiders owner, but also the de facto general manager. He made calls on who to sign, who to draft, who to hire – all to fit his model of the Raiders.
Many younger fans will only remember Davis for some of the “supposed blunders” he made in recent years, namely the drafting of Jamarcus Russell. But if you look at his track record, many of his picks in later rounds have been gems, guys who have developed into solid players. Yes, he probably based too much of his evaluation process on speed and athleticism rather than an ability to play the game. But he never wavered in his belief.
The thing that really struck me over the weekend is the respect Davis got from not only his own players and coaches, but his peers in the league. He was not an easy person to get along with if you got on his bad side. But even those that had bad relationships with him showed a certain reverence to him. Many called him Mr. Davis or Coach Davis. When we talk about young athletes these days, many are described as having very little respect for the game and the history of the sport they are playing. But the respect that they showed for his passing gave the fans a true barometer of how much he meant to the game. Players loved playing for him, loved the Raiders, loved his desire and the fact that he was a father figure to many of them. He was an icon in every sense of the word.
Whether it was as a coach, owner, commissioner or whatever other position he was serving, Al Davis was the Raiders. He was and always will be the face of the franchise. His devotion and passion for the game will never be matched. Mr. Al Davis, you will be sorely missed.
Here’s Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson, who gave an emotional speech after the team’s victory in Houston on Sunday.
Photo Credit: www.raiders.com