Originally published on SBReport.net on Oct. 8, 2012
Allen "Al" Davis was a head coach of the Oakland Raiders; he was the general manager of the Raiders; he was an iconic owner of the Raiders; in a lot of ways, Al Davis was the Raiders.
One year ago today, on Oct. 8, 2011, the Raider Nation and the NFL lost iconic owner Al Davis to "an abnormal heart rhythm, congestive heart failure, and a heart disease" at the age of 82.
Davis was an integral part of making the NFL what it is today, both as a coach, an owner and a commissioner of the former American Football League (AFL).
Davis attended college at the University of Syracuse and upon graduation began his coaching career with the U.S. Army team, Citadel and then as an offensive line coach with the University of Southern California.
Al Davis first became part of the Raiders organization when he was named the head coach and general manager of the team at the age of 33 in 1963, leaving his position as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Chargers.
Davis inherited a Raiders team that went 9-23 through its first three seasons, but Davis quickly turned the team around with Davis' trademark "Just Win, Baby" philosophy.
The Raiders went 10-4 in their first season under Al Davis, finishing just one game out of the playoffs and earning Davis the AFL Coach of the Year award. With the Raiders finishing just 1-13 the season before, the turnaround is the best in professional football history.
Davis remained as the head coach of the Raiders for three seasons, finishing with a record of 23-16-3 before being named the commissioner of the AFL. It was as the commissioner of the AFL where Davis began working towards a merger of the AFL and their rival league, the National Football League (NFL).
Shortly after taking office, Davis started a bidding war for players with the NFL and got eight of the NFL’s top quarterbacks to join the AFL.
Davis’ bidding war worried the NFL, as they contacted the AFL in hopes of being able to work out a deal. Just two months after Davis had taken the job of commissioner, the AFL and NFL decided to merge and keep the NFL name on June 8, 1966.
After successfully implementing the merger, Davis resigned as the AFL commissioner in July of 1966, just three months into his tenure. Following his resignation, Davis bought 10 percent of the Oakland Raiders for $18,000 and became the general manager of the team once again.
The Raiders won 248 games from 1963-1985, the most of any other pro football team. During this time, the Raiders also won three Super Bowls and had 16 consecutive winning season, an NFL record at the time.
Davis was eventually honored for his work by being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992. Davis has also presented nine people into the Hall of Fame, the most out of anybody.
Overall, Davis saw 18 of his former players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Throughout Davis’ tenure as the Raiders owner, he made his coaching philosophies known and present on the team throughout his reign of ownership.
“When people we came out of the huddle, we didn’t want first downs and move the chains, we wanted touchdowns; the quick strike. We were going to take what we wanted, that was Raiders football,” Davis said. “The defensive theory evolved early on in the ’60s. Number one: pressure. Put pressure on the pocket; put pressure on the quarterback; diversification of defense; and the utilization of your corner backs in a bump and run principle. The idea is to disrupt the offense; disrupt the flow of the offense, disrupt the continuity.”
Al Davis became known as a self-proclaimed “maverick” of the NFL, coining phrases such as “Just win, baby” along with his “Commitment to Excellence.” Davis is well respected across the league as a pioneer of the NFL, along for his influence on rule changes and his trailblazing tactics in hiring personnel.
Davis was the first general manager to hire an African American and a Latino head coach in Art Shell and Tom Flores, respectively. Both coaches had played for the Raiders previously. Davis also named Amy Trask the first CEO of an NFL team.
Largely known as an innovator across the league, Al Davis will forever live in the Silver & Black jerseys that he created. One of the first moves Davis made when he came to the Raiders in 1963 was to change the Oakland Raider uniforms to silver & black, still the colors of the franchise today. Before this move, the Raiders wore jerseys that were black, gold and white.
Since Davis' passing, Reggie McKenzie has taken on the role as general manager, working under Mark Davis, the Raiders new owner and son of Al. McKenzie was drafted by Davis in the 10th round of the 1985 NFL draft and played linebacker for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1986-1988.
Though Davis has passed, he still remains an icon of not only the organization, but also the NFL. The team still dons an "AL" shield on the back of their helmets in honor of the late iconic owner. In addition, the organization lights a torch in the O.Co Coliseum prior to every Raiders home game. The torch symbolizes Davis' burning desire to win.
“The fire that burns brightest in the Raiders organization is the will to win.” — Al Davis (July 4, 1929 - Oct. 8, 2011)
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