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Al Davis

Date of birth (1929-07-04)July 4, 1929
Place of birth Brockton, Massachusetts
Date of death October 8, 2011(2011-10-08) (aged 82)
Place of death Oakland, California
No.
Position Owner
Head Coach
General Manager
Commissioner
College Syracuse
Career highlights
Awards AFL's Coach of the Year in 1963
Honors Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992
Coaching Record / Statistics
Career coaching record 23-16-3
Super Bowl
      wins
1976 Super Bowl XI
1980 Super Bowl XV
1983 Super Bowl XVIII
Championships
      won
1967 AFL Championship
1976 AFC Championship
1980 AFC Championship
1983 AFC Championship
2002 AFC Championship
Coaching stats Pro Football Reference
Coaching stats DatabaseFootball
Career player statistics (if any)
'     
'     
'     
More stats at:
Team(s) as a player (if any)
Team(s) as a coach/administrator (if any)
1950-1951
1953-1956
1957-1959
1960-1962
1963-1965
1966
1966-1969


1970-present
Adelphi (OL)
The Citadel (OL)
Southern California (OE)
Los Angeles Chargers (OE)
Oakland Raiders
AFL (Commissioner)
AFL Oakland Raiders (part-owner/general manager 1966-1969)
NFL Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (part-owner/general manager 1970-1972, principal owner/general manager 1972-present)
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1992

Allen "Al" Davis (born July 4, 1929, in Brockton, Massachusetts, died October 8, 2011 in Oakland, California) was an American football executive, who served as the principal owner (titled as "president of the general partner") of the NFL's Oakland Raiders.

Early career[]

Born to a wealthy family in Brockton, Massachusetts, Davis spent his youth in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended Erasmus Hall High School. He attended Wittenberg University and Syracuse University, where he earned a degree in English. Upon graduation, he began his coaching career as the line coach at Adelphi College from 1950 to 1951. From there Davis served as the head coach of the U.S. Army team at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia from 1952 to 1953. His next coaching assignment was as the line coach and chief recruiter for The Citadel. From 1957 to 1959 Davis was an offensive line coach at the University of Southern California.

Oakland Raiders coach and general manager[]

Davis' first coaching experience in professional football came as the offensive end coach of the Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers from 1960 to 1962.

After the 1962 season, Raiders general partner F. Wayne Valley hired Davis as head coach and general manager. At 33, Davis was the youngest person in professional football history to hold the positions. His image then was very much the same as it is today—slicked-back hair, Brooklyn-tinged speech (the "Raiduhs"), dark glasses and an intense will to win.

Davis immediately began to implement what he termed the "vertical game," an aggressive offensive strategy based on the West Coast offense developed by Chargers head coach Sid Gillman. Under Davis the Raiders improved to 10–4, the first winning record in franchise history and he was named the AFL's Coach of the Year in 1963. Though the team slipped to 5–7–2 in 1964, it rebounded to an 8–5–1 record in 1965.

AFL Commissioner[]

In April 1966 he was named the American Football League Commissioner. He immediately commenced an aggressive campaign against the NFL and signed several of the NFL's top players to AFL contracts. Other AFL owners, Davis not included, held secret meetings with the NFL, and in July the AFL and NFL announced that they were merging. Because of the compensation some of the AFL teams were required to pay the NFL, and because he believed the AFL would be the superior league if allowed to remain separate, Davis was against the merger. On July 25, 1966, Davis resigned as commissioner rather than remain as commissioner until the end of the AFL in 1970.

Back with the Raiders[]

After resigning as AFL commissioner, Davis bought a 10 percent stake in the Raiders and returned to his old club as one of three general partners, along with Wayne Valley and Ed McGah. He was also named head of football operations. On the field, the team Davis had assembled and coached steadily improved. With John Rauch (Davis's hand-picked successor) as head coach, the Raiders won the 1967 AFL Championship, defeating the Houston Oilers 40-7. The win earned the team a trip to Super Bowl II, where they were beaten 33-14 by Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. The following two years, the Raiders again won Western Division titles, only to lose the AFL Championship to the eventual Super Bowl winners—the New York Jets (1968) and Kansas City Chiefs (1969).

In 1969, John Madden became the team's sixth head coach, and under him the Raiders became one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, winning six division titles during the 1970s. In 1970, the AFL-NFL merger took place and the Raiders joined the Western Division of the American Football Conference in the newly merged NFL. The first post-merger season saw the Raiders win the AFC West with an 8-4-2 record and go all the way to the conference championship, where they lost to the Colts. Despite another 8-4-2 season in 1971, the Raiders failed to win the division or achieve a playoff berth.

Raiders ownership[]

In 1972, while managing general partner Valley was attending the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Davis drafted a revised partnership agreement that made him the new managing general partner, with near-absolute control over team operations. McGah signed the agreement. Since two of the team's three general partners had voted in favor of the agreement, it was binding under partnership law of the time. Valley sued to overturn the agreement once he returned to the country, but was unsuccessful. Valley sold his interest in 1976, and no other partners have had any role in running the club since. This was despite the fact that Davis did not acquire a majority interest in the Raiders until 2005, when he bought the shares held by McGah's family. He now owns approximately 67 percent of the interests in the partnership through his company, A.D. Football, Inc.

In addition to serving as owner, Davis effectively serves as his own general manager. He has run the Raiders' football operations since his return in 1966—longer than any football operations chief in the league. He is one of three NFL owners who have the title or powers of general manager, others being the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and the Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown. He has long been reckoned as a very hands-on owner, and is believed to have more authority over day-to-day operations than any other owner in the league.His famous motto is "just win baby".

With Davis in control, the Raiders became one of the most successful teams in all of professional sports. From 1967 to 1985 the team won 13 division championships, one AFL championship (1967), three Super Bowls (XI, XV, and XVIII) and made 15 playoff appearances. Though the Raiders' fortunes have waned in recent years, having gone 24–72 from 2003 to 2008, they are one of two teams to play in the Super Bowl in four different decades, with the other being the Pittsburgh Steelers. Along with appearing in five Super Bowls, the Raiders have also played in their Conference/League Championship Game in every decade since their inception.

In 1992 Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Team and League Administrator, and was presented by John Madden. Davis has been chosen by a record nine Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees to present them at the Canton, Ohio ceremony: Lance Alworth, Jim Otto, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Gene Upshaw, Fred Biletnikoff, Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, and Madden.

In 2007, Davis sold a minority stake in the Raiders for $150 million[1] and said that he would not retire until he wins two more Super Bowls or dies.[2] Al Davis' wife and son Marc are his direct heirs. Marc Davis has been seen around the Raiders facilities in recent years and is thought to be interested in running the team.

Legal battles[]

Davis has long been considered one of the most controversial owners in the NFL and has been involved in multiple lawsuits involving Los Angeles, Oakland, Irwindale and the NFL. In 1980 he attempted to move the Raiders to Los Angeles but was blocked by a court injunction. In response Davis filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. In June 1982 a federal district court ruled in Davis' favor and the team officially relocated to Los Angeles for the 1982 NFL season. When the upstart United States Football League filed its antitrust suit in 1986, Davis was the only NFL owner who sided with the USFL.

In 1995 Davis moved the team back to Oakland. Davis then sued the NFL, claiming the league sabotaged the team's effort to build a stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood by not doing enough to help the team move from the antiquated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to a new stadium complete with luxury suites. The NFL won a 9–3 verdict in 2001, but Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Richard Hubbell ordered a new trial amid accusations that one juror was biased against the team and Davis, and that another juror committed misconduct. A state appeals court later overturned that decision. The case was thrown out July 2, 2007 when the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the verdict against the Raiders stood. This was the last of several lawsuits the Raiders had outstanding against the league and its stadium landlords.[3]

In the mid 90s Davis sued the NFL on behalf of the Raiders, claiming the Raiders had exclusive rights to the LA market, even though the Raiders were in Oakland. Davis and the Raiders lost the lawsuit.

In 2007, NFL Films chose the feud between Davis and the NFL and Pete Rozelle as their number 1 greatest feud in NFL history on the NFL Network's Top Ten Feuds, citing almost a half century of animosity between Davis and the league. Some believe that the root of Davis' animosity towards the NFL and his former co-owners in the AFL was the surreptitious way they pushed the AFL-NFL merger behind his back.

Early moves[]

Davis introduced the Raiders' signature logo in 1963 in a unilateral move as head coach and general manager.[4] In the 1960s as AFL Commissioner, Davis initiated a bidding war with the NFL over players.[5] But it was his return to Oakland in 1967 that allowed him to reach his true calling. That season Davis made a number of roster moves, including landing Buffalo Bills quarterback Daryle Lamonica, a back-up for starter Jack Kemp on two AFL champion Bills teams. Another move at first thought to be desperate was the signing of former Houston Oilers QB George Blanda, who was already 39 but was still a very solid placekicker, and had played on the first AFL champion teams with Houston, as well as for the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Colts before that. Davis correctly identified Blanda as a mentor for Lamonica as well as a solid special teams man despite his advanced age. That year he also drafted guard Gene Upshaw, the cornerstone of the Oakland offensive line well into the 1980s. Lamonica propelled the Raiders to a 13-1 won-loss record in the 1967-68 season, and they coasted to the league championship with a 40-7 victory over Houston, although they were defeated easily by the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. Oakland under Davis would go on to win the other two last AFL Western Division titles before the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

During the first years of the new league format Oakland was a dominant franchise, winning the AFC West Division every year except 1971, and was kept out of the Super Bowls between 1970 and 1975 only by phenomenal Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers teams. Indeed, during the nine-year span from 1967 through 1975, the Raiders were eliminated by the team that won the Super Bowl on seven occasions (Green Bay in Super Bowl II at the end of the 1967 season, Super Bowl III champion New York in the 1968 AFL Championship Game, Super Bowl IV champion Kansas City in the 1969 AFL Championship Game, Super Bowl V champion Baltimore in the 1970 AFC Championship, Super Bowl VIII champion Miami in the 1973 AFC Championship Game, and Super Bowl iX and X champion Pittsburgh in the 1974 and 1975 AFC Championship Games). Finally, in 1976, the Raiders won their first title in Super Bowl XI under Davis's homegrown head coach John Madden. From 1970-1981 Oakland was able to reach the AFC Championship Game seven out of eleven years, and won two Super Bowls in that period. They also captured additional division titles during that period.

Trading Stabler[]

In the 1980 offseason star QB Ken Stabler attempted to renegotiate his contract with the Raiders. A veteran gunslinging quarterback, Stabler had won the Raiders' only title until then and had been a mainstay since his 1968 signing with the team as a protegé of Lamonica. Davis angered much of the Raider community by dealing him to the Oilers for Quarterback Dan Pastorini, a trade many regarded as selfishly seeking revenge while strengthening the team's top AFC rival. The move paid off, with replacement veteran Jim Plunkett tying San Diego for the best AFC West record and winning the wild card spot for their first playoff appearance since 1977. The Raiders also became the third second-place team to play in the Super Bowl, joining the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1975 Dallas Cowboys, and they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV. Davis, a preseason goat in Oakland for the Stabler deal, was vindicated (the Raiders even defeated Stabler's Oilers in the wild-card round of the playoffs, 27-7). It seemed his status as the top front office strategist had been saved. It must be noted Jim Plunkett became the starting quarterback after Dan Pastorini, who the Raiders had acquired in the Stabler trade, broke his leg in week 5.

Marcus Allen benching[]

Marcus Allen, the most valuable player in the Raiders' Super Bowl XVIII victory, was ordered benched by Davis for two years following a contract dispute.[6] Davis only commented, "He was a cancer on the team."[7] Allen said that Davis "told me he was going to get me." He added that "I think he's tried to ruin the later part of my career. He's trying to stop me from going to the Hall of Fame. They don't want me to play."[8] Davis called Allen's charges "fraudulent", and then-Raiders coach Art Shell said only he decided who plays.[8] The Raiders released Allen in 1992, and he played the last five years of his 16-year, Hall of Fame career with the Kansas City Chiefs.[6]

After Allen, Davis deals Gruden[]

The Marcus Allen affair has continued to be cited as the turning point at which the Raiders ceased to be a contender in the 1990s. After 1994 the Raiders returned to Oakland and failed to post a winning record until 2000. The Denver Broncos meanwhile reestablished themselves as the AFC West's premier franchise, winning Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 under John Elway and coach Mike Shanahan, the head coach of the LA Raiders in the 1988-89 season. In 1998 Jon Gruden was hired as head coach of Oakland, leading them to their first AFC West division title in ten seasons in 2000 with a 12-4 record, only to be rebuffed in the AFC finals by the Baltimore Ravens, who would proceed to win that season's Super Bowl. In the offseason Davis succeeded in luring future Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice from the cross-bay 49ers, a move that now solidified the already deadly Oakland pass attack. Gruden guided the Raiders to another division title in 2001 and they were defeated in a very controversial Divisional Playoff game by the New England Patriots. The game still remains very controversial today, due to Walt Coleman overturning a late 4th quarter fumble by Tom Brady citing the very obscure tuck rule. In the offseason Davis made what is considered one of the most bizarre trades in NFL history, dealing his head coach Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a move that was unprecedented and as yet has not been repeated. His replacement, Bill Callahan, led Oakland to an 11-5 record and their third consecutive division championship. Callahan's Raiders then defeated the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans on the way to Super Bowl XXXVII. Coincidentally, Gruden had guided Tampa to its first Super Bowl berth, and a matchup otherwise not noteworthy was termed the "Gruden Bowl".[9] Despite a superior 12-4 record, tied for best in the NFL with Green Bay and Philadelphia, the Buccaneers were four point underdogs, yet they dominated and surprised the Raiders with a blowout 48-21 victory.

Tom Cable[]

Tom Cable was the Raiders interim coach as a result of former coach Lane Kiffin's firing. Cable finished off the 2008 season with a record of 4–8. On February 4, 2009 Tom Cable was officially introduced as the permanent head coach of the Raiders. The Raiders went 5-11 in Cable's first full season as head coach. At the beginning of the season, Cable was involved in a scandal in which he punched an assistant coach in the face and broke his jaw. In his second season as head coach, the Raiders finished with a record of 8-8 and went undefeated in divisional play (6-0). On January 4, 2011 The Raiders declined to extend Tom Cable's contract, and promoted Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson to Head Coach 13 days later.

Death[]

Davis died, aged 82, in his suite at the Hilton Hotel Oakland Airport at 2:45 a.m. PDT on October 8, 2011, in Oakland, California.[10][11][12] Nine days later, a private service and funeral was held for Davis, who was interred at Chapel of the Chimes.[13] In the days following the funeral, The Associated Press obtained information pertaining to Davis' death. The death certificate, issued by Alameda County, disclosed Davis had died from "an abnormal heart rhythm, congestive heart failure and a heart muscle disease".[12] Davis had previously undergone heart surgery in 1996. Davis was also afflicted with Merkel-cell carcinoma,[14] a rare skin cancer, and had undergone throat surgery in the days preceding his death.[12]

There was an outpouring of support and grief in the wake of Davis' death. John Madden, who had remained close to Davis since their first meeting in 1966, lamented, "You don't replace a guy like that. No way. No damn way. You look at the things he's done that no one ever did before, being a scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner and owner."[15] The Sunday following his death, the Oakland Raiders adorned their helmets with a sticker which read "Al" in Davis' memory. A league-wide moment of silence was also observed.[16] Despite the widespread remembrance of his accomplishments, Davis' position as a controversial figure lives on as part of his legacy. Sportswriter Rick Reilly was particularly adamant that the questionable personnel decisions Davis made later in his career and his arrogant, brash personality should not be forgotten amidst sportswriters' praise of him as an innovative owner.[17]

Davis was survived by his wife, Carol, and their only child, Mark, a graduate of California State University, Chico.[18] Mark assumed his father's old title of managing general partner of the Raiders and with his mother owns the majority of the team. Both Mark and Carol represent the Raiders in owners' meetings.[19] Carol suffered a serious heart attack in 1979 and was hospitalized for three weeks but was able to make a complete recovery.[20]

Al Davis' mother Rose had lived to age 103. She died in 2001, having outlived her husband Lou by 40 years.[21]

The "11th man"[]

The day after Davis' death, the Raiders played the Houston Texans. Oakland was leading the game, 25–20, late in the fourth quarter. On the final play of the game, Raider free safety Michael Huff intercepted Texan quarterback Matt Schaub in the end zone to preserve the victory.[22] The Raiders had only 10 defensive players on the field for the play.[23] The play was referred to as the "Divine Interception"[23] with media speculating that Davis was the 11th player on the field in spirit.[24][25] Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Al Davis "had his hand on that ball."[26] Jackson was highly emotional in victory, as well as Davis's son Mark Davis. Jackson said, "One thing coach [Davis] always taught me was he said: 'Hue, don't believe in plays. Believe in players and eventually the players will make plays for you.' And that's what I did. I could just hear him saying that to me the whole time. Believe in your players and not the plays." "We know he's looking down on us right now," Hue said. "This win is for him. I appreciate everything he's done for this organization. He's never gone in our eyes. We'll never let him go. He's with us."[27]

References[]

  1. Davis sells minority stake in Raiders for $150M - San Francisco Business Times:
  2. Al Davis: two Super Bowls or bust (I’m betting on bust) - Morning Buzz - San Jose Mercury News Sports blog
  3. http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-newswire3jul03,1,7429747.story Raiders lose long-standing suit against NFL
  4. Miller, Jeff. p. 119
  5. Miller, Jeff. p. 197.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gay, Nancy. "Raiders Notebook: Classy Allen has the last word on his day", August 4, 2003, p. D–7. 
  7. "NFL mourns passing of Raiders owner Al Davis", SportingNews.com, October 8, 2011. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Pro Football: Raiders' Allen Irked at Davis", The New York Times, December 15, 1992. 
  9. Martzke, Rudy. "'Gruden Bowl' keeps fans glued to TVs". USA Today. January 27, 2003. [1]
  10. McDonald, Jerry (August 12, 2016). Al Davis' death still resonates with Raiders one year later. The Mercury News.
  11. Raiders owner Al Davis dead at 82. ESPN (October 9, 2011).
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Al Davis died of heart failure. ESPN (28 October 2011).
  13. Schulman, Henry. "Raiders fans pay respects to Al Davis at Oakland chapel", San Francisco Chronicle, 17 October 2011. 
  14. "Al Davis Death Certificate Reveals Cause of Death", 28 October 2011. 
  15. Sandomir, Richard. "For Grieving Madden, a Death in the Family", The New York Times, 13 October 2011. 
  16. Raiders honor Davis with helmet decals, win over Texans. National Football League (9 October 2011).
  17. Reilly, Rick (14 October 2011). Commitment to honesty. ESPN.
  18. Tafur, Vittorio. "Davis family will retain ownership of Raiders", San Francisco Chronicle, 9 October 2011. 
  19. Raiders owner admits L.A. stadium talks. ESPN (10 January 2012).
  20. "Carole Davis returns to fun, travel and football", Gadsden Times, November 9, 1980. 
  21. "Al Davis' mother, Rose, dies at 103", Amarillo Globe-News, 23 October 2001. 
  22. "Wk 5 Can't-Miss Play: Emotional finish". 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Final play – Raiders had 10 on field". 
  24. "Was Davis the 11th Raider on the field?". 
  25. "Raiders vs. Texans, NFL Scores: Last-Second Michael Huff Interception Seals Raiders 25–20 Win". 
  26. Samano, Simon (October 12, 2011). Raiders knew they were a man down on final play vs. Texans. nfl.com.
  27. "Raiders hold off Texans on emotional day after honoring Al Davis", ESPN.com, October 9, 2011. 

Further reading[]

  • Mark Ribowsky, Slick: The Silver and Black Life of Al Davis (biography) - Sept 1991
  • Glenn Dickey, Just Win, Baby: Al Davis and His Raiders (biography) - Sept 1991
  • Ira Simmons, Black Knight: Al Davis and His Raiders (biography) - Oct 1990

External links[]

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