An icon of news reels, Xs and Os, and rebellious nature left the NFL world a little emptier. While most fans might be happy that the mad man known as Al Davis is gone, they shouldn't jump to conclusions based solely on reputation.
AFL and NFL bad boy owner Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders dies at 82
One of the last surviving pioneers of the American Football League and a football trendsetter has died. Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis passed away on Saturday, October 8th at age 82. Cause of death was not disclosed. Most common football fans know Davis as somewhat of a renegade owner who bucks league authority in favor of his common "Just win, baby" moniker. They so easily forget that it was Davis who proved instrumental in merging the AFL and NFL during the 1960s and paving the way for football to become the dominant sport in America today.
Al Davis put aside reputations in favor of talent like Jim Plunkett and Ray Guy
The Emmy award-winning series America's Game referred to Oakland as the "island of lost souls." It was a place where cast off players tried reviving stalled or failed careers. The largest success story was a quarterback named Jim Plunkett. Before 1980, people knew Plunkett as a first-round draft bust with failed times in New England and San Francisco. Al Davis proved his gambling style by looking past the history of Jim Plunkett and focusing on the talent. No quarterback went first in the draft without being good. His philosophy paid off big-time. Plunkett ended up leading the Raiders to two world championships in 1980 and 1983. Davis also made similar decisions in the draft, such as being the only owner to select a punter, Ray Guy, in the first round. Guy went on to post the best numbers of any punter in NFL history.
Accepting the rules was something Al Davis wasn't very interested in
Most of the bad boy reputation centered around Davis has to do with his unwillingness to accept the rules. He was one of the few owners in the NFL who voiced his problems with league executives like the commissioner and competition committee publicly. As a result the Raiders tended to get flagged more often than other teams because their owner made it clear to them that any transgression on the field didn't matter if the team won. It's why Oakland carried such an intimidating aura wherever they played. Perhaps he had the right idea considering the recent rash of unpopular rule changes the league has instituted.
The Oakland Raiders won so much because Davis refused to constrain them
Al Davis made it clear he didn't care who he brought in. If a man had talent, he would wear Oakland Raiders silver and black. Part of the reason this worked was because Davis let his players be themselves. A more notorious case was Hall of Fame linebacker Ted Hendricks. From the time he arrived in Oakland, the man had a ridiculous range of quirks, including a rather infamous ritual where he rode onto the field for practice on a white horse and wearing a German World War II helmet. Players like this helped Davis win three Super Bowl titles, a monument to his patience and clear priorities for his team.
Regardless of what people assume, the National Football League wouldn't be half the juggernaut it is today without Al Davis. Fans should stand up and applaud the legacy of a truly great football character and legacy.