American Football Database
Al Davis
Al Davis.jpg
Personal information
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
Career information
Position(s) Owner
Head Coach
General Manager
College Syracuse
Career highlights
Awards AFL's Coach of the Year in 1963
Honors Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992
Head coaching record
Career record 23–16–3 (as coach)
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
Team(s) as a coach/administrator


Adelphi (OL)
The Citadel (OL)
Southern California (OE)
Los Angeles/San Diego Chargers (OE)
Oakland Raiders
AFL (Commissioner)
Oakland Raiders (part-owner/general manager)
Oakland Raiders (principal owner/general manager)
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1992

Allen "Al" Davis (July 4, 1929 – October 8, 2011) was an American football executive. He was the principal owner of the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League from 1970 to 2011. His motto for the team was "Just win, baby."[1]

Early career

Born to Rose and Louis Davis[2] in a "relatively affluent" Jewish[3] family in Brockton, Massachusetts, Davis spent his youth in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn and attended Erasmus Hall High School. In contrast to the outlaw image he would later take on, as a teenager Davis won an American Legion medal for "all-around kid."[4]

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. It was at that time that he assumed the image that would define him for almost half a century—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 one more win than they had notched in their first three seasons combined. 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 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 formed a holding company, A.D. Football, Inc. and returned to his old club as one of three general partners, along with Wayne Valley and Ed McGah. He owned a 10 percent stake in the team, and 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 from that point onward none of the other partners had any role in the team's operations. 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. At his death he owned approximately 67 percent of the team.

In addition to serving as owner, Davis effectively served as his own general manager until his death—longer than any football operations chief in the league at the time. He was 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 had long been reckoned as one of the most hands-on owners in professional sports, and reportedly had more authority over day-to-day operations than any other owner in the league. His famous motto was "Just win, baby".[1]

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 37–91 from 2003 to 2010, 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[5] and said that he would not retire until he wins two more Super Bowls or dies.[6]

Davis' generosity was legendary when it came to helping former players in need, although he routinely did so without fanfare. His philosophy: Once a Raider, always a Raider.[7]

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.[8]

In the mid-1990s, 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.[citation needed]

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.[9] In the 1960s as AFL Commissioner, Davis initiated a bidding war with the NFL over players.[10] 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 NFL-AFL 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. Although Pastorini was injured in week 5, the move paid off when replacement veteran Jim Plunkett led the Raiders to a first-place tie with San Diego for the best AFC West record and the wild card spot for their first playoff appearance since 1977. The Raiders subsequently 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).

Marcus Allen benching

Marcus Allen, the most valuable player in the Raiders' Super Bowl XVIII victory, was ordered to be benched by Davis for two years following a contract dispute.[11] Davis only commented, "He was a cancer on the team."[1] Allen said that Davis "told me he was going to get me." He added that "I think he's tried to ruin the latter part of my career. He's trying to stop me from going to the Hall of Fame. They don't want me to play."[12] Davis called Allen's charges "fraudulent," and then-Raiders coach Art Shell said only he decided who plays.[12] 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.[11]

Davis deals Gruden

Davis dealt his head coach Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for Tampa Bay's 2002 and 2003 first-round draft picks, 2002 and 2004 second-round draft picks, and $8 million in cash.[13] His replacement, Bill Callahan, led Oakland to an 11–5 record and their third consecutive division championship. The Raiders reached Super Bowl XXXVII, where they faced Gruden, who led Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl berth. The Buccaneers won 48–21 in a matchup that was termed the "Gruden Bowl".[14]

Losing years

Following their Super Bowl loss, the Raiders failed to make the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons from 20032010, with double-digit loss record seasons in seven consecutive years from 2003–2009. The team cycled through multiple head coaches. Their 2007 first overall draft pick, quarterback JaMarcus Russell, was called by "the biggest draft flop in NFL history".[15] Davis was largely blamed, and his motto of "Just win, baby!" was mocked.[15]

The 2011 Raiders' record was 2–2 at Davis' death.[15]

Civil rights and diversity

Davis breached several civil rights and diversity barriers during his career with the Raiders. In 1963, the Raiders were scheduled to play a preseason game in Mobile, Alabama. In protest of Alabama's segregation laws, Davis refused to allow the game to be played there and demanded the game be moved to Oakland. In 1965, the AFL initially scheduled an All-Star game in New Orleans until Davis protested due to racial barriers in the city at the time. He was instrumental in moving this game to Houston. [16]

Davis was the first NFL owner to hire an African American head coach, Art Shell, and a female chief executive, Amy Trask.[1] He also hired Tom Flores, the second Latino head coach in the league.[17][note 1]


Al Davis died at the age of 82 on October 8, 2011. The team said that Davis died at his home in Oakland early Saturday morning. As of October 9, 2011, the cause of death had not yet been released.[20][17][21][22] He is interred at Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.[23]

John Madden, who had remained close to Davis since their 1970s Raiders days together said, “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, coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner and owner.”[24]

The Sunday following his death, the Oakland Raiders wore a helmet sticker reading "Al" to commemorate Davis. Also, all teams in the NFL observed a moment of silence for Davis.[25]

Despite the widespread remembrance of his accomplishments throughout popular sports media immediately following his death, Davis' position as a controversial figure lives on as part of his legacy. Rick Reilly was particularly adamant that the questionable personnel decisions he made later in his career and his arrogant, brash personality should not be forgotten amidst sportswriters' praise of him as an innovative owner.[26]

Davis is survived by his wife, Carol, and their only child, Mark, a graduate of California State University, Chico.[27][28] Raiders chief executive Amy Trask said that the team "will remain in the Davis family."[28]

Davis's mother Rose had lived to age 103. She died in 2001, having outlived her husband Lou by 40 years.[2]

The "11th man"

A 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, free safety Michael Huff intercepted quarterback Matt Schaub in the endzone to preserve the victory.[29] The Raiders had only 10 defensive players on the field for the play.[30] The play was referred to as the "Divine Interception"[30] with media speculating that Davis was the 11th player on the field in spirit.[31][32] Raiders coach Hue Jackson said Al Davis "had his hand on that ball."[33]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "NFL mourns passing of Raiders owner Al Davis". Associated Press. October 8, 2011. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Al Davis' mother, Rose, dies at 103". Amarillo Globe News. 23 October, 2001. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  3. [1]
  4. Weber, Bruce (8 October 2011). "Al Davis, the Controversial and Combative Raiders Owner, Dies at 82". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  5. Davis sells minority stake in Raiders for $150M - San Francisco Business Times:
  6. Al Davis: two Super Bowls or bust (I’m betting on bust) - Morning Buzz - San Jose Mercury News Sports blog
  7. Steve Kroner. "'Raiders players, coaches recall Al Davis' loyalty". San Francisco Chronicle. October 9, 2011.
  8.,1,7429747.story Raiders lose long-standing suit against NFL
  9. Miller, Jeff. p. 119[full citation needed]
  10. Miller, Jeff. p. 197.[full citation needed]
  11. 11.0 11.1 Gay, Nancy (August 4, 2003). "Raiders Notebook: Classy Allen has the last word on his day". San Francisco Chronicle: p. D-7. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Pro Football: Raiders' Allen Irked at Davis". The New York Times. December 15, 1992. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011.
  13. "Gruden agrees to five-year deal with Bucs". February 18, 2002. Archived from the original on October 8, 2011.
  14. Martzke, Rudy. "'Gruden Bowl' keeps fans glued to TVs". USA Today. January 27, 2003.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Marvez, Alex (October 8, 2011). "Davis leaves Raiders on the right path". (Fox Sports Interactive Media). Archived from the original on October 9, 2011.
  16. Judy Battista. "'Davis Lived Up to the Label of Maverick Till His Death". New York Times'. October 8, 2011.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Farmer, Sam (October 9, 2011). "Al Davis dies at 82; Oakland Raiders owner transformed team". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011.
  18. "History: Latin-Americans in Pro Football". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011.
  19. Branch, John (November 15, 2008). "For Alberto Riveron, From Cuba to N.F.L.’s First Hispanic Referee". The New York Times: p. SP1. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011.
  20. "Raiders owner Al Davis dies, team says". Associated Press. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  21. Tom FitzGerald, Steve Kroner,Dwight Chapin, Chronicle Staff Writers. "'Oakland Raiders' owner Al Davis dies at 82". San Francisco Chronicle. October 9, 2011.
  22. Steve Corkman. "'The Al Davis legacy: Innovator, fighter, maverick". Oakland Tribune. October 9, 2011.
  23. [2]
  24. Sandomir, Richard (13 October 2011). "For Grieving Madden, A Death in the Family". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  25. "Raiders will wear helmet sticker honoring Al Davis". 9 October 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011.
  26. Reilly, Rick. "Commitment to Honesty". ESPN. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  27. Matier, Phillip; Ross, Andrew (October 12, 2011). "Davis family finances fine, Raiders' a bit shaky". The San Francisco Chronicle: p. C-1. Archived from the original on October 14, 2011.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Tafur, Vittorio (October 9, 2011). "Davis family will retain ownership of Raiders". The San Francisco Chronicle: p. B-9. Archived from the original on October 9, 2011.
  29. "Wk 5 Can't-Miss Play: Emotional finish". Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Final play -- Raiders had 10 on field". Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  31. "Was Davis the 11th Raider on the field?". Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  32. "Raiders vs. Texans, NFL Scores: Last-Second Michael Huff Interception Seals Raiders 25-20 Win". Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  33. "Raiders knew they were a man down on final play vs. Texans". Retrieved 13 October 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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