"Just win, baby" is the famous, oft-quoted creed of Davis, the Pro Football Hall of Famer who is President and principal owner of the Oakland Raiders. Originally coach of the Raiders, Al -- known then and now for his slicked-back hair, Brooklyn-tinged speech, dark glasses and ferocious competitiveness -- was named AFL Coach of the Year in 1963, leading the Raiders to a 10-4-0 record. Since he became the team's owner, Davis's Raiders teams have played in five Super Bowls, winning three (in 1977, 1981, and 1984) and losing two -- one of them the 2003 contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Lomas Brown, a Tampa Bay lineman, spoke for many of his teammates when he expressed awe and reverence for his famous opponent. "Al Davis? C'mon, man. Al? He's the man. He's like the Godfather of the NFL...You know what? I want his autograph...He's a legend, man." (The NY Post, January 24, 2003)
Former NFL head coach Hank Stram said of Davis, "People talk about franchise players. I think Al Davis is a franchise owner. He has made many contributions to the American Football League and pro football in general -- as commissioner of the American Football League, as an instrumental figure in the merger of the two leagues [with the NFL], and of course as coach and general manager of the Raiders...he took over in 1963 and immediately made them a winner."
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame web site, Davis is the only person to have served in the professional leagues "as personnel assistant, scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner, team owner/chief executive officer." In 1992, Davis was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the fourth Jew selected (joining Sid Luckman, Sid Gillman, and Ron Mix and they have since been joined by Marv Levy). After hearing of his induction, Davis said with characteristic modesty: "I said many times that it should have happened a long time ago."
Birth and Death Dates:
July 4, 1929
Born in Massachusetts, Davis grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Erasmus High School. After attending Wittenberg College and Syracuse University, Al joined the Adelphi University coaching staff in 1950, at the age of 21. Four years later, Davis moved to the Baltimore Colts, concentrating on player personnel. In 1956, Al served as line coach and recruiter at The Citadel. In the late 1950s, he spent three years at the University of Southern California as line coach. In 1959, Al also served as USC's defensive coordinator.
In 1960, when the American Football League was formed, Davis was hired by Sid Gillman as an offensive coach for the Los Angeles Chargers. Then, in 1963, Al was hired by the Oakland Raiders to be the team's head coach and general manager. The Raiders had only won three of their previous 28 games before Davis took over the coaching duties. That season, he led the Raiders to a record of 10-4-0, was named AFL Coach of the Year, and became the first sportsman to be named Oakland's Young Man of the Year.
Davis coached the Raiders for three seasons and had a career record of 23-16-3. In April 1966, Al became the Commissioner of the AFL, not knowing that talks of a merger with the NFL had begun. He believed the NFL should have merged into the AFL, not the other way around. Davis' reign as commissioner lasted only two months, but according to sportswriter Jerry Magee, "Al Davis taking over as commissioner was the strongest thing the AFL ever did...he thought the peace [AFL-NFL merger] was a detriment to the AFL...it was a disappointment to him that they merged."
In July 1966, Davis stepped down as AFL Commissioner following the AFL-NFL merger and Al returned to the Raiders as general manager and principal owner. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Davis built the Silver and Black into a football powerhouse as they captured the Super Bowl in 1977, 1981, and 1984. Between 1963-1981, they only had one losing season. Al developed the Raider mystique behind such great players as Fred Biletnikoff, Gene Upshaw, Jim Otto, George Blanda, Willie Brown, Art Shell, Lester Hayes, Mike Haynes, John Matuszak, Dave Casper, and many others.
One of the most competitive owners in all of sports, Davis is also one of the most loyal. He consistently looks for ways to help his former players. Longtime aide Al LoCasale said, "Tradition is a very important word to Al. Tradition is not a word but a style to him. He really believes once a Raider, always a Raider. Once a guy has played for us, whatever he needs, we do our best for him. But he does this quietly, not looking for publicity...he bonds with people who have worn the Silver and Black. Take our radio package, for example. There has to be a place for former Raiders. Tom Flores, our former coach, does color. George Atkinson does the sideline reports. We use Jim Plunkett on TV shows. These people are part of our history."
Considered something of a maverick by other owners, Davis never hid his disdain for Pete Rozelle, the man chosen to be commissioner of the league following the NFL-AFL merger. When Oakland refused to add luxury boxes seats to its stadium, Davis decided to move his team to the Los Angeles Coliseum. Under league rules, 3/4 of the owners had to approve the move, but Al did not get the required votes. In 1982, he pressed an anti-trust suit against the NFL, and a federal judge ruled the move should be allowed, awarding $35 million to the Raiders in damages. In 1995, the Raiders moved back to Oakland.
One of the most successful franchises in football for decades, the Raiders returned to glory in the 2002 season. The experienced veterans that Davis recruited, including Jerry Rice, Bill Romanowski, Rod Woodson, and Sam Adams, blended with Oakland's younger players to help the Raiders finish 11-5 in the regular season and reach the team's fifth Super Bowl.
Davis coached the Oakland Raiders of the AFL from 1963-1965.