Al Davis, the Controversial and Combative Raiders Owner, Dies at 82

First as a coach, and then as an owner and managing general partner of the Oakland Raiders, Mr. Davis became the symbol of the franchise.

Comments: 67

  1. Wow! Jobs, and now, Davis. Two brilliant marketers, who uniquely changed, and lit their industries forever, gone in the same week! One on the cusp of middle age, and the other, at the start of old age. May they both R.I.P.

  2. Just win, Baby! How many reclamation project did the Raiders develop? But then again, that free-spirited, take no prisoners attitude also developed players like Jack Tatum that ended careers of opposing players. But overall, a strong positive from the game, the league, the players, and ultimately, the fans.

  3. Al Davis is gone but the Silver & Black lives on. Say what you will, the man was a legend. Al Davis was an innovator and an instigator. He and a handful of other team owners made the NFL what it is today.

  4. 1980 -

    Jim Plunkett - a 33-year-old, supposedly has-been, broken down, backup quarterback off the bench - a lucky wild-card ticket to the playoffs - and a Superbowl trophy.

    Thanks for the memories Al. Your legacy will live on.

  5. The most meaningful description I ever heard of Al Davis -- who seemed to be in perennial conflict -- is that he felt better in conflict than out of it. Unfortunately, I don't believe the people around Davis felt that same pleasure.

  6. A maverick who made both good and bad decisions without feeling the necessity of explaining himself... Not many of those types left...

    Most people cannot take that first step... But he could, and did...

    Rest in Peace.

  7. Those of us in Oakland who have had a love/hate relationship with Al, mourn his passing, not for the championships and defeats, but for the spirit and uniqueness of character that made him stand out from the rest. At a time when conformity seems essential (just ask any Republican contender)Al was a combative and testy breath of fresh air.
    Silver and black forever!

  8. Al Davis biggest contribution was to educated the people of metro L.A. through his moves and threats to move, that a great city like Los Angeles does not in fact need an NFL football team, nor does it need to waste money building stadiums, and giving free rent to extortionist owners like Davis with no loyalty to any city, and a ruthless non civic business bottom line mentality.

  9. Al Davis was such a mixed bag: a brilliant football man (until his last few years), and a pioneer in bringing ethnic diversity to coaching, but also a true villain. When he moved the team to L.A., a bumper sticker appeared in the Bay Area: "Will Rogers never met Al Davis."

  10. Wow, mixed feelings.

    I was ten when Al moved my Raiders down to LaLa Land. I never forgave him for that, even after he came slinking back. Still, his contribution to the team and the sport can't be denied.

    Thanks for the memories, Big Al. Hopefully, the team you made can now enter the 21st century.

  11. He left LA to go to Oakland. Now he is there forever. Win baby win left us. RIP without the money he milked from LA.

  12. I briefly bumped into Mr. Davis once in a hotel lobby a couple years ago before a football game. Surprised, I said: "You're Al Davis!". He sardonically replied: "I've been called worse!" before his entourage moved him along. He was one of the greats and will be badly missed.

  13. One of the few that owned a team for the love of the sport and not return on asset.

  14. Just read the lyrics to Sinatra's, 'My Way.' That's their generation, that's Mr Davis.

    A love hate relationship. Mr Davis I forgive you for taking my team to that city I will never say and building Mount Davis in beloved Oakland Alameda County Coliseum.

    Thank you for the memories, and the teams, the players, the games and plays everyone still talks about. We may never have gotten all the calls, but as the fan and you as the owner, I knew we were both felt the same way afterwards. .... "I did it my way!"

  15. Pride & Poise; Commitment to Excellence; Just Win, Baby! There is no doubt that Al David made the AFL and modern pro football. His Raiders reached the pinnacle when for decades they had the highest winning percentage of any pro sports organization.

    Al Davis used to use the telephone like the world now uses computers: to find information and value, in the form of good players. Davis could trade another GM for his eyeballs and tell them how good he looked without them.

    Then the world caught up the Raiders in terms of information, scouting and organization, and the Oakland/Los Angeles faltered. The turning point seemed to be his falling out with Hall of Famer Marcus Allen. Why Davis rebuked such a talent after Allen won him a Super Bowl mystified me.

  16. He made the NFL a very interesting league back in the day.

  17. Al Davis went down, and he went down hard.

    My hero. I shall miss him terribly.

  18. Today we morn the loss of a true Raider fan,  Al Davis, who will always be recognized as the man who helped shape the NFL. Although, many questioned Davis' way of doing business I respected his "commitment to excellence" and his commitment to the Raider fans, as he never gave up on the Raiders. If you are a true fan of the NFL then only you will truly understand our loss.

  19. Was he all that different? "Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers once called him a “lying creep.”"

    Did he do openly what the others did in secrecy?

    Were his passions antisocial or simply bald faced versions of the other owners' passions?

    Is it clear his pathology was simply an extreme of what is common place in the NFL?

    In a different sense, was he all that different from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates?

    Did he have and use his killer instinct?

    Did he envy the fame his teams brought to others?

    Was he a misfit or an icon?

    Do we live in a gladiator society?

    Was Mr. Rooney's creep the gladiator of the NFL?

  20. Al Davis not only inspired deep loyalty from his players. He also inspired deep loyalty and affection from his friends. He changed the face of professional football. And there was nothing "sinister" about him.
    He will be much missed by the Cosell family.

  21. What a splendid obituary, Bruce Weber. I think you captured the essential Al Davis, or have come as close as anyone to honestly summarizing a truly mercurial life. The final anecdote about Davis and Dave Anderson is wonderful. Nice job, Bruce, and so long, Al. Love the hairdo, still.

  22. Rozelle is now in hiding.... rumor has it that Al is looking for him to settle an old score in heaven.... There will never be another like Al Davis in the NFL.... RIP Al

  23. What a negative slant to this obit. Does it not even bear mentioning that Al Davis was the first to hire an African American coach, first to hire a Latino coach, first to hire a female exec... Not to mention all the things he did to help the game's greats, when they didn't have anything else to give, and the League left them behind.

  24. Iconoclast is the perfect word for Al Davis. He was an outsider and woke up every morning ready for a fight. He and the other AFL owners took on the NFL and won. He was tough aggressive and smart.He was the first to hire a an African American coach Art Shell,a Hispanic coach,Tom Flores and actively recruit from Black colleges first black quarterback.
    His only business was football unlike most of the other owners who come from the outside. His ability to resurrect the careers of so called washed up has beens was legendary
    He gave us a lot of great football and will be missed by those who love the game

  25. Al Davis and I grew up in Brooklyn best friends.We went thru public & high school together.We played football for Lincoln Terrace Park,and Al Davis was our coach then. Needless to say we won every division year after year with Al Davis as coach, Lincoln Terrace Park athletic club was the very 1st team to become Al Davis's Champion inter boro team. R.I.P. My dear Friend and coach. Mike Norris

  26. what happens now to the team?

  27. As HST would say - "He stomped on the terra".

  28. Al Davis euchred Wayne Valley out of his beloved team by slick and questionable methods and broke the old man's heart and spirit, forced steroids on his players during Flores' tenure as coach, gypped Oakland and LA with his stadium deals, and cared about two things only - his elderly mother and winning football games by any means possible. He called it "excellence" - it looked more like bullying from where I sit. His ethics were dubious, his methods arrogant, and the harm he caused to many of his players is incalculable. I for one am not sorry he's gone - I believe the world to be a better place without him, and though I hope he rests in peace at last, I cannot regret his passing, knowing what I know of him.

  29. Two NoCal icons who changed the world: Jobs changed the way people communicate and interact whereas Davis changed the way people are entertained. Davis basically forced the creation of the NFL which is now the most significant entertainment vehicle in our American culture. His ability to create a global consumer brand out of the Raiders organization also reflects how he helped change the business of sports - whether good or bad, Davis is a seminal figure in making sports such a huge global business thereby having an affect on all of our lives.

    Davis should also be remembered for being the first NFL owner to hire an African-American head coach and a Latino head coach. "Just win, Baby" is more than a slogan but a true motto on how he ran his business when his actions like the aforementioned hirings prove that he placed talent over color in a business that values merit over all else.

    RIP Al Davis.

    "Let's go to war!"

  30. Broke my heart when he moved from Oakland to LA. Oakland sold out all its games for decades, until the team announced its intention to move. The team (and fans) have never been the same since. The Raiders returned, but Al drove such a hard bargain it put the cash strapped city of Oakland in even worse circumstances.

    You can't deny his football genius. Imagine having a small market team, and almost all the other top teams considered yours their #1 hated rival. Despite that, you still managed to build one of the best records in sports spanning two decades.

    "I learned more football in one year with the Raiders then in any ten years I spent elsewhere." Bill Walsh, "Building a Champion", pg 34

    About any new stadiums... Thanks in part to our electoral college system, California gets back 77 cents in revenue for every federal dollar it sends to DC. California taxpayers helps finance some of the finest stadiums in the world, but none of these shiny new sports facilities are actually inside the state of California. If the league wants a re-birth of west coast football, it should consider kicking over some cash (or lobbying congress to abolish the electoral college).

  31. The famous are paying homage on Twitter. Interesting to see.

  32. Long live Skeletor. Al died a long time ago (the Al of the AFL, the win games baby Al) what was left was a caricature and punchline. (My favorite being Bill Simmons who says this would have never happened if Al Davis was still alive). Which lead to teams full of bad draft choices and cast offs. But on the whole few were as important to the AFL and NFL than Al Davis. RIP

  33. Go vertical, baby! I can't help but believe that God is a Raider fan and has called his head coach home. Being a Raider fan from birth, literally, for 51 years, I have admired the rebel in Mr. Davis. He taught us to never waiver in our beliefs, even if they were not popular. Our country could benefit from this philosophy, especially our politicians. Love him or hate him, just like him, each has his/her own opinion, but you have to admire his resolve. RIP

  34. My team since I was a 9 year old kid in Palo Alto in 1960. Al Davis made Oakland relevant and presented some of the most entertaining football I've ever seen. R.I.P. -- You won, baby.

  35. What a horrible week. Two of my biggest heroes gone. Steve Jobs and now Al Davis. I suppose that seems like an odd couple, but in the end both men were committed to a vision to which they remained true. Ignore the common "wisdom" and follow your own path. Perhaps a hallmark card type of sentiment but how many of us actually do it? RIP to both of them; I'm just glad they showed up and showed the game can be played by different rules.

  36. There was a story I heard that while in Hawaii with his players ( pro bowl or something) Mr. Davis walked into an exclusive restaurant that required "Tie & Coat". If you didn't have it you weren't getting in, NO MATTER WHO YOU WERE. Of course Al had his black turtleneck on, and that was it. Not a complaint was made nor a negative sound heard. Mr. Davis was seated at a window table sans tie and coat, and no one complained!

  37. The only reason I registered to this rag is to set the story straight. Mr. Davis did not oppose the merger, he helped force the merger. You guys can't get anything right let alone the news. Everything else I would say about this paper is unprintable.

  38. The Steve Jobs of the NFL !

  39. What he brought to the game and to the league is irreplaceable. True original thought and innovation is lost when we lost him, and now there is no one left for the pretenders to copy. The league in his absence will be left to the modern day pretenders who know nothing of the history of the league and believe that the "Tampa 2" really did originate in Tampa. The loss to those of us who remain is truly devastating, and the fact that so many in the game don't even realize what they have lost makes me fear for the future of all of us who love football and the NFL. I'll always love and miss Al. R.I.P.

  40. al davis was a very stubborn nfl genius.....he did more to further the eventual success of the nfl than any other nfl figure....including halas........

    your personality and idealism will be missed al........

  41. And I see from the obit that Davis graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. So did I, but 20 years after him. "Just win, baby!" was not the school's motto.

  42. I hated the man's decision to, first, move the Raiders to L.A, then, when he got them moved back, he talked the county BOS to destroy the stadium in a quest for more money.

    But he was a legend and he did make an impact, both positive and negative, on US Football.

    He will be missed.

  43. Rest in peace, Al Davis.

    Without wishing to give offense, maybe now the Raiders will have a chance to, after all these years, build a winner once again. Mr. Davis's judgment had become impaired in recent years, as evidenced by the state of his team.

  44. Jobs and Al prized individuality. They answered to none but themselves. Even if Al had lost his touch for the better part of the last 10 years, he cared little for what folks around him said. Nothing good ever comes from blind conformity and Al would never ever agree to something he did not believe.

  45. Al Davis was the principal force responsible for the ruination of one of baseball's finest parks: the Oakland Coliseum. He essentially blackmailed the city, which, after he had moved the team to LA, was desperate to get them back. He told the mayor and city council: Build me a huge new grandstand (on what used to be the grassy hillside beyond center field: what has since become known as "Mount Davis") or you'll never get your team back.

    Once the grandstand was build, the ballpark was never the same. Attendance fell off almost immediately, and with good reason: the Coliseum, which used to feel light, open and spacious, with great views of the Easy Bay hills, now had a closed-in, claustrophobic feeling. There's no doubt in my mind that the primary reason for the Athletics' wanting to leave Oakland is the fact that none but the most die-hard fans want to sit in that darkened, gloomy stadium.

  46. Great visionary hope his son can carry on and we lost two great icons
    Steve Jobs and Al Davis to both R.I.P.

    Just win, Baby!

  47. Say what you want about Al Davis, he was a MAJOR influence in the NFL. The game you so passionately follow on Sunday wouldn't be the same today without him.

  48. Played punch ball with Al on President st. and basketball in Lincoln Terrace Park. AL lived on CARROLL ST and I lived on crown st. He went to Erasmus and I went to Boys High. RIP tough guy

  49. My father was offered, and reluctantly accepted, Oakland Raiders season tickets in 1966. Starting at the age of six, he and I attended every Raiders home game for the next 15 years. My dad refused to park in the conventional lot; we parked in an obscure dirt lot behind Blackman's Welding and other grim blue collar places adjacent to the stadium, walked down some railroad tracks, and slithered under a barbed-wire fence to eventually reach the gates. Little did I know at the time that this was the sacred route to all things good and evil. This was the way to go watch real football with real fans. No luxury boxes, no spandex, no penalties for tackling too hard. I saw legends of the game: Jack Kemp, O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, and Don Shula. Never since then have I witnessed such animation, provocation, and grit. The way the Raiders could win, e.g., the Heidi Game, filled the imagination! My dad just wanted to win, and another beer. I was moved by something else. What were these skull and crossbones all about? Was that why everyone hated us? Did we want them to hate us? Whatever the case, this was no ordinary group, whoever assembled them. As the years went by, I came to idolize the Raiders, for good reasons, I suppose. Every Sunday when playing at home, it was theatre - pure Al Davis. Back then, he knew what it took to win - 15 division championships - a remarkable feat. He knew that greatness could never come from following the path of others, the John Nash of football, but had to come from something else. He knew what that something else was. Upon death, the totality of what is gone sinks in with much melancholy. RIP, Al Davis. You won, baby!

  50. On this Yom Kippur, the holiest of Holy days, it is only appropriate that we reflect on the life of a true American original(and jewish sports hero). Coach Davis was a man with a deep abiding trust in the power of the human spirit as reflected in the faith he displayed in many players who conventional wisdom might suggest didn't deserve a second chance. Al was that man who recognized that talent and a drive to win will trump adversity in every form. God bless Al Davis and god bless the Oakland Raiders. I love Jonah.

  51. I didn't like him, but I sure liked the fact that he made me not like him.

    I appreciated those late Sunday games in the AFL before the merger when I was in high school living on the Jersey shore. My dad and I would watch the Giants play early in the NFL on CBS, and, then, on NBC, which had the AFL, the Raiders play whomever.

    Then, when the leagues merged, the fun continued. I vividly remember 1970, when old George Blanda, at 43, came in off the bench for the injured Daryl Lamonica against the Steelers to throw three touchdowns to win win and for the next four weeks, the old man played QB and kicked ridiculous field goals for these crazy comebacks.

    Curt Gowdy would call the play-by-play and a guy who lived down the street from us in Spring Lake, Al DeRogatis, was the color commentator. I'd see D-Ro in the village and ask him how it was possible that those crazy comeback games kept happening.

    Despite the fact my dad and I said we despised the Raiders and Davis, Blanda had us secretly rooting for them. They were the bad guys you loved, like the villains in the old wrestling they'd show on WOR - Haystack Calhoun, Bobo Brazil, Gorgeous George. All in glorious, grainy black and white.

    So, you disliked Davis, while you ended up admiring the guys like Blanda, Lamonica, Stabler, Belitnekoff (covered in stickum), Plunkett, Ray Guy, Otto, and on it goes.

    I'll close with this. My sister was home for the weekend from college in DC. It was pouring rain and we had to drive her to Newark Airport to shuttle back down. The Raiders were playing the Jets. November 17, 1968, and the Jets were out in Oakland. We listened on the radio as the Jets gave up two touchdowns in the last minute to lose 43-32 after being up 32-29. Because we were in the car, we had no idea the game had been cut away from on TV. Yep, the Heidi game.

    Lots of thoughts wound around Davis. His passing got my deceased dad back with me today.

    RIP Al, thanks for the memories.

  52. Grew up in the Kansas City area and remember the tremendous Raiders versus Chiefs football games of the old AFL and then the AFC West. RIP, Al Davis.

  53. Al Davis gave the AFL character when they really needed it. I guess it is only a matter of time before they move the team to SOCAL!

  54. Great teams for a decade, then bitterness and rancor for three decades. He set the tone for the modern NFL owner - build a team then move when you can - to heck with loyalty - sort of like corporate America.

  55. I know it’s an exaggeration to say that Al Davis put Oakland on the map when he took over the Raiders, but in my memory it does seem that way. As a teen I used to sneak into Frank Youell Field (through a hole in fence behind the men’s room). It had only 20,000 seats or so, all bleachers I think, and there were usually plenty of empty seats. Then Davis took over and things changed. By the time I came back from Vietnam they’d built the Stadium and it was sold out—I couldn't get into see games. In the space of just three or four years the Raiders went from nowhere to the pinnacle, and people around the rest of the country knew where Oakland was. I never heard anyone speak nicely of Davis’s personality, but we all loved his football teams. The name originally proposed for Oakland’s AFL team was the Señores, so I’ll say “Vaya con Dios, Al.”

  56. My father knew Mr. Davis back in the day in Brooklyn when they were growing up. He always said that behind that tough exterior was a truly nice and very decent man. We all had great admiration and respect for him. Unfortunately we won't be seeing men like him anymore, they broke the mold, a unique man.

  57. Being a "maverick" and "having an impact" are not necessarily the same thing as making a positive contribution. That should be Al Davis's legacy.

  58. I first met Al Davis 66 years ago when we were both students at Erasmus Hall HS in Brooklyn. He always knew where he wanted to go in life and had the guts ti let nothing stand in his way. I last saw him about a dozen years ago at a high school reunion, half the expense of which he donated. His true heart was always there but he did not show that side of him. It will be a very long time before the likes of him comes again.

  59. When the Chargers moved to San Diego from Los Angleles in1961our 50year rivalry with Mr.Davis and the Raiders began. As a lifelong Chargers fan Thank you Mr. Davis. Pro football is the game it is today because of your passion and dedication. Being an owner was not the hobby . Other owners could learn from your example .RIP

  60. I fell in love with the helmets and uniforms during the late sixties, watching on a grainy black n white TV in western Pa. Every Sun. afternoon was a great adventure . and the Raiders grew on me instantaneously. Their style play, the whacky comebacks, and the unique talent that wore the silver n black. And now, living in Vermont, I still follow them...more closely than ever.
    RIP Mr Davis, may your ( our) beloved Raiders return to glory once more.Now !
    Just win , baby

  61. A true original.

    Condolences to the family.

  62. Al Davis was a huge person in the football legend.He brought a style to the game like no other win whatever it takes win. I hate to lose attitude was a way of life within the family..he was a fair man race did not matter ever winning was more important three world championships major player mergering the AFL the NFL in formimng one leauge..People who knew him loved him the love for the game is what he will be remembered for he loved the game...RIP RE:Roppo coach EH Midget football.

  63. My mother and I won the pool at our 1984 Super Bowl party by being the only two people to pick the Raiders. Thanks, Al! I'm a diehard Patriots fan now, but the Raiders will always be in my heart. Great memories for this Alameda girl. Rest in peace, Al Davis. You were an original.

  64. Al Davis also induced heart attacks.
    Eugene Klein, owner of the San Diego Chargers was testifying at a trial, probably about Davis moving the Raiders, when he suffered a heart attack on the witness stand.

    Mr. Klein recovered, but later sole the Chargers and became a highly successful thoroughbred horse owner, winning multiple Breeders' Cups. He liked owning horses better than players because the horses didn't give him agita over contracts and money. He recommended horses to anyone who wanted to be involved in sports.

    Also, there was no Al Davis found there.

  65. I have been a lifelong (since 10 years old that is) Raiders fan. This extended to writing personal letters (long before blogs, fanzines, email) to the Raiders, in my much younger years. I finally met Al Davis at a Raiders - Jets exhibition game at the old Yankee Stadium. Few people attended that game, and I was surprised to find him sitting in the stands with his executive assistant and his family (I was one of the few in those days who recognized him). I approached him and he was kind enough to speak with me for several minutes. I told him I had been writing to the team for a while and rarely received a response (again, in those days, there were no NFL stores, and in NY it was hard if not impossible to get Raider stuff), usually the media guide. He said simply "Write to me and I'll send you something." Of course, I promptly wrote to him -- but heard nothing back. That season the Raiders won the Super Bowl. Several weeks later, a full six months since my chance meeting with Al in the Yankee Stadium stands, a package arrived in the mail. There was no letter inside, but it contained several "Raiders, World Champions" bumper stickers, a bunch of Raiders emblem decals, a team picture and, best of all, a black and silver wool knit cap (which I still own but no longer wear!) with a special sewn-on Raiders emblem with "World Champions" underneath. I knew it had come directly from Al Davis. Al had remembered. And I always will.

    Postscript: A short while after graduating from college, I made my first trek to the Bay Area to visit a college buddy who had just moved there. Since I was so close, I made the inevitable pilgrimage to Oakland Raider headquarters. It was late June, and it was relatively quiet in the Raider offices. Al's secretary actually recognized my name (really, I lead a balanced life now), and allowed me into his office to sit in his chair, at his desk! Simpler times. But all of this suggests the well-hidden humanity of the man.

  66. Davis deserved a better headline than "controversial and combative."

    Love him or hate him, Al's teams won 3 Super Bowls in 7 years, he was commissioner of the AFL, and a damn good coach, to boot.

    As a Pats fan, I hope Bill Belichick gets better treatment upon his passing, which of course we all hope won't come for quite a while.

  67. Al died at his home in Piedmont California