Al Davis, the Legend
Hello RaiderNation!! Hope you are all enjoying yourselves over this holiday!! Seeing how July 4th is not only Independence day, but is also the day Al Davis was born, I thought it only fitting to write a post about the late, great, legend of football.
He was born July 4th, 1929 to a Jewish family from Massachusetts. Davis first job with pro football was as a scout for the Baltimore Colts. He later got on as a backfield coach by the Chargers where he coached under Sid Gillman, It was here where we first saw the “vertical game” introduced, which Al Davis believed strongly in and would later become a huge part of the Raider offense. In January of ’63 Davis turned down a 1 year contract to become head coach of the AFL Oakland Raiders, but negotiated a 3 year deal for $20,000 a year and would make him head coach, GM and gave him complete control of football operations. Soon after there was a big turnover both on the field and in the front office and the black and gold second hand uniforms from University of Pacific were replaced with new silver and black that we all know and love.
It wouldn’t take long for both the AFL personnel and the NFL personnel, to realize that Al Davis was a shrewd businessman, and before long they had made him Commissioner of the AFL. Davis then set out to make the AFL a better league than the NFL, unfortunately for him, the AFL owners just wanted to force a merger which Davis’s schemes were successful at doing but, but part of the deal is Pete Rozelle would be commissioner. So ended Al Davis’ brief stint as AFL commissioner. But it is far from the only way Al Davis would help shape the NFL into the league it is today. He is well known for what he has done in the name of civil rights, both racial and gender. It was Al Davis who refused to play games at the stadiums where the hotels would not let the blacks stay with the whites. It was also Al Davis that hired the only female CEO in the NFL, Amy Trask. Hearing her converse about what it was like to work with him shows that he respected her for the work she did, and that there wasn’t anything he was afraid to ask her to do as a CEO. She has written a book about her experiences called “You Negotiate Like a Girl”. I recently purchased it and would recommend it to anyone who would like to read a behind the scenes story. But that wasn’t all in the name of civil rights. He had the first Latino QB, and the first black head coach. It just goes to show his belief that the color of your skin does not make a difference. These are all things we can look back at and admire about this man.
But what about his motto, the Raider motto? Actually, there are many attributed to him, but the main one is “Commitment to Excellence”. Another well known one is “Just Win Baby” “Take What We Want, Not What They Give Us”, “Pride and Poise”, and “The Flame That Burns Brightest Is The Will To Win”. Davis gave us others, but none more important than “Commitment to Excellence” which has become the Raider mantra.
Over the years the Raiders have had good times and bad and have had some of the best players in all of football. When I first started watching them, they had many Raider greats on the team. Too many to mention as it would not only take me all day, but it would make this the longest article ever posted on this web page. Just suffice it to say that the Raiders have been blessed with the talents of many great football players. There have been years when the Raiders seemed almost unbeatable, and years where they have not. But Davis had built a franchise that was a family, and continues to be to this day.
The world lost one of the greatest coaches/GM of all time on October 8th, 2011. When I first heard about Mr. Davis’ passing, I sent a text message to a friend of mine, David, who lives back east and is the only one I know who has been a Raiders fan as long as I have. David said it best when he texted me back and said he felt as if a member of his own family had died. I felt the same way. I was not myself that weekend at all, and still get a lump in my throat when I think about it. Thank goodness the Raiders, against all odds, went out and won the game for Mr. Davis, as they pulled out the win against the Texans with a game saving interception by Michael Huff, having only 10 men on the field. Hue Jackson said that Al had told him, “Hue, don’t think about the plays, think about the players and they will make plays for you”. The Raiders did exactly that culminated by Huff’s interception. Hue Jackson would later tell them team in the locker room that Al’s hand was on that football. Huff gave the ball to Al’s wife which was a classy move in my opinion
Al Davis lives on in the Raiders. So on this day, when we celebrate the birthday of our country, let us also celebrate the birthday of our beloved leader of the Raiders and RaiderNation,. Please join me in lifting a mug, glass or whatever it is you celebrate with, or tip your hat to the man that made the Raiders. The man, the legend, Al Davis. RIP
Until next time my Raider brethren, have a wonderful holiday!! Peace out!!!