He was to his team, the Oakland Raiders, what George Steinbrenner was to the New York Yankees in baseball. As the primary owner, he made himself the face of the franchise off the field. Al Davis, some said, may have been behind the times, but few questioned his desire to see his team succeed. Earlier today, Davis passed away at the age of 82. As of press time, the cause of death is unknown.
Davis was both the head coach and general manager of the Raiders in 1963, then became commissioner of the AFL until 1966, when he stepped away from the job and returned to the Raiders, opposed to the eventual merger with the NFL, which took place in 1970. Davis has had his share of litigous issues with the NFL, including a suit over anti-trust laws in the 80s while the team was based in Los Angeles. Massachusetts born, Brooklyn bred, Davis was played up in the media as a maverick who bucked the system.
Critics have said that part of the reason for the Raiders' decline in recent years was linked in part to Davis' unwillingness to make necessary changes, that the "vertical game" he cherished so much had changed in so many ways such that his version had become rather passe. After posting a 6-0 record within the AFC West last year, though missing the playoffs, the Raiders are in the thick of the AFC West race this season, having beaten the Jets before losing to New England over the last two weeks. The rest of the current campaign will likely be dedicated to Davis' memory, and it's assumed that his son, Marc, will take over day-to-day operations of the ballclub.
Rest in peace, Al.