Allen "Al" Davis
(born July 4, 1929 in Brockton, Massachusetts
) is a Jewish-American Football executive
, who currently serves as the President of the General Partner of the NFL's Oakland Raiders
He attended 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 a line coach at the University of Southern California
Davis' first coaching experience in professional football came as the offensive end coach of the Los Angeles Chargers
from 1960 to 1962. In 1963, at the age of 33, and known then and now for his slicked-back hair, Brooklyn-tinged speech, dark glasses and ferocious competitiveness, Davis became the head coach and general manager of the AFL's Oakland Raiders
. Prior to Davis' arrival, the Raiders had compiled a 9-33 record in their first three years of existence. Davis led the team to a 10–4 record in 1963 and was unanimously named the American Football League Coach of the Year.
Davis compiled a coaching record of 23–16–3 in three seasons as head coach in Oakland.
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 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. He chose to return to the Raiders as general partner and head of football operations (along with seven other co-owners), rather than remain as commissioner until the end of the AFL in 1970.
Once he rejoined the Raiders organization, Davis ruthlessly attempted to gain power within the club. In 1972, while managing general partner Wayne Valley
was attending the 1972 Summer Olympics
, Davis drafted a revised partnership agreement that gave him near-total control of team operations. Valley sued to overturn the agreement once he returned to the country, but was unsuccessful. Valley sold his interest in 1976, and no other partners have had any role in running the club since. This was despite the fact that Davis didn't acquire a majority interest in the Raiders until 2005, when he bought the shares held by the family of Ed McGah, the team's last original general partner. He now owns approximately 67 percent of the interests in the partnership through his company, A.D. Football, Inc.
In addition to serving as owner, Davis effectively serves as his own general manager, as has been the case since 1970. He is one of the only NFL owners who also have the power of general manager, others being the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and the Cincinnati Bengals' Mike Brown.
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, & XVIII) and made 15 playoff appearances. Though the team's fortunes haven't been as great in recent years, having gone 19–51 from 2003 to 2007 and starting 2008 with a 1 win - 3 loss record, the Raiders are one of two teams to play in the Super Bowl in 4 different decades, with the other being the Pittsburgh Steelers. Along with appearing in 5 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 John Madden.
Davis is also credited for the catchphrases "Just win, baby!", "Commitment to Excellence", "The Will to Win", "The Greatness of The Raiders" and "Pride and Poise."
Davis is known for his commitment to diversity in his hiring practices. For example, he hired the first Latino head coach in NFL history, Tom Flores, in 1979. In 1989, he hired the second African American head coach in league history, Art Shell. He has also placed a woman, Amy Trask, as president of the club, in a far higher position than any other NFL owner or executive has placed a woman.
Davis has long been considered one of the most controversial owners in the NFL and has been involved in multiple lawsuits involving Los Angeles
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 said that there was nowhere to go but up at a press conference during the pre season. 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.
In 2007 Davis and Pete Rozelle and the NFL were voted the number 1 greatest rivalry in NFL history on the NFL Network's Top Ten Rivalries as they would go on to feud with each other for almost half a century.
Recent coaching hires
Following a series of losing seasons, Al Davis hired Jon Gruden
as head coach. The Raiders would later succeed by going as far as the AFC Championship
game, under a primarily foreign offense than that of Davis' 'vertical game'. At the end of the 2001 season
, which ended on a loss to the New England Patriots
amid a controversial call now known as the tuck rule
, Al Davis "traded" Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A year later, those same Buccaneers would beat the Bill Callahan
-coached Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII
The next season, the Raiders fell to 4–12, and Callahan was fired.
Next in line in 2004 was another offense-minded coach, Norv Turner
. In his two seasons, the Raiders would go 5–11, and then 4–12, basically resulting in no improvement from Callahan's embattled 2003 season.
In 2006, the Raiders wound up bringing back Art Shell, whom Davis fired in 1994, in hopes that a Hall of Fame player could instill discipline amongst his players. The team did not respond and ended up finishing the 2006 season
with a franchise-worst 2–14 record. Shell was fired at the end of the season.
The following offseason, Davis hired Lane Kiffin
in January 2007. Kiffin, protege to offensive mastermind Norm Chow, had previously coordinated the offensive juggernaut at USC
. The offense, particularly the running game, improved significantly under Kiffin, and although the team only managed a 4–12 record, Davis's young defensive draftees, in addition to rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell
, gave Raider fans something to look forward to for the future.
In 2008, Davis used the money he acquired from the minority stake to bring in DeAngelo Hall, Gibril Wilson, and Kwame Harris. Davis believed that he had given Kiffin the players he needed to succeed, despite their ongoing disagreements and Davis's attempts to fire Kiffin. Davis has made a weekly threat to fire Kiffin since the start of the 2008–09 season. On September 30th, 2008, various news sources reported that Davis finally dismissed his head coach. He later announced he had fired Kiffin due to actions "detrimental to the team", and he made Offensive Line coach Tom Cable the Raiders' interim head coach. At the televised news conference announcing the firing, Davis characterized Kiffin as a "liar" and a "disgrace" to the Raider organization.
In 2007, Davis sold a minority stake in the Raiders for $150 million and said that he would not retire until he wins two more Super Bowls.
- 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