Al Davis left a unique legacy in NFL
Al Davis, who passed away Saturday at the age of 82, was one of those NFL figures that it became easy to take for granted.
Every time we saw him, he appeared older and more rugged than the time before, to the point where it became almost part of Davis’ allure. What’s he going to look like? What’s he going to say?
The truth is that Davis is one of the NFL’s greatest legends — so much so that he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1992, then spent 20 more years in the limelight as the Raiders’ owner.
For the younger generation of NFL fans, which I still include myself in, Davis’ glory days seemed a million miles away. Oakland won an AFL title under Davis in 1967, then three Super Bowls from 1976 to ’83. But by the time the Raiders made another run through the playoffs, all the way to the title game in 2002, it was more like a mirage.
Oakland has not been a consistent forced to be reckoned with in years, a fact that ate away at the rabid Raider Nation.
From the outside, at least, it ate away at Davis, too.
But, despite a growing list of critics, he never swayed from his plan. Year after year, the Raiders added other teams’ castoffs and made draft picks based purely on criteria like speed.
That’s a piece of what made Davis so fascinating. He was half-owner and half-showman, a man committed for decades to not only trying to make Oakland a winner, but also to turn the Raiders into a recognizable franchise from coast to coast.
He was an enigma, though, especially in this era of 24/7 TV coverage and social-media overpopulation. Davis’ only presence on Twitter was an irreverent account put up in jest, @VeryFakeAlDavis. He certainly did not maintain a Facebook page or go out of his way to reach out to fans.
Still, it wasn’t hard to get a handle on Davis’ personality, be it through his can’t-miss press conferences or from him lurking around at home games. He was sort of the Mark Cuban-type owner before Mark Cuban — arrogant, supremely confident, defiant in the face of his critics.
The Raiders are now one of the NFL’s most iconic franchises for a reason, and that reason is Al Davis’ presence there.
Very few non-players can leave a legacy in the NFL for more than a couple of years at a time. Davis’ lingered in Oakland for more than 40 seasons and his impact will, no doubt, be felt there and beyond for even longer.
There may never be another NFL owner like him, and that’s just the way Davis would want it.