"Just win, baby."
Allen Davis, Pro Football Coach, General Manager and Owner. b. July 4, 1929, Brockton, Massachusetts.
They call him "Weird Al" and a whole host of other names people don't generally use in polite society. From his earliest beginnings in football he sought to do things his own way. In 1950 he graduated from Syracuse University, where he played three sports, baseball, football and basketball. (Picture Al Davis playing basketball. Go ahead, do it. Now.) From there he worked as an assistant coach in college football before becoming the head coach of the U.S. Army football team. In 1960 he became an assistant with the Los Angeles Chargers of the newly formed AFL.
In 1963 he began an eternal relationship with the Oakland Raiders, an association with which he will always be associated. As the head coach and general manager of the Raiders, he was the force behind the famed black and silver uniforms and the pirate with an eye-patch logo. He announced "Pride and Poise" as the team motto and sought to make the Raiders the most feared and hated team in the league. He succeeded on many levels.
Davis' borderline evil efforts at success often had unintended impact. After Davis was named commissioner of the AFL in 1966 he sought to destroy the rival NFL. His first act of war against the NFL was to sign its best quarterbacks to AFL contracts. Davis was openly angry when the two leagues merged in 1970. He truly believed the AFL would have succeeded on its own and eventually eclipse the NFL. Peace treaties have no place in Al Davis' world.
While NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle worked together with NFL owners after the merger to build a league that would be the strongest and most profitable in all of professional sports, Al Davis was the thorn in their collective side. On many issues, Davis would be the dissenting voice amidst a chorus of support for Rozelle's proposals. When league rules called for a three-fourths majority vote to approve relocation of a team, Al Davis moved the Raiders from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1980. Davis attempted to move without having the required vote. The league tried to stop him. Davis filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the league and was awarded $35 million in damages. The team moved to Los Angeles without the approval of NFL owners and Al Davis became that much richer.
Now a villain to the league as well as to Oakland fans, Al Davis was unmoved. This was his team, not Oakland's and not Los Angeles' and not the league's. These were Al Davis' Raiders and no one could question him on that point. Al's Raiders would win an AFL Championship in 1967 and Superbowls after the 1976, 1980 and 1983 seasons. Always a force and never a patsy, the Raiders were following in the model of Davis' "Commitment to Excellence."
Beginning in the 1970s, Davis began to develop a reputation for hiring the roughest players with the most questionable pasts available. The Raiders at times were like a prison all-star team, a model developed to contradict the Dallas Cowboys' efforts to be "America's Team." It was planned that way. Al Davis has always wanted to be the bad guy and has always wanted his team to be the bad guys.
"It's tunnel vision, a tunnel life.
I'm not really a part of society."
Walking the sidelines or standing in the press box with his slicked back, thinning hair and shiny white jumpsuit, Al Davis has never looked like he was trying to fit in. In 1995, Al Davis would move the Raiders back to Oakland amidst a less than perfect marriage with the Los Angeles Colliseum and the city of Los Angeles. Oakland welcomed the Raiders and Al Davis home and he gave the impression that he had never really left.
Personal relationships and Al Davis have always been strained at best. During his tenure as lord and master of the Raiders, his coaches have always had to either go with the program or get out of town. The most successful were John Madden in the 1970s and Tom Flores in the 1980s. Breakdowns in the relationship have produced messy divorces. Al Davis' high profile hiring of African American head coach Art Shell was seen as a major move for minority coaching candidates. All Al Davis saw was a winner, and when Shell didn't produce a winner, he was shown the door in cold Al Davis fashion. The most devisive divorce in Raiders history was the one between Al Davis and Marcus Allen in 1993. Still regarded as one of the greatest Raiders of all times, Marcus Allen was considered finished as a running back and discarded by Al Davis. Treated shabbily for all his years of effort and dedication, Allen went on to show he still had a number of good years left with the Kansas City Chiefs. As with his mostly casual dispensing with head coach Jon Gruden in exchange for draft picks in 2002, Al Davis has always been out to prove that the Raiders are bigger than any one person. Except, of course, himself.
Some material researched at NFL.com
and the Oakland Raiders official webpage
personal memory and incoherent ramblings of a guy on the bus.
Who may or may not have been Al Davis.