“Just win, baby!”
Those immortal words of the late Al Davis summed up the Oakland Raiders for most of the last 50 years. Yet a year to the day after his passing, the Raiders have not lived up to his words. Oakland is 7-9 since its owner’s passing, but Davis’ impact goes far beyond the wins and losses.
Davis was as combative as anybody in the league and his battles with the NFL and Pete Rozelle shaped the modern-day league. He moved the Raiders out of Oakland in the 1982 and then moved them back in 1994. Davis did what he wanted when he wanted and there were very few people in the world who could stop him.
However, Davis’ most lasting impact is the barriers he broke with the football team he loved with all his heart. The Raiders were the first franchise in the modern era to have a Latino head coach by hiring Tom Flores, a black head coach with the hiring of Art Shell and a female chief executive in Amy Trask. This is the type of impact most people forget Al Davis had on the NFL.
Most people remember him as the mean owner that other owners hated. As Don Shula once said, “Al thought it was a compliment to be considered devious.” It was a personality Davis cherished and a reputation he worked hard to uphold. The Raiders were known as one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL and even borderline dirty. Oakland basically invented the bump-and-run coverage which is now so prevalent in the NFL today.
One year after the death of one of the best owners in sports history, the Raiders are not the same tenacious team they were under Davis. They may be run better and building for the future instead of the present, but there no longer is that edge they one had. If Oakland wants to make a run at the playoffs, it must find that inner edge and bring back to the chippiness and aggressiveness the Raiders had under Davis.