A close-up of owner Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders as he smiles and looks on during his team's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh on Dec. 3, 2000. The Steelers defeated the Raiders 21-20.
He was 82. "Al Davis was unique -- a maverick, a giant among giants, a true legend among legends, the brightest start among stars, a hero, a mentor, a friend," a statement released by the team this morning read.
Davis, who began his pro football career in 1954 as an a player personnel assistant for the Baltimore Colts, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992 as a team and league administrator. He worked his way up from being a personnel assistant to eventually became the owner and CEO of the Raiders. He was the only person in professional football history to have been a scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner and owner.
"He was an innovator, a pioneer with a deep love and passion for the game of football," the team said. In 1963, Davis, then 33, became the Raiders' head coach and general manager. At the time, the team struggled to win barely nine games in its first three seasons. In his first year as head coach, Davis turned the team around, leading the Raiders to a 10-4 record.
The team transformation won Davis acclaim as the American Football League Coach of the Year in 1963. Three years later, as AFL Commissioner, he quickly led the merger of that league with the National Football League before he returned to Oakland to become a managing general partner for the team. "Al Davis' passion for football and his influence on the game were extraordinary," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.
"He defined the Raiders and contributed to pro football at every level." Dean Spanos, San Diego Chargers chairman of the board, said in a statement, "The NFL and NFL fans everywhere -- not just Raiders fans - owe Al Davis for helping to build the bame we all love so much. He will be missed." The Raiders, under Davis' control, won 13 division champions, one AFL championship in 1967, and three Super Bowls -- XI, XV and XVIII. "His contributions to the game are innumerable and his legacy will endure forever through generations of players, coaches, administrators and fans," the team said. Davis sold a minority stake in the team for $150 million in 2007, but he vowed to stay active with the team until it won two more Super Bowls.
Although that wish never came true for Davis, he was remembered for his dedication by several members of the organization. "It is because of this accomplished man and his forever love of Silver and Black (that) the fire that burned in him I will honor and will always and forever burn in me," Raiders Head Coach Hue Jackson said.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan also reflected this morning on Davis' passing. "His passion for the sport and commitment to the team was legendary," Quan said in a statement. "The Raiders brought so much good will to Oakland. He will be sorely missed."
San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh called Davis "a titan and pillar" of the game. "To me, he is the greatest," Harbaugh said. "The autumn wind will always be a Raider."