Raiders owner Al Davis has passed away at 82 years old, the team confirmed today. Davis was one of the most controversial as well as influential owners in the NFL. His career path is also pretty amazing. He began as an assistant with the Baltimore Colts 60 years ago and ended up in the hall of fame as the owner of the Raiders in 1992.
In a lot of ways, Davis' Raiders drive the rise in popularity of the NFL as much as any other team. The look, the attitude, it all flowed straight from Davis himself. And while we think of his involvement in personnel as more of a punchline now, he used to be quite good at it. He molded the Raiders of the 70s and 80s into a perennial winner with his "commitment to excellence" philosophy. They won three superbowls over those two decades, including one over the Eagles in 1980.
He was also the last commissioner of the AFL and was a major part in merging with the NFL to create the modern league that we know today. It's ironic considering that he would later become the very definition of an anti establishment owner. From his suing the league to let him move the team, wearing all white track suits rather than a suit, to even calling plays Davis was unlike pretty much any owner in sports.
Certainly as he got older, his act seemed more crazy than it was "maverick" but that doesn't change what he meant to the team and the game in his prime.