For the past 10 years or so, Al Davis has been the butt of many jokes. His Raiders have been mostly bad, and he’s worn out coaches faster than most people go wear out socks. The saddest about it though, is that this is likely hows he going to be remembered by most NFL fans currently under the age of 30. But that is not the Legacy of Al Davis.
Davis brought the passing game to the league. He pushed for rule changes to help make passing a more worthwhile part of the game. Once the rest of the league caught on, Davis brought the idea of bump and run coverage to the NFL. For decades he was well ahead of the curve when it came to football knowledge.
Davis was also a key contributor to the AFL-NFL merger that created the league as it is now. Davis was actually against the merger, but when it became apparent that he was going to get out voted and the merger would happen, he used his anti-merger stance and influence as AFL commissioner to make much needed changes that helped the game develop, such as the creation of the “common draft,” and the creation of the competition committee.
It was through the competition committee that Davis continued to make his mark on the league. Rule changes have been common since the committee was formed, and in the early days it was Davis who pushed for them. Davis recognized that the “purists” that lead baseball were hurting that sport and that the NFL must constantly evolve to stay profitable.
Davis was also a trailblazer in other ways. He hired the games first African American coach in the modern era, Art Shell, in 1988. He hired the leagues second Latino coach when he hired Tom Flores. He also hired the league’s first female CEO in Amy Trask.
Al Davis was many things for the NFL. He was a rebel who repeated sued the league, but he was also a visionary to who helped make the NFL what it is today.