OAKLAND (CBS / AP) — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell considers longtime Oakland Raiders owner and Hall of Famer Al Davis a “true legend” of the game.
The 82-year-old Davis died at his home in Oakland on Saturday morning, while his beloved team was in Houston preparing to play the Texans on Saturday. That Davis was not with his team was telling as he is believed to have missed only three games since joining the team as coach in 1963.
Davis, one of the most important figures in NFL history, followed his famous “Just Win Baby” motto on and the field and in the courtroom to three Super Bowl titles in a trailblazing career.
“Al Davis’s passion for football and his influence on the game were extraordinary,” Goodell said. “He defined the Raiders and contributed to pro football at every level. The respect he commanded was evident in the way that people listened carefully every time he spoke. He is a true legend of the game whose impact and legacy will forever be part of the NFL.”
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Davis was best known as a rebel who established a team whose silver-and-black colors and pirate logo symbolized his attitude toward authority, both on the field and off.
It was his rebellious spirit, that willingness to buck the establishment, that helped turn the NFL into the establishment in sports – the most successful sports league in American history.
For decades, his team was one of the most successful in the game, living up to his trademark philosophy of “Just Win Baby.” Since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season, the Raiders have not had a winning record.
Davis has fired five coaches since then and in recent years those became bizarre spectacles that were the only window into Davis. Once a constant presence at practice, training camp and in the locker room, Davis was rarely seen in public beyond those news conferences where he spent more time disparaging his former coach than praising his new one.
He did not appear at a single training camp practice this summer and missed a game in Buffalo last month. Davis did attend Oakland’s home game last week against New England.
Although he was no longer as public a figure, he was still integrally involved in the team from the draft to negotiating contracts to discussing strategy with his coaches. Coach Hue Jackson has said Davis was unlike any other owner he had worked for in his ability to understand the ins and outs of the game.
“I’ve never had the opportunity to sit and talk football, the X’s and O’s and what it takes to win in this league consistently on a consistent basis, and there’s nothing like working for coach Davis,” Jackson said.
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