By Will Brinson, CBS Sports
OAKLAND (CBS Sports) — Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died on Saturday at his Oakland home at the age of 82, the team announced on its website, but did not indicate the cause of his death.
Davis was one of the most legendary NFL owners in the sport’s history, winning three Super Bowls and five AFC Championships during his more than 40 years as part or principle owner of the Raiders franchise.
Known for his signature phrase — “Just win, baby!” — Davis helped user in a new era of NFL football and, as CBS Sports’s Mike Freeman wrote, helped make the league great.
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“Al Davis’s 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. 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.”
Born in Brockton, Mass. on July 4, 1929, Davis later graduated from Syracuse University and joined the Baltimore Colts as an assistant coach at the age of 24.
Davis joined the Raiders in 1963 as head coach and general manager, and he never left, save for a brief stint as AFL Commissioner in 1966. He coached the Raiders to a 26-13-3 record. Following his stint as coach, Davis purchased part of the franchise.
In 1976, Davis took over as managing partner of the Raiders, a position he wouldn’t leave until his death on Saturday. His son, Mark, will take over as managing partner in his stead.
Davis moved the team to Los Angeles in 1982, and back to Oakland in 1995, the first time ripping out Raiders’ fans hearts through a protracted legal battle, and the second time further endearing himself to the Silver and Black family.
The Raiders currently have no General Manager, nor a Player-Personnel Director — Davis served in both capacities until his death Saturday. The notion that one man could run an NFL team and serve in those roles into his 80’s is lost in today’s NFL, but precisely why he’s considered such a “pioneer.”
“Al Davis was one of the most innovative and dynamic pioneers in the history of the National Football League,” Saints owner Tom Benson said Saturday. “He was passionate about his team and about the game of professional football and he personified the legacy of the Raiders. We share with his family and friends our heartfelt sympathy on the news of his passing.”
Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver offered a similar sentiment, calling Davis “a pioneer who made tremendous contributions to the league.”
“Al Davis was a wild card maverick,the NFL Brando!” Colts owner Jim Irsay tweeted on Saturday.
Indeed he was — Davis dressed and acted in a way that separated him from most “normal” NFL owners. His signature white-and-black jumpsuit with a Raiders logo is what he wears when most people conjure up an image of the fiery Raiders owner. And his slicked-back hair, an homage to a style that was popular many decades ago, never changed.
Perhaps most importantly, Davis hired the first African-American head coach in NFL history (Art Shell), the first Latino head coach in NFL history (Tom Flores) and the first female CEO in NFL history (Amy Trask).
And though Davis began to struggle with his health, he rarely missed a game (including Week 4 of the 2011 NFL season, six days before his death), even if it meant using a walker to travel to the stadium.
“Disease is the one thing – boy I tell you, it’s tough to lick,” he said in 2008, talking about the leg ailments that had restricted him to using a walker. “It’s tough to lick those diseases. I don’t know why they can’t.”
Davis inducted a record nine people into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and was himself inducted on August 1, 1992.
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