Al Davis

1 minute read
Sean Gregory

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who died on Oct. 8 at 82, was never beloved outside Raider Nation. “Lying creep,” a fellow owner once called him. He was the George Steinbrenner of football barons: bullying, arrogant–“Just win, baby!”–and, in his later years, a subpar talent evaluator. But his innovative football mind and aggressive executive approach, which led the Raiders to three Super Bowl wins, have shaped the NFL as we know it.

As a coach, the Brooklyn tough guy with slicked-back hair and a thick accent (“the Raid-uhs”) made the vertical passing game–a mix of power running and deep throws–prominent. During his brief stint as commissioner of the upstart American Football League, he essentially forced the NFL to merge with its rival. The outlaw owner of the Raiders, clad in iconic silver and black, built bombastic, quixotic teams in his likeness. Sure, Davis sparred with other owners and squeezed taxpayers for stadium funding. But thanks to him, the NFL is better. And much more badass.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Sean Gregory at