From the very beginning, Al Davis’ relationship with the institution of the NFL was complicated.
Davis scared the hell out of NFL owners and establishment. He signed players from the NFL, and he talked trash about it. He tried to grow the sport and hurt the NFL at the same time. He never let the AFL feel like the underdog.
That complicated relationship continued well after the merger of the two leagues. Davis wasn’t happy that Pete Rozelle was commissioner of the new league, a job that Davis wanted. Ultimately the Raiders owner took on the NFL in a variety of ways over the years. He fit much better in the maverick role fighting the establishment than he ever would have as commish. And yet he always commanded enormous respect.
After Davis’ death, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released the first of what will be many statements about one of the towering figures in football’s history:
“Al Davis’s passion for football and his influence on the game were extraordinary. 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,” Goodell said.
Goodell is right. Long after everyone reading this is gone from this Earth, those that follow the NFL will still be talking about Al Davis.