It’s safe to say that Al Davis place in the historic annals of the former AFL and the current NFL are secure. Davis realized early on that every man and woman for that matter deserved an opportunity – sometimes more than one. Davis made it his life’s work to offer chances to those that others had given up on or had been shunned all together. Al Davis unwavering commitment to Black and other minority athletes in the 1960’s is only rivaled by that of former Boston Celtics owner Red Auerbach.
And for that, we are grateful.
Tom Flores was the first Hispanic player to play under center in the AFL/NFL, Flores was a backup to Len Dawson, who led the Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV. A decade later Flores would coach another castoff in quarterback in Jim Plunkett who was of Native American descent to a Super Bowl XV victory over the favored Philadelphia Eagles. Three years later Flores and Plunkett would do it again to what was at the time the most potent offense in NFL history. The Raiders would shut down the Washington Redskins attack to win Super Bowl XVIII in what Al Davis called, “The Raiders finest hour.”
The mystique of the Oakland Raiders (they should never be called anything but) has been built with the blood and guts of minorities and women. Aside from hiring Flores in 1979, Davis hired the first African-American coach of the modern era in At Shell in 1989 while the Raiders were in Los Angeles. Shell was brought back to coach in 2006, when the Raiders returned to Oakland.
In 1997, Davis hired Amy Trask making her the first and currently only female CEO in the NFL.
The foundation of the Raiders is built on an “Us against the world” mindset. Davis’ injected that philosophy into his players – many of whom were castoffs that were considered too risky or too old by league standards. Davis took this mixed bag and transformed it into three Super Bowl Championships. Along the way Davis brought a vertical aerial offensive attack coupled with an aggressive maniacal defense that left many an opposition laying horizontal. Many of those players became Super Bowl MVPs league MVPs and Hall of Famers.
Jason Campbell is one those castoffs that Davis saw plenty of potential in. Upon trading for Campbell last season, Davis likened Campbell to Jim Plunkett, a former number one selection that never saw his potential in New England or San Francisco but upon his arrival in Oakland his career was resurrected and resulted in a Super Bowl victory. Campbell is coached by Hue Jackson, the second African-American coach in team history. Jackson is expected to build on the success of a Raiders team that finished 8-8 last season.
If the autumn wind is truly a Raider, it has taken the greatest of them all.