Davis ... football's most compelling figure

Davis ... football's most compelling figure
October 8, 2011, 4:25 pm
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It's difficult to imagine the NFL without Al Davis.It's impossible to imagine the Raiders without Al Davis.The news Saturday morning of Al Davis' passing should not come as a huge surprise, given his obvious physical decline over the past few years. But it still is shocking because of the huge impact he had on professional football.It's difficult to think of another organization in all of sports that has been as closely associated with one person. There was "Papa Bear" George Halas, who owned the Chicago Bears from 1922 until his death in 1983. He was a player, and coached the organization from the beginning until 1967.
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Somehow, the Bears managed to keep going without George Halas, though many in Chicago wondered how that would be possible.This morning, the football world is wondering the same thing about the Oakland Raiders.How is it possible the Raiders will continue without one of sports' icons through the decades at the helm?Of course, the Raiders will continue.
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The team will be on the field Sunday to face the Houston Texans, all right. It's just difficult to think that Al Davis will no longer be around to manage and micro-manage every move.The Raiders were always so much more interesting because of Davis' influence and perceived influence on every aspect of the football team.Through the years, nearly every significant coaching decision, especially lineup changes, in some way was traced back to Davis. Nobody every really seemed to know how much he inserted himself into football decisions, but that was all part of the Raiders' mystique.Now what happens?The 49ers have plans for a stadium in Santa Clara that can accommodate two home teams, such as the Giants-Jets arrangement in New York. Davis always demonstrated zero interest in a project that the 49ers spearheaded.Regardless of whether the shared stadium makes financial sense, Davis had his own ideas. He liked the plot of land on which the Raiders currently call home. Davis was a man accustomed to doing things himself, so he wasn't about to go along with a plan not of his design.
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As AFL commissioner, he forced a quick merger with the NFL in 1966. He was the only person who served in such varied capacities in professional football as personnel assistant, scout, assistant coach, head coach, general manager, commissioner, team ownerchief executive officer.There is little doubt that Al Davis was the most interesting man in sports. And he didn't have to resort to any schtick to get attention.All he had to do was be himself.