He was known as a “rebel,” and a “renegade” NFL owner. Jon Niednagel, too, knows it first hand. We are talking about Al Davis, former owner of the Oakland Raiders who passed away on Saturday at the age of 82. He is best known for the phrase “Just win, baby!”, and he did whatever it took to do just that. Here are just a few quotes to give you an idea of the man Al Davis.
“Al Davis … was always about information. He had an uncanny way of finding out everything about you.” – John Clayton, ESPN.com
“…a lost relic whose behavior was impossible to predict.” – Chuck Klosterman, Grantland.com
“I can control most things, but I don’t seem to be able to control death.” – Al Davis
Yes, for Mr. Davis, it was all about control. This should not surprise Brain Type enthusiasts, however, who know of his #16 BCIL design (arguably one of the few most “control-loving” designs along with the #15 FCIL and the #7 FEIL). While hiring a number of bright young coaches throughout his career, from John Madden (#1 FEAR), to John Gruden (#15 FCIL), to Mike Shanahan (#6 BEIR), Davis still “remained the real coach. He ran everything from the sidelines, often calling down with plays, or sending emissaries to the sidelines to make substitutions.” He was certainly his own man, both on and off the field, commonly wearing satin running suits with his slicked hair back in a duck-tail. And as far as business goes, it was always done “on his own terms, always on his own terms.”
“A rebel with a subpoena,” wrote one source to describe Davis from a business standpoint. In the 1980s, he went to court for the right to move his team from Oakland to Los Angeles, and won. Then, in 1995, he moved the team back to the Bay Area, but sued for $1.2 billion to establish that he still owned the rights to the L.A. market. Going back further to the 1960s, while commissioner of the AFL, Davis was strongly against merging with the NFL, wanting his league to emerge supreme. This, however, was one battle he would not win, as the AFL owners, led by conciliatory #12 BCAL Lamar Hunt, agreed that peace was the best option (how’s that for the peace-loving #12?).
We mentioned Jon Niednagel earlier, who remembers a humorous encounter with Al Davis back in December of 1995 while Niednagel worked for the Kansas City Chiefs. As Jon was standing alone on the near-empty field in Oakland more than an hour before the game, just taking in sights and preparing for his role during the game, who should be heading his way but Mr. Davis. Niednagel was curious to know Al’s opinion of Raiders third-string quarterback Billy Joe Hobert, whom Niednagel thought had some talent and would be better than starter Vince Evans (the 2nd stringer to injured Jeff Hostetler). JN knew BJH had a questionable lifestyle and lacked inborn Left-brain disciplines as an Inanimate Right-brainer, but with the proper oversight, he had upside. In addition, BJH’s loose-playing ways could pull rabbits out of hats when necessary.
Mr. Davis walked within five feet of JN, who reluctantly but respectfully said, Please excuse me Mr. Davis, but what do you think of B. J. Hobert? Davis turned to Niednagel, looking in disdain, and replied, “Who the h*** are you?” As Niednagel introduced himself, Davis again replied, “Who the h*** are you?” and walked away. Jon certainly didn’t intend to raise his ire, but obviously the event did! Later that afternoon, the rarely-played Hobert was put in the game after QB Evans had thrown his 2nd interception, with the Raiders gasping under a 29-10 deficit. In classic go-for-it style, the scrambling, passing BJH led the Raiders back to almost beat the Chiefs with a final score of 29-23. Niednagel also humorously recalls overhearing Davis years ago at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis. The group Davis was with apparently wanted to know who Niednagel was (both were in the stands only a few rows up from the field), watching the 40-yard dash, and Davis replied, “I don’t know who the h*** that is.” Yes, to Davis, it seems Jon was from none other place else than the netherworld.
When all is said and done, it is apparent that Al Davis was loyal to those he loved, and ruthless to those he didn’t. As one magazine writes, “How are we supposed to react when a legendary figure who was also kind of a jerk dies? When Al Davis, the Raiders owner and de-facto general manager/supreme generalissimo, passed away at 82 on Saturday, this was the question that sports reporters, NFL officials, Davis laundry list of discarded coaches, and even some of his friends were forced to ask themselves.”
Truth be told, Al’s notorious reputation didn’t seem to bother him. The words cunning, shrewd, and devious don’t have a bad connotation to me, he is quoted as once saying.
On one side of the coin, Al Davis was an amazingly gifted leader and businessman who diligently worked his way to the top like many other #16s (Bud Selig, Gregg Popovich, etc.). In this regard, many #1 FEARs can learn from his unwavering determination and focusing on future goals. On the flip-side, Al Davis was in desperate need of some “Balance Your Brain Type” advice, advice that would have helped him be less independent, kinder to others, and more open-minded. As with many of our articles, there are great lessons to be learned from others – including the life of Al Davis.
Still, he will be missed. “The Oakland Raiders are deeply saddened by the passing of Al Davis,” the team said in a statement. “Al Davis was unique, a maverick, a giant among giants, a true legend among legends, the brightest star among stars, a hero, a mentor, a friend.”
We end with “Balance Your Brain Type” from the #16 BCIL section.
Learn to work and play better with others.
Be patient and open to the ideas and styles of others.
Show respect for those in authority and those with whom you associate.
Be generous in sharing.
Give without strings attached.
Avoid pedantic speech in social conversation.
Communicate your thoughts and feelings with loved ones more often than you feel is necessary.
Demonstrate your love with action (e.g., hugs, conversation, taking walks).
Realize socialization will be of benefit to you, and try to learn from others.
Use your computer as a tool, & be careful not to let it monopolize your time, or to store inappropriate information.
Practice spontaneity and flexibility.
Allow people to get to know what’s inside you.
Share your ideas and strategies with others.
Dabble in reality at least part of every day.