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Al Davis

(1929 - 2011)

Allen "Al" Davis (July 4, 1929 - October 8, 2011) was a Jewish, American football executive most famous for time serving in different capacities with the Oakland Raiders.


Davis, born to Jewish parents in Massachusetts and raised in Brooklyn, got into coaching football early in life - as soon as he graduated from Syracuse University in 1950, he accepted a coaching position with small Adelphi College in New York. After stints with the U.S. Army team, The Citadel and the University of Southern California, in 1962 Davis was hired as the head coach and general manager of the Raiders, becoming the youngest person in professional football history to hold either positions.


In 1963, Davis led the team to a 10-4 record and was unanimously named the American Football League Coach of the Year. From 1967 to 1985 the team won 13 division championships, one AFL championship (1967), three Super Bowls (XI, XV, & XVIII) and made 15 playoff appearances. In 1992 Davis was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Team and League Administrator.


In 1972, Davis found a way to make himself the managing general partner of the Raiders, in essence giving him near-absolute control over the team, and eventually he became their official owner, a title he held for nearly thirty years until his death in 2011. During his time as Oakland's owner, Davis became the first NFL owner to hire a black head coach - Art Shell, and a female chief executive - Amy Trask.


On October 8, 2011 - Yom Kippur - Davis passed away at the age of 82 from an undisclosed illness.


Sports blogger, Rabbi Joshua Hess, wrote in the Huffington Post a short eulogy for Davis in which he talked about Davis's Jewish faith and his controversial catch phrase, "Just win, baby":

It's an idea that teaches us how to approach life, and how to deal with its stresses and frustrations.

True, "Just win, baby" can be interpreted to mean win at all costs, but it also reminds us not to focus on our mistakes or errors; that we shouldn't dwell on our lapsed judgments and failed assignments....

J Weekly writer Andy Altman-Ohr in San Francisco, noting that dying on Yom Kippur "is a good sign, because it implies dying without sin," sussed out some details of Davis's Jewish life, which Davis kept as private as he did all other aspects of his life off the NFL gridiron. Altman-Ohr said that Davis was a longtime member of Beth Jacob Congregation, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Oakland, where his name was on a pew.

Sources: JTA, Wikipedia, ESPN Classic