When the hiring of such a young and enthusiastic head football coach was announced by the Oakland Raiders organization, hope for better times was ahead. However, the year was not 2018. And the name was not Jon Gruden. Instead, the name was Al Davis and the year was 1963.
Davis became the youngest head coach in the AFL when the Raiders hired him at age 33, nearly 50 years ago. Despite his young age, the Raiders weren’t getting an inexperienced coach. Davis had 14 years of coaching experience in the college ranks as well as an assistant with the Chargers.
Davis’ willingness to take chances and fight helped to turn around the once horrible franchise and turn them into a juggernaut. As one of the best football minds of all-time, Davis not only broke barriers as a coach, he also changed football for the AFL and the Raiders with outside the box strategy and key hires.
For example, following legendary coach John Madden’s retirement in 1979 Davis took a chance on hiring assistant coach Tom Flores. Flores became the first Hispanic coach in NFL history.
Just like the Raiders did not see age when hiring Davis, Davis did not see race or gender during the hiring process. Davis then hired Art Shell in 1989 to become the first African American head coach in the NFL. Davis also hired Amy Trask as the first and only female ever to be a NFL chief executive.
Even after Davis’ death in 2011, the chance-giving came full circle when former Raider Reggie McKenzie was hired to take on the daunting task of being the first person to permanently make the football decisions since Davis was hired in 1963. Davis gave McKenzie the chance from the very start of his professional playing career, manning the inside linebacker position for one of the best defenses in the AFC.
In Davis’ 57 years as coach, GM, and eventual owner of the Raiders, Davis won three Lombardi Trophies and earned 29 winning seasons. Davis is the only NFL executive to be employed as an assistant coach, head coach, GM, commissioner and owner.