Al Davis, czar and owner of the Oakland Raiders, was a close friend to Jerry Jones. The Cowboys owner and general manager released the following team statement on Al Davis' passing.
"In my eyes, so much of his legacy will be defined by the loyalty he had for the men who played for the Raiders and the love that they had for him. That was a bond that extended beyond the playing years and lasted lifetimes.
"His contributions and expertise were inspiring at every level--coach, general manager, owner and commissioner. There was no element of the game of professional football for which Al did not enjoy a thorough and complete level of knowledge and passion.
"He welcomed me and my family to the NFL 23 years ago and was a trusted friend for all of our time in professional football. We will miss him deeply and we are thinking of Mark and Carol at this difficult time."
Jerry Jones had more to say about Al Davis, speaking about his personal relationship with a figure that must be considered a founding father of the modern Nation Football League despite his efforts against the 1970 merger as the commissioner of the AFL. It is very clear Jerry Jones admired Al Davis and has even said, "you might go as far to say I loved him." Taking a closer look at Jerry Jones' words for his great friend (one could say mentor) Al Davis can teach us a lot about the Cowboys own controversial owner...
For better (and) for worse, there are many similarities between Jerry Jones and AL Davis. Many things can be said of Al Davis, and recently rarely were they kind words, but for all his eccentric actions and comments, he should be heralded for his contributions to the development and growth of professional football. While Tex Schramm and Lamar Hunt are recognized as the godfathers of the modern NFL for their secret discussions that led to the NFL-AFL merger (and much more), Al Davis deserves a seat right next to them at the head of the table.
It was Al Davis' aggressive style of signing away NFL players to join the younger AFL and his initiative to desegregate professional football that eventually led the NFL to seek a merger with their "new" and growing competition. While many can debate whether many of Al Davis' decisions actually hurt the Oakland Raiders, no one can question the reasons and integrity with which Al made those decisions.
"Just win, baby." Al Davis was always looking to the growth and prosperity of the league and his team, but he never made a "business decision" that he believed would hurt the chance for his team to succeed on the field. He also could not allow any decision about his football team to occur without his knowledge and consideration. In this and more, Cowboys fan can learn a lot about Jerry Jones by studying the life and mentality of Al Davis.
Jerry Jones' own words reveal some stark similarities between the two. Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas reports:
Not long after purchasing the Cowboys on Feb. 25, 1989, Jones heard from Davis. For the next 15 to 20 years Jones said "very few weeks and certainly no month went by where we didn't have extensive conversations."
"He's been called a maverick. He liked to drum to his own beat," Jones said of Davis. "What it was, was his interest -- almost to a fault -- in benefitting [sic] the Raiders. But make no mistake about it, he understood the value of a league, of all teams competing and at the end of the day he was a league guy, as well."
"I know he's had his critics relative to the record of the team in recent years, but that's what you ask for when you step up and get involved in the decision-making the way he was," Jones said. "It would've been unthinkable for Al to not be involved in the decisions on a player or certainly the hiring of a coach. It was his passion that in my mind really made the greatest contribution to the National Football League."
While Jerry Jones admits he never gave orders out on the practice field like Al Davis has infamously done, you can tell by the admiration and description of Al's mentality the similarities between the two men and his influence on Jerry Jones.
Like Al, Jerry finds it difficult to be excluded from virtually any aspect of the Dallas Cowboys organization. Both men were also willing to take big risks if they believed it would benefit their team. Reaching in the draft for players they personally like, trading for big name players or going after big money free-agent acquisitions, these were not things that scared the two men. If it meant the money spent would help their team's efforts at winning a championship, neither would shy away from the decision. While both certainly expected to make money and keep the league growing in popularity and prosperity, neither would avoid spending money to make their team more competitive.
Todd Archer reports two specific situations that really stand out.
In 1990, Michael Irvin was rehabbing from knee reconstruction after a severe injury his second season in the league. Many wondered if the young receiver would be able to return to his rookie form where he showed a tremendous amount of promise. Jerry Jones recalls a conversation with Al Davis:
I was talking to Al, and he said, 'Boy, whatever you do, don't even think about any alternative to Michael Irvin. He's the only guy you've got that's got the will to get to the end zone. You be wed to him at the hip.' That was the type of input and conversations we would have."
Jerry Jones has often spoken about this winning mentality in players, the will to be great. While his own experience in football certainly shaped his view of professional football players, it's safe to assume the highly regarded and successful Al Davis helped reinforce that belief in Jerry Jones...who did not quit on Cowboys great Michael Irvin, neither due to the knee reconstruction nor the off-the-field issues. It also makes you wonder how much it influenced his decision to court the "troubled" rookie Dez Bryant.
The article also mentions a call that AL Davis made to Jerry Jones after acquiring another gifted but troubled player, Charles Haley. Al was also trying to sign the highly valued free-agent, and after he lost the bidding to Jerry he let him know that Haley was the missing piece for the Cowboys and Jerry just won himself a Super Bowl. The prediction came to be true and depicts another trait the two owners shared. If they felt one great player would help them make it to the big show, they would open up their checkbooks and/or trade whatever was necessary to get it done. Charles Haley, Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens, even the less successful Roy Williams were all clear signs of Jerry fighting to make a big move he believed would get his team closer to the Super Bowl.
As the league, football fans, and Jerry Jones remember Al Davis, we should all take the time to appreciate what the controversial owner did for professional football. We should also recognize how much influence Al Davis seems to have had on Cowboys' own Jerry Jones. And perhaps we should hope that Jerry Jones also learned a few things from Al's efforts to remain at the helm until his dying days. His passion cannot be questioned, but perhaps the declining success of his franchise is a sign that even the greatest must step back eventually. Perhaps Jerry Jones has also learned this final lesson from Al Davis considering the many signs in 2011 that more decisions are based on the advice of Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett.