The Life and Legacy of Al Davis: San Diego Chargers

Hikaru Kudo

Al Davis, who passed in away in 2011, is the man who developed the Raiders into the organization it is today. In this series, we’ll reflect on Davis’ life and legacy, not only as a Raider but also as a whole for the game of football.

Thus far, we’ve focused on Al’s life leading up to his full-time stint in pro football. You’ll probably be shocked that Davis has a mere six years left until he’s done coaching for good. There’s a good reason for that, though.

But first, we have to head over to L.A.

Al’s Brief but Important Stint with the Chargers

In 1960, after his three-year stint as a line coach for the University of Southern California, Davis was scouted by another pro-football team, the AFL Los Angeles Chargers. Then head coach Sid Gillman wanted Davis’s as his new receivers’ specialist coach.

There, Gillman and Davis started creating a football strategy that would carry with Davis for the rest of his career. Both Gillman and Davis agreed that Vince Lombardi’s power sweep and rush focused football at the time wasn’t it for the long-term. They got tired of it real fast.

So, they both developed the vertical game instead of the horizontal game.

Instead of compacting defenses in the mid-field and fighting your way for yards on the outside, you stretch the opponent’s defense and open pockets down the field. Instead of waiting for the perfect target, you throw the ball early to one of your wide receivers.

In other words, both Gillman and Davis weren’t traditionalists. And for Davis, this was the biggest lesson he learned with the Chargers: Don’t be a traditionalist.

On NFL Films, Davis recalled his time at the Chargers and his strategy.

“We weren’t looking for first downs. We didn’t want to move the chains. We wanted touchdowns. We wanted the big play, the quick strike,” Davis said.

And this will be why he’ll become the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1963.

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