Al Davis, the Hall of Fame owner of the Oakland Raiders known for his rebellious spirit, died Friday night at his home. He was 82.
He was best known as a rebel, a man who established a team whose silver-and-black colours and pirate logo symbolised his attitude towards authority.
Yet he was a key figure in the 1970 merger of the established NFL and his upstart league, the AFL, establishing the template for pro football's rise to the No 1 US sport. He also was an influential coach before becoming a football executive.
He also was a trailblazer as the first man in modern NFL history to hire an African-American as head coach, after he had been the first to hire a Mexican-American for the same position.
"Al Davis's passion for football and his influence on the game were extraordinary," said Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, in a statement. "He defined the Raiders and contributed to pro football at every level.
"He is a true legend of the game whose impact and legacy will forever be part of the NFL."
Davis became an assistant coach with the Baltimore Colts at age 24, and later assisted at several college football programmes before joining the Los Angeles Chargers of the new AFL in 1960. In three years he was hired by the Raiders and became the youngest general manager/head coach in pro football history, and he was a good one; his teams were 23-16-3.
Davis bought into the franchise, and eventually took control of it. The Raiders won Super Bowls in 1976, 1980 and 1983, the latter after the team had moved to Los Angeles following a protracted court battle with the NFL, only to take the team back to Oakland in 1995.
Davis's Raiders were known for employing players considered character risks by many clubs, and for a swashbuckling playing style that often seemed to push the boundaries of the rules. It all fit with Davis's personal mantra: "Just win baby".
As he aged, his teams declined. After winning a championship in 1983, the Raiders did not return to the Super Bowl until 2002, when they were heavily defeated, In eight-plus seasons since, they have been one of the worst teams in the league, with a composite 39-93 record and no play-off appearances.
A few years ago, he decried his inability to make time halt.
"I can control most things, but I don't seem to be able to control death," he said. "Everybody seems to be going on me."