A close-up of owner Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders as he smiles and looks on during his team's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh on Dec. 3, 2000. The Steelers defeated the Raiders 21-20.
Not since Michael Jackson's death have I seen a posthumous public image makeover like the one Al Davis is currently getting. This is not meant as a cheap dig at Davis - he was a legend and helped make the NFL what it is today and everything else you've heard since he passed away on Saturday.
But over the past decade, Davis had been the most paranoid owner in all of sports, which saying quite a lot when you're in the company of Dan Snyder and Donald Sterling. People have more or less glazed over all that since Davis' death, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has taken notice:
He was a great friend. He was someone that I admired. He was very loyal and very passionate about football. Gene [Jones' wife] and I were invited to his 70th birthday in Las Vegas, and we were the only people there -- period -- that were not Raiders. It was a real point of pride with me.
Leave it to Jerry Jones to somehow find a way to work a boast into his memorial. But there's a more telling quote from Jones about Davis, and it's this one:
The most rewarding conversation, Jones said, came after the Cowboys went 1-15 in his first year as owner.
"He basically said, 'Don't get down. You're going about this thing the right way. Good things will happen,'" Jones recalled... "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."
You don't need a PhD to draw the similarities between Jones and Davis. Like Davis, Jones exerts full control over virtually all aspects of the team he owns. Like Davis, he has become meddlesome to a fault (and Davis had a background in coaching and being a GM prior to assuming ownership of the Raiders, which is not true of Jerry). And like Davis, he has an unwavering belief that his way is the right way of doing things.
Jones believes Davis' legacy serves as justification for how he runs the Cowboys now. You can just picture Jerry reading all the respectful tributes for Davis and thinking to himself that he'll be remembered similarly. Sure, you may have disagreed with the Double J. But surely you know he changed the game of football for the better! And surely you know that Jones, like Davis, had the stones to withstand criticism for fight for what he believed in, like not firing Wade Phillips sooner! You can see the gears turning in Jerry's mind when you read quotes like this. And frankly, it's not very comforting.