The Raiders also battled with their new landlords in Northern California, suing the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum over promises that they said went unfulfilled after the team returned in 1995. The Raiders were awarded $34 million in 2003, although the club had sought as much as $833 million. As attendance lagged and television blackouts increased, the team dropped to the NFL's bottom tier in revenue production.
Jon Gruden led the Raiders to winning records in 2000 and 2001. The resurgence was short-lived; the young coach bolted for Tampa Bay and his new team clobbered the Raiders, 48-21, in the Super Bowl following the 2002 season.
Over the nine years that followed, the Raiders hired six head coaches. Davis' vertical passing game came to be viewed as outmoded compared with the West Coast offense, created across the Bay by San Francisco 49ers Coach Bill Walsh.
From 2003 to 2009, the Raiders became the first team in NFL history to lose at least 11 games in seven consecutive seasons.
Davis became more reclusive as the seasons passed, seldom speaking with reporters. In January, he broke nearly 18 months of public silence while introducing his latest coach, Hue Jackson.
"I have made mistakes," Davis acknowledged. "Yes, there's no question about it, and you got to have great players. But you also, sometimes, have the players and don't get it done. … Should I take some of the blame? I certainly do."
He remained intimately involved with the team, traditionally spending a couple of days a week at practice and pulling aside players to give them tips.
"When you think of Al Davis, he gave his whole life to football," Madden said. "He's done nothing else. I always told him, 'You've got to do something.' He never hunted or fished or played golf. His job, his profession, his free time, everything was football."
Davis had more than a few personality quirks. He didn't like shaking hands, saying it made him feel like a Las Vegas greeter. He seldom made a public appearance wearing anything other than a black or white Raiders sweatsuit. And, if his team lost in a particular city, he would switch hotels for the next visit.
He also had an almost eerie ability to predict what was going to happen on the field. Davis often watched away games from the press box alongside close friends and an ever-present bodyguard. When angered by a mistake on the field, he would slam his hand on the table and hiss whispered curses.
When it came to hiring, Davis was colorblind. He was the first NFL owner to hire an African American head coach, Art Shell; the first to hire a Latino head coach, Tom Flores; and the first to promote a woman to chief executive, Amy Trask. His generosity was legendary when it came to helping former players in need, although he routinely did so without fanfare. His philosophy: Once a Raider, always a Raider.
The most notable exception was Marcus Allen, the star Raiders running back whose largely unexplained feud with Davis lasted well over a decade and apparently went unresolved. Allen, a former Heisman Trophy winner from USC who was easily the most popular L.A. Raider, accused Davis of trying to ruin his career by instructing coaches not to play him. He inexplicably spent the better part of four seasons on the bench, inspiring fans to wear "Free Marcus" T-shirts.
"I find the whole rule-by-fear mentality that he used to drive the Raiders really sad," Allen wrote in his autobiography. "Somewhere along the way, Davis lost track of where the man ends and the myth begins."
After filing suit against the Raiders and the NFL to win his release, in 1993 Allen joined the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent five more seasons. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003, 11 years after Davis.
Yet many current and former Raiders both feared and revered the team owner, whom they nearly always referred to as Mr. Davis.
"You might not have thought everything he did was the right thing," former linebacker Millen said. "But he always believed he was doing right by his Raiders."
Davis is survived by his wife, Carol, and son, Mark. Davis said in interviews that his wife and son will inherit his share of the team.