There's a whole generation of people that view the passing of Al Davis as the crotchety old man who mismanaged the Oakland Raiders and lost touch with reality. Some of his recent draft choices (Jamarcus Russell, Darius Heyward-Bey, Robert Gallery, and Michael Huff) don't exactly bode well for a counter argument, but lets look at the football career of AL Davis as a whole and put things in a proper perspective.
Al Davis lived a football life that will be difficult (if not impossible) to replicate. He was a coach, a general manager, a commissioner, and an owner. The modern day NFL is a testament to his commitment to excellence and his unwillingness to conform to the status quo.
Unfazed by the notion AFL teams were inferior to NFL teams Davis campaigned against the power structure of football and eventually helped broker a deal that merged the two leagues. His beliefs were validated when Joe Namath led the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III.
Al Davis was also innovative in the vertical passing game. Before the Raiders started throwing the ball down the field most teams were satisfied with 3 yards and a cloud of dust. His aggressive offensive strategy changed the game as we know it.
Let us not forget Al Davis was a pioneer in the hiring of minority coaches. The Oakland Raiders were the first team to hire a Latino coach and an African American coach. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Davis 25% of NFL teams are led by men of color.
The NFL doesn't exist in its current state without the contributions of Al Davis. The Oakland Raiders (although they've struggled in recent years) are a symbol of achievement and carry a mystique like few other sports franchises. In hindsight Al Davis is probably the most important person in the history of football. Rest in peace Al. Your contributions will not be forgotten.