October 10, 2011
The list of folks who butted heads with Al Davis during the 50 years the late Oakland Raiders owner spent in professional football is as long as his list of accolades and accomplishments. All right, it's probably much longer.
One of his most bitter conflicts was with current Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who spent one season working as Raiders head coach before a dispute with Davis led to his ousting.
How bad was the blood between the two? Five years after the firing, Shanahan ordered one of his players to throw a ball at Davis' head during pregame warmups. Rick Maese of The Washington Post linked to a story written by The New York Times' Mike Freeman on Sept. 13, 1998 which included this tale:
It was 1994 and Shanahan and Grbac were both with the San Francisco 49ers. Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, was working with Grbac before a game against Oakland. [...]
[...] Davis, as he does before almost every game, was walking the field, talking to players and others. Shanahan pulled Grbac aside, Grbac recalled, and gave an unusual order: ''See Al Davis over there? I want you to throw the ball right at him.''
A shocked Grbac replied: ''I can't do that. If I hit him, do you know what he could do to me?''
Shanahan looked at Grbac with his intense glare and said, ''Throw the ball.''
So Grbac did. He threw a tight, hard spiral some 30 yards directly at the head of Davis. At the last second, Davis saw it and ducked, the ball missing him by only a few inches. Davis, his hair ruffled, then made an obscene gesture at Shanahan, witnessed by a former Raiders coach who confirmed Grbac's story.
I know, I had the same exact thought: Who knew Elvis Grbac could throw a tight, hard spiral 30 yards and barely miss his target by inches?
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