Davis gave Shanahan his first head coaching job in 1988, and although the Raiders’ owner fired him after just 20 games, Shanahan said he learned a lot from Davis.
“I got a chance to be around him, I was 35 years old. I never met a guy with more passion and worked harder than Al Davis,” Shanahan said. “He was just relentless in his approach to the game, and he had a great understanding from X’s and O’s and personnel and knew it extremely well. I wasn’t around him extremely long – a year and four games – but I learned a lot from him.
“When I talked to him, I talked to him about both [offense and defense],” Shanahan added. “He knew defensive backs, he talked about the technique of bump-and-run coverage, which was their staple through all the years … He talked about seven-man fronts, eight-man fronts. He talked about offense and took a lot of pride in knowing football and as much pride in being the owner and GM.”
Davis signed Hall in 2008 to an eight-year, $72 million contract, but ended up cutting the cornerback after eight games. Hall said he’ll never forget Davis’ impressive football mind, however.
“When I first got there, I think everybody just marveled at the knowledge and how in-depth he could break stuff down. He was calling out guys from my high school [that played] in the ‘70s and ‘60s. He was just amazing. The guy was able to shout out my stats from high school and things like that. The guy was just amazing.”
Hall said although Davis released him, the two parted on good terms, and that he continued to respect the owner. That wasn’t the case for Shanahan, who had a long dispute with Davis over back pay -- $250,000 that Shanahan never received when he was fired.
Apparently, at least six years after he was fired, Shanahan still hadn’t gotten over Davis’ treatment of him.
The story goes like this, according to the New York Times:
“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. Shanahan had spent just over one season as coach of the Raiders before being dismissed by the owner, Al Davis. The breakup was bitter, and the two men despised each other, mainly because of a dispute over back pay.
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.”
If Shanahan still has hard feelings for Davis, he didn’t let on when asked about his former boss on Monday.