Your lasting image of Al Davis is undoubtedly different from mine.

I still see Al inviting me into his office upstairs at the Raiders' Alameda headquarters in the summer of 2006. I interviewed him -- and often vice versa -- for 2½ hours. It gave me an understanding and an appreciation of a complex man so few had the opportunity to engage.

But because he was so unpredictable, I never knew what question might be my last. There was one I couldn't leave without asking, however: Who would run the Raiders in "10 years"?

No question was harder to ask. It was like putting a stopwatch on his life span, knowing his reign would last until the day he died. That day was Saturday.

"Oh, it's going to be the Davis family, sure," Davis eventually responded.

Even if his majority stake in the Raiders is bequeathed to his wife, Carole, and their son Mark, chief executive Amy Trask likely will remain in a powerful role on the business side. As Davis said on that 2006 day: "Amy will be a factor. There's no question about that. She's earned that. She's good."

Before asking the question, our dialogue exhausted just about every topic known to man. It went from John Madden to the Middle East to parts in between. Then came the time to toss out the question that I thought would get me tossed out of Al's kingdom.

What will happen to the Raiders when he's gone?


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The Raiders were Al's life. Asking him this question meant predicting his time of death. So I phrased it as softly as I could:

"Most people are concerned about the organization 10 years down the road."

His response: "Ten years? Boy, 10 years, I think we ought to be more concerned about the country."

He was right. Look at how bad our country has slumped since then.

Now back to the interview:

"Sure, but as far as the Raiders go, who's going to be running everything here?"

Ah yes, the Davis family. He asked about mine earlier in the session. He learned my wife has Italian roots, as do his closest confidants, he quickly noted. He wouldn't bite when I asked, at my brother-in-law's request from Raider Nation, who was his favorite quarterback. To that, Al pointed out he reached five Super Bowls with four different quarterbacks and four different coaches.

Whomever assumes the chore of picking the Raiders' personnel won't have Davis' pedigree, regardless of how you view his tenure.

You see him wearing a white sweatsuit on the Raiders sideline. Or saying "Just win, baby." Or confidently walking into a courthouse. Or hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Or fleeing Oakland for Los Angeles, or fleeing Los Angeles for Oakland. Or sitting alone in his luxury suite. Or presenting a Hall of Famer in Canton. Or introducing a coach. Or firing one.

I'm not sure I'll ever have as unique and insightful an interview as I had that day in 2006 in Al's secret lair, which is just as you'd imagine of his office: double-door entry, black-and-white tones on the walls and carpet, no windows but several televisions so he could watch game tape.

As much as he studied football, he also was fascinated with world events. He was a World War II buff. He tracked the movements of naval fleets. The Middle East might not be in crisis again if Al had his say.

"I didn't say I'd broker peace. I said I could solve it. There are a few things that I do know, and that's one of them, foreign affairs."

He also knew talent. The Raiders are an AFC West contender once again.

Sure, his franchise slipped into peril this past decade. Don't let that totally tarnish his legacy.

He did so much -- good and bad -- since arriving in 1963 (at age 33) as the Raiders coach and general manager.

One of his assistants in 1966 was a chap named Bill Walsh. When Walsh died in July 2007, Al proudly claimed he was the final visitor at Walsh's bedside. We spoke about that in the Raiders locker room after an exhibition game.

As we mourned Walsh's death, Al was frustrated his longtime cohort couldn't prolong his fight against leukemia.

Now Al is gone, too. No more fighting for one more Super Bowl. No more battling the NFL, elected officials, players, agents, coaches, media, you name it.

"Thank you, it's interesting to talk," Al said as we wrapped up the official part of our 2006 interview. "Too bad we couldn't sit here and get on 'Charlie Rose' and talk about the Middle East, Iraq, Iran, the Taliban, Afghanistan."

And you thought all he talked about was the Raiders.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com.