If we have learned anything about Al Davis during our time together, it’s this: The only thing he enjoys more than the sound of another man’s bones beneath his boots is the historical relevance of his beloved Raiders. It explains the team’s parade of similarly themed media guide covers, often featuring three silver Super Bowl trophies against a black background. It also explains the relentless propaganda:

Commitment to excellence.

Team of the decades.

Professional sports’ winningest organization (except for leap years with a Democratic president and games decided by lousy officials’ calls).

There was a time when Davis’ twin passions were not mutually exclusive. He dominated. He won. He sued the NFL from one end of the 1980s to the other. He won some more. He fired Mike Shanahan in midseason and left Marcus Allen to rot on the bench. And he won some more.

Times have changed, though you wouldn’t know it by Davis’ wardrobe or mind-set. Now his clinical dependence on imposing his authority on others comes at a cost.

Yes, it’s time to play the legacy card.

We have no way of knowing how the current drama, pitting Davis against head coach Lane Kiffin, will play out. We have our suspicions — since Davis runs the team and the past six Raiders head coaches celebrated their dismissal by burning rubber out of the parking lot, it seems likely that Kiffin is a goner.

But that’s just a guess. Here’s something we can quantify: even as Davis reasserts his control over the organization, he perpetuates the chaos that marginalizes his own existence. He’s turning himself into the king of nothing.

Let’s cut to the data. For years the Raiders trumpeted their success, declaring it unmatched in the four major professional leagues in the period A.D. (After Davis). As recently as their 1998 media guide, they listed themselves with the highest winning percentage in the wide world of sports (.632), ahead of hockey’s Montreal Canadiens (.631), basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers (.628) and baseball’s Baltimore Orioles (.548).

Then, for obvious reasons, they narrowed their scope to the NFL. Lately you don’t hear much about how they stack up against anyone.

A recalculation of the records illustrates the startling decline of the franchise. It still stacks up well over the long haul. From Sept. 7, 1963 (Davis’ first game as coach of the Raiders) through Saturday night’s NBA schedule, the Raiders ranked third in the NFL with a .573 percentage of regular season games won. They were sixth in the four major team sports.

But if you start with Sept. 3, 1995, the first game of their return to Oakland, it starts to get ugly. Between then and now, the Raiders are tied for 26th in the NFL (at .418), and tied for 100th among the 122 teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

If you refine your focus to the day after their Super Bowl XXXVII beat-down, the Raiders are the worst team in or out of the NFL. Since that day, they are 19-61 (.238) — six games worse than the runner-up 49ers.

Davis’ supporters cite his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his reputation as a football visionary and innovator. He was all those things. But his second reign in Oakland will absolutely impact how he is remembered. He’ll always be the guy who built the empire. Now he’ll also be recalled as the guy who burned it to the ground.

If you’re looking for precedent, try Connie Mack. As a player, manager and owner, he helped grow baseball into the national pastime in the early 20th century. He led the Philadelphia A’s to six pennants in the first 14 years of the American League, winning three World Series in a four-year span (1910-13). He tore that team apart rather than pay his stars top dollar.

He won three more pennants (and two more World Series) from 1929-31, then dismantled that team as well. He owned and managed the A’s for 50 years, until he was 87. In his final 16 seasons, the A’s finished last nine times. History recalls him as a baseball genius whose extended endgame stole luster from his legacy.

This is where Davis is headed, dragging the Raiders behind him. Tilting at any challenge (perceived or real) to his authority, unwilling to consider hiring a strong-minded, accomplished general manager or coach, he is the unquestioned leader of a lost civilization.

He wins battles inside the bunker at the expense of winning games on the field. Thus, he has presided over the decline of the Raiders from pro sports most successful franchise to its worst.

And as his current set-to with Kiffin suggests, his work is far from finished.

Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@bayareanewsgroup.com