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Archive for January, 2007

Slater, Walsh removed

At some point after the last file which mentioned Ted Daisher still listed as the Raiders special teams coach on Raiders.com, his name was removed from the “coaching staff” link.

Also missing from earlier Tuesday were tight ends coach Tom Walsh, co-offensive line coach Jackie Slater and defensive backs/special teams coach Lorenzo Ward.

Walsh became a popular punching bag for both fans and media when put in charge of the Raiders offense after serving the last several years running a bed and breakfast inn and serving as the mayor of Swan Valley, Idaho.

Slater, a Hall of Fame left tackle, had never coached before. The Raiders offensive line surrended an NFL-high 72 sacks, _ a franchise record _ and finished 29th in rushing.

Offensive quality control coach Robert Ford is also no longer listed on the coaching roster.

Offensive coaches who remain listed on Raiders.com include wide receivers coach Fred Biletnikoff, co-offensive line coach Irv Eatman, running backs coach Skip Peete and quarterbacks coach Jim McElwain.

It is not known whether Walsh, Slater and Ward were fired or re-assigned within the organization.

Ward, a college coach at Virginia Tech before comign to the Raiders, could have found another position. Walsh, the Raiders offensive coordinator for the first 11 games before swapping positions with tight ends coach John Shoop, reportedly had another year on his contract at $500,000.

It’s possible he was offered a buyout at considerably less than that amount.

Walsh last coached in the NFL in 1994, when he was fired along with Art Shell by Davis when Mike White took over.

Shell promised Walsh he would bring him back should he ever get another job, and Davis approved the hire and even told the media at a pre-Hall of Fame press conference of Walsh’s coaching acumen.

The only new name on the coaching roster, other than head coach Lane Kiffin, is offensive coordiantor Greg Knapp.

There is still no word on whether Tom Cable has accepted the Raiders offer to become their offensive line coach.

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Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007
Under: Oakland Raiders | 3 Comments »

Kiffin’s first test

The story making the rounds at the Senior Bowl is that Lane Kiffin’s first attempt at establishing a rapport with Randy Moss didn’t go too well.

Think Shell vs. Porter.

That confrontation, in the office of the head coach some 10 or 11 months ago, was the first crack in the foundation of the Shell regime.

Kiffin, by contrast, supposedly had trouble reaching Moss by phone. When he finally did, as the story goes, Moss told him in a pointed, profane terms he wasn’t interested in talking.

It’s been reported on a pair of ESPN radio interviews, and a source at the Senior Bowl confirms Kiffin vs. Moss was indeed a topic of discussion among coaches, scouts and personnel men in Mobile, Ala.

It’s worth noting that no one has gone on the record with this story as of yet. Like the party game in which a story is whispered in the ear of one and passed down the line until it ends up being something completely different or exaggerated, maybe it’s not as serious as it sounds.

But considering the way Moss acted last season, it certainly sounds possible.

The history of the Raiders new coach is that he addresses situations decisively, choosing a course of action then moving ahead, confident in his convictions. That he can sell an idea and is confident enough (some call it arrogant) to make it work.

I’ve spent the last few days researching and writing a profile on Kiffin, attempting to chart his path from a football savvy youth to, well, an NFL coaching youth. It will run in Monday’s ANG Newspapers.

(That’s at least part of my excuse for not filing blogs the past few days _ although it should be noted that with Kiffin hired, I won’t be filing every day in this forum. Your own thoughts, however, are always welcome).

Family members, as well as friends and colleagues, have the utmost confidence Kiffin is up to handling even the most difficult veteran players.

David Watson, a USC assistant coach who went to high school with Kiffin, said his friend has dealt with all manner of personalities with the Trojans.

John Reaves, a former Florida quarterback who played nine years in the NFL and happens to be Kiffin’s father-in-law, said Kiffin will have no problem taking a problem player “to the woodshed.”

Kiffin has two choices with Moss. He can either keep working to make nice, or tell Al Davis that the highest-salaried player on the team threatens to undermine his program before it starts.

If Moss indeed cursed Kiffin right off the bat, he may be doing the Raiders a favor. It’s better for Moss to create an impossible situation and attempt to force at trade early than for him to show up, pretend to care, then turn off the spigot at his leisure.

It’s possible that to have Moss insubordinate and uncooperative from Day 1 could be the first big break of the Kiffin regime becuase it could spur Davis to get rid of him.

The problem is Davis wants top dollar for top talent, and Moss has been so indifferent his value is at an all-time low.

If Kiffin didn’t yet understand what it meant to be head coach of the Raiders at his press conference, he surely does now.

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Posted on Sunday, January 28th, 2007
Under: Oakland Raiders | 1 Comment »

The day after

Many of you have apparently noticed I’m not a big fan of Raiders press conferences, being that I’ve been at six of them which were virtually identical and had no bearing on what actually transpired later.

Which doesn’t mean I’m not looking forward to what happens after the company line goes away and we get an idea what kind of product may hit the field.

As stated several times since the search began, this is not an impossible situation, and hiring Lane Kiffin, inexperience and all, is far more appealing than going the Jim Fassel route.

Some of the things I’ll look forward to seeing between now and the start of training camp:

– Kiffin sold Al Davis on his coaching ability at the greaseboard in all phases, not just offense. That is no small feat. He obviously knows his stuff.

Now comes the more difficult task of filling out his coaching staff with people who will carry out his vision of offense. There was reference to putting the ball into the hands of the highest-paid guys and expecting big things.

Can Kiffin reinvigorate Randy Moss? It’s pretty clear Kiffin and Davis think Jerry Porter is back on board now that Shell is out of the way.

– Kiffin promised the Raiders would practice hard. One of the biggest complaints about Shell among the players _ Moss among them _ was that they worked too hard. If he can bring enough energy to the table to make the practices more fun _ Kiffin said he wanted them to play “happy” _ maybe it won’t seem so dreary.

– Besides being a little stiff, no doubt due to nervousness, Kiffin came off as cocky and arrogant. He also dropped the formalities regarding Davis and called him “Al” instead of the more popular “Mr. Davis.”

This is not necessarily a bad thing. If it means he is willing to make his case for what he wants, clearly and with confidence, he’ll get Davis’ support.

This is a huge factor. Once the players know the coach doesn’t have the confidence of Davis, they act accordingly. He has to be a forceful, coach-like figure without being intractable or weak.

Shell’s mini-war with Mike Lombardi, as well as his dealings with Porter helped undermine his position with the boss, and therefore the team.

– Kiffin has leaped into this job head first, not worrying about all the supposed drawbacks. That alone makes him a better choice over Steve Sarkisian, who worried too much about what could go wrong rather than how he could be successful.

Sarkisian didn’t think he could win. Kiffin feels differently.

– My guess is the Raiders will keep things pretty closed up on the field through the initital minicamps and the like, but I’ll be interested to see the crispness and level of intensity on the field among the players.

It was a problem with Shell right off the bat. They’d fumble through formations, break a huddle, then go back and try again.

It is crucial for Kiffin’s credibility that he set a fast pace, and also sell them on the idea of how it can work.

– What are they going to do about a quarterback? There were no answers at the press conference, of course, but the belief here is a new head coach/offensive quarterback needs someone who was not associated with last season behind center this season.

The tone needs to be entirely different. If the Raiders draft a quarterback No. 1, such as JaMarcus Russell, that means finding a free agent, but it’s doubtful Russell would be ready to play that quickly.

– How well will the Raiders run, and will Kiffin commit to it? It’s been a huge problem the past few years. Davis loves Kiffin’s play-calling, but it’s important to remember he drew big-time criticism at USC following a loss to UCLA.

When the Trojans smoked Michigan in the Rose Bowl, it happened when Kiffin, at the behest of Pete Carroll, abandoned the run entirely in the second half.

– How well will Kiffin do when talent is spread out more evenly?

Let’s face it, USC Had a huge talent advantage over everyone it played. There were no salary caps and no drafts. The Trojans had reserve players who would have been Pac-10 stars elsewhere.

Kiffin may have information about players he recruited while at USC, but it goes beyond that. He’s got to first get them to the Raiders, then make sure they’re coached to realize their potential to compete on a relatively even playing field.

USC won many of its games on sheer ability before it stepped on the field. It worked for the 1970s Raiders but it won’t work now.

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Posted on Wednesday, January 24th, 2007
Under: Oakland Raiders | 1 Comment »