By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Sunday, January 27th, 2008 at 2:36 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders made strides with their offense and regressed on defense in 2007, but in terms of addressing it with regard to the coaching staff, they’re starting out moving in the other direction.
On offense in 2007, the Raiders went from 12 touchdowns to 28, from 1,519 yards rushing to 2,086 yards, and from 32nd in time of possession to fifth in the NFL.
On defense in 2007, with less time spent on the field, the Raiders gave up 5,446 yards as opposed to 4,557, 5.7 yards per play as opposed to 4.8 and surrendered 46 touchdowns compared to 34.
The Raiders issue a statement saying Rob Ryan is still the defensive coordinator, and their first two interview subjects for the coaching staff are on offense _ James Lofton and Al Saunders.
The Raiders have confirmed Lofton’s interview. Bay Area News Group beat writer Steve Corkran and others have reported Saunders’ impending visit.
Lofton has interviewed with Al Davis on two occasions for the head coaching job, but senior executive John Herrera said it is for an assistant’s position and that interview will be with Kiffin.
Lofton coached wide receivers for the Chargers until being fired last week and has more NFL experience than Charles Coe, a veteran college coach who had his first NFL season with the Raiders last season.
The Saunders interview is another story. There are only two positions Saunders would be intereviewing for _ head coach and offensive coordinator.
Saunders, like Lofton, has a history with Davis, having interviewed for the Raiders head coaching job twice before removing his name from consideration.
But if Saunders isn’t coming in to talk about Kiffin’s job, then it means offensive coordinator Greg Knapp could be on his way out.
Saunders, as an offensive coordinator with the Rams, Chiefs and Redskins, called all the plays. Kiffin called plays for the Raiders, with Knapp, a play-caller with the both the Falcons and 49ers, taking the Raiders job only after deciding he and Kiffin were comptabile in terms of philosophy.
ESPN is reporting Saunders is also a candidate to be offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams, where he would be the play-caller.
There is almost no way to interpret the interest in Saunders as anything other than an acknowledgement that Davis is preparing for the possibility that Kiffin either won’t call the plays or won’t be the head coach.
And if you take Davis at his word last year when he stressed the importance of having a play-caller as the head coach, it would most likely be the latter.
“One of the attributes was he had to have was the ability to call the plays,” Davis said when Kiffin was hired. “To call the plays, to me, that’s vital in professional football today. Some has to be accountable for calling the plays.”
Bringing Saunders aboard would also mean changes in the offensive system. A radical change would be a setback to JaMarcus Russell, who is only the most important person in the franchise who isn’t named Al Davis.
Raiders and PFT
Interesting to note that the Raiders are sending adverstising dollars to ProFootballTalk.com, the hugely popular rumor and information site which makes its living posting the very stories which the organization spends time trying to refute.
Stripped down the left side of the site is a “Raiders Image” ad, noting the stores are “owned and operated by the Oakland Raiders.
Yes, Mike Nolan wore the same coat Lane Kiffin did in the Senior Bowl. Nolan also wore a 49ers hat before replacing it with an Under-Armour skull cap in the fourth quarter when the sun went down and the temperature dipped.
Nolan was also wearing 49ers gear all week at practice and in interviews.
At no time when Kiffin was shown on television was he ever wearing a Raiders shirt or visor. According to PFT, the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter and Albert Breer of the Dallas Morning News reported Kiffin didn’t wear anything with a Raiders logo all week.
Kiffin normally coaches wearing a Raiders visor, although not always. He didn’t wear one Saturday.
I was also told Mark Jackson, Kiffin’s administrative assistant who would follow him out the door should he leave, was not wearing Raiders gear in Mobile and spent a lot of time with USC coach Pete Carroll.
Hard evidence that Kiffin is on his way out? Of course not. Just a subtle message that there are some problems to be worked out between the owner and the coach.