By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Thursday, January 21st, 2010 at 8:50 pm in Oakland Raiders.
If Al Davis seems a little gun shy with regard to changing coaches this time around, it’s with good reason.
It’s not like Davis has been adept at zeroing in on a promising candidate and reeling him in.
You’d think someone with as much practice at hiring and firing would, even by accident, bring home a winner.
Except that since 2004, Davis has brought in Sean Payton, Bobby Petrino, Ken Whisenhunt and Steve Sarkisian only to have each one of them walk away. Taking that into account, it’s difficult to accept Davis’ yearly claims about all the great coaches that want to be with the Raiders at face value.
There’s no guarantee any of those names would have worked either, given the environment. Particularly in the case of Petrino, who bailed out on the Atlanta Falcons after realizing he had no taste for the NFL game.
The men who ended up being hired as those candidates walked away _ Norv Turner, Art Shell and Lane Kiffin _ were a combined 16-52. None were ready to deal with life as a Raiders coach under Davis for different reasons. Turner didn’t have the charisma, Shell had been away too long and was intractable, and Kiffin was too immature to finesse a situation the way Jon Gruden did.
I’ve already made the argument that the problem rests with Davis’ role as general manager, a point that was echoed in Thursday’s papers by columnist Monte Poole.
There doesn’t appear to be any chance Davis will fire himself for that role, or that there are enough confidants remaining to convince him that he should.
Which means Davis will be, as President Bush called himself, “The Decider.” And while Davis may still have an eye for good candidates, his ability to close the deal is another story.
Payton was the choice to succeed Bill Callahan in 2004 until Jerry Jones gave him a huge raise to remain in Dallas as an assistant. After Turner was fired, exec Mike Lombardi pushed hard for Petrino. The Louisville coach came in for a stealth interview, received an offer but turned it down because of family concerns.
Whisenhunt interviewed in Alameda and even checked out local real estate with his wife with a broker provided by the club, but withdrew his name before getting an offer.
The end result was Shell.
Sarkisian, a former Raiders quarterbacks coach and USC co-offensive coordinator, was targeted to replace Shell. He interviewed well and went home to Southern California thinking he was going to be head coach of the Raiders, only to wake up the next morning and think better of it. That led to Kiffin, who was to join Sarkisian as offensive coordinator.
Kiffin ended up being Davis’ biggest nightmare.
Cable, at least, has his team playing hard in December and seems to handle pressure well. He understands the organization and wants to work with Davis.
As disappointing as some of the premium draft picks have been (Russell, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey), the Raiders locked up Nnamdi Asomugha and Shane Lechler last season, will likely do the same with Richard Seymour and Sebastian Janikowski.
There are some intriguing and promising young talents, particularly on defense (Tyvon Branch, Trevor Scott, Matt Shaughnessy). It’s a young team that may not respond to wholesale change in the coaching staff.
The owner has a laundry list of complaints, the biggest among them another losing season, too many blowout losses and the regression of Cable’s hand-picked offensive line.
But it might be easier to bring in a new direction to the offense with a coordinator and play-caller.
Or Davis can get back into the business of hiring another head coach, where his success has mirrored what has taken place on the field.
Not much in the way of real news today.
– Jim Harbaugh’s agent, Jack Bechta, joined the parade of denials regarding interviewing with the Raiders for the head coaching job.
– Kiffin had a rather unique honor bestowed upon him in Tennessee. Hold your nose for this one.
– Profootballtalk.com reported (or passed along rumors) that Cable could be reunited with Kiffin at Southern Cal.
– The Washington Redskins hired former 49ers line coach Chris Foerster as their line coach, a position Cable, if available, would have been suited for, given coach Mike Shanahan’s background in zone blocking. Kiffin hired James Cregg, the former Raiders assistant who left the club to join him at Tennessee, to an unspecified position.