By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Friday, October 29th, 2010 at 3:52 pm in Oakland Raiders.
It didn’t show up on the overhead projector, but another reason the Raiders had reason to be angry at Lane Kiffin will be on the opposite sideline Sunday.
Pete Carroll first noticed Brian Schneider while watching a practice as Kiffin’s guest, and saw the kind of first-pumping, energetic teaching style he wants on his staff.
“I was visiting practice one day at Oakland and watched the energy that he demanded of his players in practice and the kind of enthusiasm that is the style that fits exactly the way we want to coach,’’ Carroll told Bay Area reporters by conference call. “From the moment I saw him I thought I wish I could get him on the staff some day. When the opportunity presented itself, we jumped all over it.’’
The Raiders have fluctuated wildly in terms of special teams over the years, but may have never been better in every phase than in 2008, Schneider’s second season.
The Raiders had five returns for touchowns (three on punts by Johnnie Lee Higgins, two on kickoffs by Justin Miller), gave only one, and saw punter Shane Lechler put a career-high 33 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Kiffin was fired four games into that season, and with Al Davis taking his time in deciding to elevate Tom Cable from interim head coach to head coach, Carroll made a move and brought Schneider to USC as special teams coordinator.
“I like Brian, he’s a good coach,’’ Lechler said. “But when he was here, that’s when this place was, `this place,’ you know?
“He had to make a career move. He thought he was going to SC and set up roots and stay there for a long time and he was there for eight months.’’
When Carroll left USC to take the job in Seattle, Schneider came with him.
If the NFL gave an award for special teams coach of the year, Schneider would be the frontrunner through six games.
When Leon Washington returned kickoffs of 101 and 99 yards for touchdowns against San Diego, he credited Schneider’s blocking schemes.
The Seahawks’ average drive start following a kickoff is the 32.5 yards line, tops in the NFL, and its coverage team has opponents starting on average at the 22.8, fourth in the NFL.
Rookie Golden Tate is averaging 11.8 yards per return, sixth in the NFL, while the only hiccup for the coverage team was allowing an 89-yard return by Devin Hester in a 23-20 win over the Bears.
“We talked about it as a staff and I don’t know if I’ve seen this ever, really,’’ Cable said. “They have four wins and they’re doing good things on both sides of the ball, but their special teams have impacted three of those wins to a great degree.’’
Raiders special teams player Sam Williams knows what to expect.
“He’s definitely going to have the schemes ready,’’ Williams said. “He’s going to know our weaknesses, how to attack it, he’s going to have a good game plan, so we have to do everything that we do right.’’
When Schneider left, special teams assistant John Fassel was elevated to special teams coordinator.
“I learn a lot of things from Brian that we still use today,’’ Fassel said.
Such as . . .
“One of the things he does is he keeps it real simple for the guys, and he kind of just turns them loose and lets them play without them having to read and react or think or recognize certain things,’’ Fassel said. “He kind of gets his guys into the mode of their fast, hungry guys, and he kind of just lets them play – in the concept of the what they’re trying to do. And you can see it on film. They play fast and they play hard. That’s kind of his motto or the way he coaches.”
Fassel will stress winning the statistical battle in the same way Schneider did with the Raiders. Some of the better games under Schneider came against teams or players that had explosive special teams talent. Most notable was holding Hester to 14 yards on six returns in 2007.
The Raiders keep score on special teams by breaking each game down into 11 statistical categories.
“It’s best of 11 wins the special teams battle, whether it’s net punt, punt return average, kickoff return average, turnovers, blocked kicks, kick protection, and we kind of base it off that,’’ Fassel said. “The first team to get to six out of 11 wins the special teams battle.’’
The Raiders, by Fassel’s count, have won the last six special teams battles after losing to Tennessee statistically in Week 1.
Fassel sees it as if he’s looking in a mirror, and is looking forward to getting into the starting blocks and settling things on the field.
“We’re really fast. But it’s hard to say who’s faster,’’ Fassel said. “They’re the fastest team that we’ve probably gone up against special teams wise.
– Authorities in Mobile, Ala., won’t indict former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell for alleged possession of codeine without a prescription. Russell continues to work out with former NBA star John Lucas in Houston and has talked of making mistakes without ever being specific.
Never once has Russell admitted to putting himself in bad situations with the wrong crowd, not that such admission would necessarily help the Raiders get their approximate $39.6 million back.
– It’s remarkable the NFL fined Randy Moss $25,000 for failing to cooperate with the media. But the fact is, dealing with the media is written in the standard player’s contract. I’ve just never heard of it actually being enforced. I’ll assume someone working for the Raiders will make Rolando McClain aware of the fine.