Raiders Team Report

INSIDE SLANT

The Raiders are taking their lumps from nervous fans who accuse them of foot-dragging in their current coaching search.

And to be truthful, it hasn't looked good for the silver and bleak.

First Dennis Green chose to coach the Arizona Cardinals rather than continue to pursue employment in Oakland after actually having a session with Al Davis.

Then a pair of San Francisco assistants -- Jim Mora and Greg Knapp -- chose Atlanta. Knapp interviewed with Davis; Mora accepted the Falcons job before his scheduled conference in Oakland.

Then Pittsburgh's Mike Mularkey said thanks but no thanks after being cleared to interview. For the record, he was already ticketed for Buffalo and knew it.

The first "interview" of the process had been with Kansas City's Al Saunders but the two barely touched bases. It was by telephone. Will there be a follow-up in person? Sources in Kansas City say it won't happen and cynics say Saunders isn't saying no yet because the whole thing is all about getting a huge raise from Carl Peterson.

Meanwhile, senior assistant Bruce Allen exited through the front door to join Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay as general manager.

Raider headquarters, these days, is a lonely place.

Two bona fide candidates actually have been in the building for interviews. Dallas assistants Sean Payton and Maurice Carthon discussed the position with Davis Monday and Tuesday. Both came highly recommended by Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, a Davis crony -- one who presumably is not inclined to bad-mouth the franchise or its owner.

Next up? No one is quite sure. Several names have been floated such as Tennessee's Mike Heimerdinger, former Raider coach Art Shell, Atlanta defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and former University of Washington coach Rick Neuheisel.

Mostly those names are the product of raw guesswork. The Raiders have confirmed none of them ... nor are they likely to.

In Allen's absence, radio and television commentator and former NFL assistant coach Artie Gigantino has been appointed the club's spokesman -- restricted to confirming visits.

Even he is no doubt tiring of saying the same thing every day -- and it goes something like this.

"It is an ongoing process ... the Raiders are attempting to do the right thing, not the quick thing ... There is no timetable."

Gigantino has a point. Davis has never been one to make a quick decision on a coaching hire. In 1998, when he settled on Jon Gruden, it was after nearly a week of interrogation. And it was the third year Gruden was being inspected.

Meanwhile in the East Bay, stomachs churn, the Raiders appear as brides abandoned at the altar and jittery fans are impatiently wondering what, if anything, is going on.

When the job has been portrayed as "treacherous" (those close to Green) and worse by those who beg to remain anonymous, it's no small wonder. They tend to forget -- Davis has never been one to shoot first and ask questions later.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--Two of the potential coaching candidates have/had Raider roots.

--Saunders was a Raiders ball boy as a youngster.

--Knapp was a camp quarterback for the team from 1987 through 1990 although he never survived the final cut.

--The departure of Allen to Tampa could have been ugly. Allen made sure it was not.

He said he left "with nothing but positive feelings" about the franchise and the role he played in it for nine years.

"In this league, you are going to have to accept some change," Allen said. "That is natural. I thought it was the right time, I thought there was a lot to offer getting back into the saddle with Jon Gruden, I thought it was maybe the right time for me to make a change from the Raiders. That's really all it was."

Allen began his press conference in Tampa by saying "I'll answer the first question: I do like Al Davis. I loved working for him."

Davis has been fond of saying for the past decade that he felt confident the future of the team was in good hands with "his young people" -- Allen the football man and Amy Trask the organizational chief.

Davis has not yet spoken about the departure of Allen but Allen said he was convinced he and Mr. Raider departed on good terms.

"I can't speak for him, but in my feeling, yes (they did)," Allen said. "I think Al belongs in the Hall of Fame of Hall of Famers. He and his family have treated my family absolutely first class from the first day I started working there. There is nothing but positive feelings."

Allen takes with him to Tampa an expertise in salary cap affairs that allowed the Raiders to rally from seemingly hopeless overages year after year. He downplayed his own role frequently, saying it was the players' willingness to cooperate on cap matters that allowed the Raiders to reach their budget goals. But intertwined with that was Allen's working relationship with those same players, acting as a buffer between the owner and the help.

Now Allen the point man is gone.

"There are people (in Oakland) who understand the cap," Allen said. "The key is getting the right players and then working the accounting principles. (Personnel specialists) Mike Lombardi understands it, Jack Barhite understands it, our finance office understands it and, most importantly, the players on the team understand it."

Asked what it was he was getting in Tampa that he couldn't get in Oakland, Allen said he didn't look at it that way.

"I look at this as a brand new challenge, something that could get the engines moving at 1000 mph," he said. "I can't think of any general manager in the league that wouldn't want to be with Jon Gruden."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would alert everybody that is getting interviewed (in Oakland) that it is going to be the most exciting process of your career as an interviewee. It will be informative, it will be something that will let you know exactly where you are as a football coach in terms of strategy (and) personnel. It was something I will never forget." -- Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden recalling what it was like to go through an interview session with Al Davis.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

COACHING CAROUSEL: There have been five candidates interviewed so far -- in order, Al Saunders, Dennis Green, Greg Knapp, Sean Payton and Maurice Carthon.

Not surprisingly, all are from the offensive side of the ball. The last seven Raider coaches have been offensive strategists -- Tom Flores, Mike Shanahan, Art Shell, Mike White, Joe Bugel, Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan.

Before that, John Madden was hired after coaching Raider linebackers. However, his true expertise was also on the offensive side of the game.

Although it has been concluded that Davis' concerns must surely focus on the fall of the offense in 2003, the truth of the matter is, the Raiders' owner simply prefers to have offensive minds in charge of the team.

Contracts of Raider assistants that are up as of this year have not yet expired and Callahan's staff continues to perform player evaluations by hand ... a painstaking process that has kept them quite busy.

However, there are reports that some defections could be forthcoming. Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and quarterbacks coach Jim Harbaugh received college head coaching offers, tight ends coach Jay Norvell is believed to have an offer to join Callahan at Nebraska even though he has another year left on his contract and defensive line coach Mike Waufle is expected to get an offer to rejoin Steve Mariucci in Detroit (they coached together at the University of California in 1996).

FREE AGENT UPDATE: CB Charles Woodson (wants top dollar and is resisting the notion of being made the franchise player and receiving the average of the top five cornerbacks in the league); DT Rod Coleman (has an option clause in his contract and has said he will exercise it); QB Rick Mirer (played much as a No. 3 quarterback might be expected, with a few highs and more lows; finished with an elbow injury of undetermined severity); G Brad Badger (played both guard positions and could be in line to start at LG and would seem to be a priority to be re-signed); G Matt Stinchcomb (candidate with Badger to take over the LG spot if Frank Middleton is let go but must stay healthy); DE Lorenzo Bromell (a late season addition who showed some spark as an outside rush end, something the Raiders have lacked); S Anthony Dorsett (did well enough to get fans off his back but Derrick Gibson is the team's future at SS); TE O.J. Santiago (the starter at season's end primarily due to his blocking skills as the Raiders focused on the running game); CB Terrance Shaw (lost starting job to Buchanon, went to nickel but showed he still can play); G Chad Slaughter (not a likely candidate to start but has size to tempt); LB Eric Johnson (special teams staple for years, more a safety than a linebacker but valuable due to versatility); WR Alvis Whitted (has had six years to become a factor catching passes without much success); DT Dana Stubblefield (slowed by devastating ankle injury most of the year, future uncertain); WR Ronald Curry (former quarterback still struggling as a WR but led special teamers in tackles); DE Akbar Gbaja-Biamila (rookie free agent was a nice find); DT Sean Gilbert (never got chance to shows his stuff after suffering groin injury); FB Chris Hetherington (saw very little duty outside special teams); QB Rob Johnson (injury replacement, probably won't be back); CB Clarence Love (rarely played due to youth movement after strong '02 season); QB Tee Martin (played in two games with predictably unpredictable results).

FEELING A DRAFT: The Raiders will get the No. 2 pick, which could allow them to select QB Eli Manning provided San Diego is satisfied with Drew Brees and plans to head in another direction.

There is dire need at numerous positions -- wide receiver, rush end, oversized defensive tackles, offensive line, safety and possibly even running back depending on whether Charlie Garner returns or whether they fear 2003 rookie third round pick Justin Fargas is too fumble-prone to be his successor.

However, because of the quantity of help needed, they may be best served by trading down for additional picks.

MEDICAL WATCH: LT Barry Sims has undergone a minor cleaning out procedure on his knee. Many players have already had surgeries performed -- Gannon, FS Rod Woodson, LB Travian Smith, DE Trace Armstrong, RB Fargas, reserve G Matt Stinchcomb and RG Mo Collins. Others who did not require operations and should be ready for at least some OTA work are DT John Parrella, DT Dana Stubblefield, LG Frank Middleton, QB Marques Tuiasosopo and DE Sam Williams.


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