Callahan appears to have the edge for Raiders job

Everything appears to be pointing toward the Raiders hiring offensive coordinator Bill Callahan as their newest head coach, a move that could come within the week and one that, if it indeed plays out, keeps Oakland among the NFL's elite teams heading into next season.

Callahan, who worked wonders for the Raiders last season while working at times with a patchwork offensive line, spent the weekend at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis with the rest of Oakland's assistant coaches, scouts, senior assistant Bruce Allen and team owner Al Davis.

There was no word whether or not Callahan met with Allen or Davis to discuss the Raiders vacant head coaching job, but sources close to the situation indicate that is the direction the team is leaning.

Of all the names mentioned for the head coaching job -- Art Shell, Dennis Green, Al Saunders, etc. -- Callahan would be the most logical choice for Davis to make. Having worked as Jon Gruden's right-hand man for the better part of the last decade, Callahan has a solid understanding of the offense the Raiders have run the past four seasons. The players are familiar and comfortable with him; offensive linemen Barry Sims and Lincoln Kennedy have both publicly voiced their support for Callahan, as have various members of the defense.

When Gruden was with the club, he built it with the idea of having a 2-3 year window of opportunity to make a championship run. That window of opportunity is closing fast, so it's critical that Davis not go outside the organization and hire a head coach who would come in making changes. The last thing Tim Brown, Rich Gannon or Jerry Rice want to see is another playbook or offensive system.

Shell is a sentimental pick who is getting consideration only because of his storied past with the Raiders, but he's hardly the right man for the job. Since being fired by Davis following the 1994 season, he has bounced around the league as an offensive assistant but has never been a serious contender for any of the numerous head coaching jobs that have come available. And while Shell is one of the greatest players in team history, there's little or no chance of any of the players on the Raiders current roster being able to relate much to him. After all, Shell retired from the NFL long before most of the players learned to tie their own shoes.

Callahan would be a risk in that he has never been a head coach before. But that may be more of an alure to Davis, who has made a history of giving people their first chances. John Madden, Tom Flores, Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden had absolutely zero head coaching experience on the NFL level before getting jobs from Davis.

In the last two years under Gruden, Oakland came within an eyelash of reaching the Super Bowl. In 2000 the Raiders played in the AFC Championship game. Last season a controversial call against New England prevented them from going back to the conference title game. If hired it will be Callahan's job to help Oakland make that next step. The players seem to think he can do it and so does Gruden, who has long been an advocate of his friend and colleague. The only question remains is whether or not Davis agrees.

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