Raiders staying in character

Like Jules said to Vincent in 'Pulp Fiction' - "That's an interesting point. Come on, let's get into character." The Raiders have done just that in their search for a new head coach.

The Oakland Raiders will be the last team to hire a head coach for the 2006 season.

It's an open secret the Raiders wish to talk to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt following the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

And while owner Al Davis said following the dismissal of Norv Turner that members of his own staff were not likely to be considered for the position, quarterbacks coach John Shoop has emerged as a darkhorse candidate.

Shoop, 36, scouting at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., told the Chicago Tribune he had interviewed with Davis. A Raiders spokesman said the club would not confirm nor deny reports of a Shoop interview.

"It's a great organization and I really enjoy working for Mr. Davis and the Raiders," Shoop said. "I feel great about (the interview) and working for the Raiders in whatever role."

Whisenhunt, 43, has remained focused on the Super Bowl and has remained tight-lipped on anything beyond facing the Seattle Seahawks.

His ability to devise a gameplan, which took apart the blitzing defense of the Denver Broncos, one of the Raiders' AFC West rivals, was no doubt appealing to Davis.

Whisenhunt has said he wants to be a head coach, but it is unknown whether he deems the Raiders as a good first opportunity.

In contrast to other NFL teams, which normally hire a head coach and assemble a coaching staff around him, the Raiders head coach will have much of his staff in place.

The defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, was given a contract extension. Shoop, who may have been a fallback possibility if the Davis-Whisenhunt talks don't go well, could emerge as an offensive coordinator -- a role he held with the Chicago Bears from 2001-2003.

Shoop came to the Raiders in 2005 as quarterbacks coach after Jim Harbaugh left to become head coach at the University of San Diego. He spent 2004 as quarterbacks coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Raiders' pay scale for coaches is at the bottom rung of the NFL, and there is always the looming presence of Davis, the only owner in the sport who also exercises the power of a strong general manager with the last word on all personnel issues.

Shoop may have lost some points by giving an interview -- Davis prefers that assistant coaches not talk to the media -- but he struck the right notes with regard to the owner's input.

"I recognize that (judging) personnel could have been a weakness and working with a Hall of Famer like Al Davis has strengthened that," Shoop said.

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, who worked on the Raiders staff under Mike White in 1995, may be brought in for an interview while the club waits for a chance to talk to Whisenhunt.

Fassel is said to have a good relationship with Al Davis. He coached the New York Giants to an NFC championship in 2000 with Kerry Collins as his quarterback.

"In 20 cities in America, everyone is trying to figure out how they can win next year," said Davis. "Some of the coaches who are considered great coaches right now will be raising their hands and looking for jobs. That's the way this business is."

San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, who interviewed for head coaching jobs in both Houston and St. Louis, rejected an opportunity to talk with the Raiders.

When he interviewed with the Texans, Cameron said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer told him the three most important things in a football team for a prospective coach are "the owner, the owner and the owner."

Schottenheimer has a well-documented disdain for Davis and all things silver and black.

Cameron is also close with Norv Turner, the former Raiders coach and current San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator. Turner hired Cameron, a college assistant at the University of Michigan, to be his quarterbacks coach with the Washington Redskins in 1994.

The Raiders have not retained assistant coaches Sam Clancy (defensive line), Pat Jones (inside linebackers), Clayton Lopez (defensive backs) and Chris Griswold (defensive quality control).

Keith Millard, a defensive line assistant last season who Warren Sapp credited with restoring his enthusiasm after a difficult 2004, was promoted to defensive line coach.

Offensive and defensive philosophies will be devised in give-and-take session between Al Davis and the new coach.

Davis, although he prefers vertical passing off play-action -- much like the system taught by Al Saunders -- has given offensive coaches the latitude to be different. Mike White and Jon Gruden both believed in constant shifting and short passing.

Defensively, Davis has been much more involved -- to the point where Patriots coach Bill Belichick refers to him as "Coach Davis." Davis is not a big advocate of blitzing, and he favors man-to-man coverage and pressure from a four-man front.


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