Raiders have a favorite son

The Oakland Raiders search for a head coach continues. One thing is certain – the Silver and Black are more methodical in their approach this season.

Last year, the proceedings seemed more comical. It took Oakland until February 12 to settle for Art Shell.

They had initially offered the job to Bobby Petrino, but were spurned by the then Louisville head coach.

"I understand my name is being mentioned in connection with job openings in the National Football League, but I want to re-iterate my commitment to the University of Louisville, our players and all of our Cardinal fans," he said at the atime. "The University of Louisville has been great for me, and family and I'm committed to fulfilling our goal of taking the program to the next level."

Petrino, incidentally, accepted an offer this year – becoming the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

Al Saunders was considered but with the Raiders dragging their feet he moved laterally, accepting an offensive coordinator position with the Washington Redskins.

Art Shell, who had not coached since he left his post as offensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2000, had little control over the team, allowing comments to continually escalate out of control.

Already, the Raiders have interviewed USC quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian, former New York Giants head coach Jim Fassel, and one of their own, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Sarkisian would seem to be the most intriguing option. Young coaches seem to be the new wave of innovation in the NFL.

Fassel is the old dog that could bring a semblance of unity to a group that is constantly bickering in-house. But his inability to stick in Baltimore and up-and-down relationship in New York has Davis concerned.

Ryan, however, already has the respect of this Raider team. While many may not return next year as the house gets clean, his familiarity with the personalities, particularly on the defensive side of the ball – the strength of the team – would seem to be a boon.

The urging of several players for Ryan to get the job could be the wild card. What happens if they hire outside the organization, leaving Ryan to continue his role on defense? Does that immediately start the dissention again?

It is hard to say. One thing Ryan has is fire. He has a strong desire to be the best and is an avid fundamentalist that would bring cohesion to a group often lacking it.

But one Raiders official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it is Sarkisian's job to lose.

"Sarkisian is the young mind Al covets. The rest are window dressing. The only thing that could change things is the following Ryan has on this team."

Sarkisian, who spent time with the Silver and Black in 2004, had a good interview with Davis, according to the Raider official. It doesn't hurt that Davis is a former Trojan assistant.

With John Shoop leaving for the offensive coordinator position at North Carolina, a potential monumental mistake has been eliminated.

"Part of the factor is my family," Shoop said of his decision to leave the NFL and Oakland. "My wife is an ordained Presbyterian minister. She's the pastor of a large church in Oakland. We're not going to change the Sabbath, that's always going to be on Sunday, and if we could find a good situation in coaching that would be on Saturday…Coach Davis and this place really offered that to us. That was a big factor in the decision to leave the NFL, because we could have stayed.

"I actually went to Oakland initially to work for Norv Turner."

Detroit offensive coordinator Mike Martz is one option being considered but he interviewed last season and Davis prefers to be on the cutting edge of coaching – despite his foray into the past last year.

The Raiders have interviewed Marc Trestman for the offensive coordinator's job – and that gesture could turn several people off the trail. Davis' desire to fill positions with his people and not allow coaching autonomy is one of the caveman ideas that led to Petrino turning down the job last year.

While Oakland is expected to continue the search for a head coach, Sarkisian appears to be in the driver's seat.


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