Raiders hoping for quicker coaching search this time around

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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) – It took Al Davis more than five weeks to hire Art Shell as Norv Turner’s replacement as head coach of the Oakland Raiders last offseason.

The Raiders are hoping to complete the search for Shell’s successor in a much shorter time frame. Oakland’s latest coaching search began Friday, a day after Shell was fired following the team’s worst season in more than four decades.

“I would hope it would go a little bit faster than last year,” Pro Bowl defensive end Derrick Burgess said in a phone interview Friday. “It took a really long time. It would be good if they just went ahead and made a decision. Three years, three head coaches. That’s something that’s a first for me.”

Coaching changes are becoming a regular occurrence in Oakland. After Jon Gruden left for Tampa Bay following the 2001 season, Bill Callahan was hired and lasted two years. Norv Turner then replaced Callahan and also lasted two years before Shell took over.

Oakland has won just 15 games the last four years, including a 2-14 mark this season that was the worst for the franchise since a 1-13 record in 1962.

Unlike after last year with Turner’s firing, Davis was not made available to discuss what went wrong and what the future holds for his team. But the players are hoping for a quick resolution.

“It’s hard to go into the offseason not knowing what direction the team is going and not having a coach to help lead the way,” linebacker Sam Williams said. “A lot of what happens in the season starts in the offseason.”

Many of the defensive players are pushing for coordinator Rob Ryan to get the job. The son of former Philadelphia and Arizona coach Buddy Ryan, Rob Ryan was the architect of the league’s third-ranked defense, one of the team’s few bright spots.

Ryan has helped develop Burgess into a two-time Pro Bowl player, Nnamdi Asomugha into one of the league’s top cornerbacks and young linebackers Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard into solid NFL starters.

“I’ve been with Rob for three years now. He’s a really emotional guy,” Williams said. “He gets the guys up to play. He’d be a really good leader for the whole team. And he’d still be running the defense his way.”

But Davis has historically gone for offensive-minded coaches. The last time he hired a defensive coach was when he promoted John Madden from linebackers coach to take over the head job in 1969.

And with Ryan under contract anyway, Davis may prefer to pick a coach that can help overhaul the league’s worst offense. The Raiders finished last in the league with 168 points – the fifth-lowest total in a 16-game season.

Shell got almost no production out of receivers Randy Moss and Jerry Porter, had perhaps the league’s worst offensive line and got erratic play from quarterbacks Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter.

Two coaches with offensive backgrounds who could be possibilities this time for the Raiders include Dennis Green, who was just fired by Arizona, and Jim Fassel, who was fired earlier in the season as offensive coordinator in Baltimore.

Green, who has a 113-94 record in 13 seasons in Minnesota and Arizona, interviewed in Oakland following the 2003 season, but ended up with the Cardinals.

“I had on my silver and black and all that stuff, and it went well,” Green said in October about that interview. “I think it’s always about the right situation and at the right time. I’ve got the utmost respect for Al Davis. There’s a lot of talent on that team because Al Davis can spot talent and still does a great job of it. It just didn’t work out. It’s always been not the right kind of timing for it.”

That could be different this time around now that Green is once again unemployed. Green also brings the added benefit of having gotten the best out of Moss during their time together with the Vikings.

Moss, who has struggled in two seasons in Oakland, complained about the coaching staff this season and admitted that he drops more passes when he’s unhappy. A happy Moss could be a key part in rejuvenating this offense.

Fassel, who was an assistant in Oakland in 1995, was fired by the Ravens in October. He also led the New York Giants to the Super Bowl following the 2000 season.

Other candidates talked to in last year’s search included Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, Fresno State coach Pat Hill, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and San Diego Chargers receivers coach James Lofton.

It’s unclear if any of those coaches would be candidates again.

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