Shell blasts anonymous source David White, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Raiders coach Art Shell lashed out Wednesday, not about demoted offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, but someone within the organization Shell accuses of undermining his efforts all along.
Shell refused to name the name, but at least two team insiders fingered senior personnel executive Michael Lombardi as the object of Shell's ire.
"There has been an attack on my family ... the Raider family," Shell said, quivering at times with anger. "For someone to do that is unconscionable. It's detestable and it's an outrage. But that's what has happened since I've been here. Tom has taken a lot of the brunt of that."
Shell said there is one person in the organization who has ripped him, Walsh and team ownership under the "guise of football sources in the National Football League" ever since Shell was named coach in February.
Recent national online stories and blogs have quoted team sources who ridiculed Walsh and his running of the offense, which ranks last in the NFL, and painted a picture of team-wide anarchy.
Lombardi, who has rarely been quoted in his eight years in Oakland, declined to comment.
The outburst came one day after Shell re-assigned Walsh, a colleague for more than 25 years, to tight ends coach and promoted tight ends coach John Shoop to offensive coordinator.
Shell said he first considered the move in early November, but wanted to wait until quarterback Aaron Brooks returned from injury and played a few games under Walsh before deciding if a change was necessary.
Through it all, and there was plenty said during a 2-9 flop of a season, Shell has taken mental notes of what unnamed sources were saying.
"Starting back in February when we first got here, the character assassination started," Shell said. "When you start getting personal and you start getting into a man's personal life ... I sit back and I watch things happen, and then it gets to a point where you cross the line. That line has been crossed and I won't sit back and allow it to happen anymore."
Shell said that's a lesson he learned in 1994, when discord on his coaching staff was a factor in owner Al Davis firing Shell after a 9-7 season -- a point Davis confirmed in August.
Assistant coach Mike White was believed to be one of those who worked against Shell that season, and White wound up replacing Shell.
"I'm a fighter and I refuse to allow anybody to try to take away from what I'm trying to do here," Shell said. "I expect everybody in this organization to be on the same page with me. Right now, everybody's not."
Shell then rattled off a list of people who "bleed silver and black" -- Davis, chief executive Amy Trask, senior executive Johnny Herrera, special projects official Jim Otto, his coaching staff and players. Team employees Artie Gigantino and Mike Taylor conferred with Shell before and after he spoke.
No mention was made of Lombardi, who, according to Davis, offered the Raiders coaching job to Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, only to be rejected. Shell was then interviewed by Davis and given the job.
Lombardi was a Cleveland Browns personnel director for Bill Belichick in the '90s and replaced Bruce Allen as the Raiders personnel director in 2004.
Shell said he knows who has been bad-mouthing him because word gets back to him from friends around the NFL. That, and the insults sound familiar.
"You call one of your cronies that's in the news media to make statements ... you know how the law finds your fingerprints, they can tell who you are? When you make statements with your voice and with your words, you can also tell who's making those statements because you know the people."
Shell said he has not spoken to this person, and has not shared his concerns with Davis, but will if it continues. With that, he went back to the original question: How painful was it to demote Walsh, his longtime friend?
"It was very, very hard for me to do because I have a lot of respect for Tom Walsh. He tried his heart out, gave us his all, and I made a difficult decision."