Jul 26 2007
Coaching staff analysis
Posted by Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer on July 26th, 2007
Last in a series analyzing the Raiders position groups and coaching staff heading into training camp. The Raiders report to the Napa Marriott this evening, with the first practice scheduled for Friday at 2:45 p.m.)
The 2007 staff: Head coach_Lane Kiffin; Offensive coordinator_Greg Knapp; Defensive coordinator_Rob Ryan; Special teams coordinator_Brian Schneider.
Offensive assistants_Tom Cable (Offensive line), Charles Coe (wide receivers), James Cregg (assistant offensive line), John DeFilippo (quarterbacks), Adam Henry (quality control), Sanjay Lal (quality control), Tom Rathman (running backs), Kelly Skipper (tight ends)
Defensive assistants_Willie Brown (squad development, defensive backs), Randy Hanson (defensive backs assistant), Don Johnson (defensive line assistant), Don Martindale (linebackers), George Martinez (quality control), Keith Millard (defensive line), Darren Perry (defensive backs)
Others_Jeff Fish (strength and conditioning), Curtis Fuller (special teams quality control)
Summary: Although players were giving their customary platitudes, making the best of things, there were some nagging doubts about the Art Shell regime from the start. Foremost was Shell's insistence on having Tom Walsh as his offensive coordinator despite being out of the NFL since 1994.
It was the mistake Shell could never overcome. The Raiders started poorly on offense, opened training camp with difficultly even lining up correctly, and never came around.
Fast forward a year. Kiffin, who impressed Al Davis when brought in by targeted candidate Steve Sarkisian, snapped up the position his former colleague didn't want.
No one truly knows how Kiffin will fare, but there are some good signs. Kiffin has taken the job and run with it without looking over his shoulder. If he's a little arrogant, that's a good thing for a 33-year-old head coach. He is making it clear what he wants and how he wants it, and not just with the players.
Davis is not a big fan of moving pockets and zone blocking with an emphasis on cutting techniques. Kiffin is doing it anyway.
Davis loves big talent and is on the record as saying he doesn't believe in chemistry. Randy Moss is gone.
Marginal defensive end Bryant McNeal ran into trouble with the law and is gone. Jarrod Cooper failed a steroid test and is gone. (Domnic Rhodes was signed at a discount rate with the Raiders having a pretty good idea in advance he'd miss the first four games).
Off-season practices were fast and furious to make a point. So fast and furious Kiffin got a slap on the wrist by the NFLPA for allowing too much contact.
Despite Kiffin's inexperience, it's hard to imagine the Raiders not improving on 2-14. He'll be able to grow into the job and find his level as a head coach.
Unlike Shell, who hired Walsh, Kiffin coaxed Knapp into becoming his offensive coordinator. Knapp is used to being a play-caller, and it took some recruiting to get him to come aboard. Kiffin got it done.
He also got Cable, who in truth is the most important man in the organization this year aside from the head coach if he can get the Raiders' woeful line to play up to par.
Ignore all the nonsense about how the Raiders got every coach they wanted. They got turned down by plenty _ including their first choice as head coach.
On the surface, however, Kiffin appears to have two qualities Sarksian does not _ a very thick skin and an independent streak. If you're reluctant to work for Davis and the Raiders, you shouldn't be working for Davis and the Raiders.
One looked at an opportunity and seized it; the other examined things closely and worried about what could go wrong.
Rathman, like Knapp and Cable, has an extensive backround in the system Kiffin will run. Coe was a veteran college head coach, and young coaches such as DeFilippo and Skipper can make something of opportunities others didn't want.
The core of the defensive staff remains intact _ Ryan, Martindale and Millard. They set the tone and adjust attitudes.
Perry arrives from Pittsburgh to a wealth of talent in the secondary to see what he can add.
Schneider is another young face taking on what has been a black hole for special teams coaches. Bob Casullo, Joe Avezzano and Ted Daisher all left the building since 2003, with the Raiders never solvoing the problem of making the big mistake or giving up the big return at the worst possible time.
The bottom line: A promising off-season. Was it a mirage or something to build on? We begin to find out Friday.
source: Contra Costa Times - http://www.ibabuzz.com/raidersblog/2007 ... -analysis/