Since Art Shell won Pro Football Weekly's Coach of the Year in 1990, the Oakland Raiders head coaching position has been filled by the
legends like Mike White, Joe Bugel, Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Art Shell (again), Lane Kiffin, Tom the Cable Guy, Hue Jackson and Dennis Allen.
Of that group, only two guys have career records over .500 (Shell and Gruden), which is probably why only one of the guys was ever fired in Oakland and then re-hired elsewhere (Turner). Of course, it's not like Oakland was picking from the cream of the crop, either — only two of the guys Oakland hired had ever been a head coach in the pros somewhere other than Oakland before (Bugel and Turner).
Of all the Black Holes in Oakland, the head coaching position might be the biggest.
Now that could change between now and September, but if Oakland wants next season to be any different than this one, it better. And that means dreaming big.
Of all the positions on the field next season, I would argue that the head coaching position (although not technically "on the field") is the most important one for Oakland to fill. You see, the problem in Oakland is as much a cultural one as it is a talent one (and that's saying something).
If Oakland goes ahead and hires the next Dennis Allen — an up-and-coming assistant who is well respected around the league, but who has never coached an NFL team before, they might as well set the time clock back a few years or at least hit the pause button.
Sure, Oakland will be better next year with more experienced versions of Derek Carr and Khalil Mack, plus a few more high draft picks to fill out the roster, but unless the team undergoes an identity change, it will all be for naught.
The Raiders need someone to walk in the door who commands respect the second he's announced. Someone who has gravitas, personality and confidence — someone who has balls— a guy that everyone in the locker room will look at and immediately know is in charge.
You ever get that sense from Lane Kiffin? Art Shell? Dennis Allen?
When a franchise is filled with guys like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning, the head coaching position needs only to be filled by someone who is smart. With a young team coming off of a decade of losing, however, Oakland is different. Yes, I believe that Charles Woodson and Justin Tuck are capable leaders — even Derek Carr at just 24 years old — but two veterans who have won championships can't fix a problem this big by themselves.
Now despite all the negativity, there is some good news: for the first time since Bill Callahan left, the Oakland head coaching job might actually be a desirable one.
For starters, owner Mark Davis has
probably hopefully learned his lesson from going cheap with Dennis Allen (he made less than a handful of college coaches), meaning he might actually open up his checkbook for a big name.
More importantly, however, the Oakland Raiders finally have shown some signs of life amongst rookies.
I loved this quote from Bill Simmons about Rex Ryan's time in New York, and I think it pretty much sums up why there's reason for optimism in Oakland:
I hope the Jets are dumb enough to fire Rex — the guy who won them four road playoff games in two years even though Mark Freaking Sanchez was playing QB for him. We always hear that you’re only as good as your QB. Well, Rex’s starting QBs ranked 24th, 17th, 26th, 32nd, 28th and 30th in QBR from 2009 through 2014. During that time, the Jets never had a 1,000-yard receiver and only had three 1,000-yard running backs (Thomas Jones in 2009 and Shonn Greene in 2011 and 2012)....And this is Rex’s fault?
Any coach in his right mind knows that the QB and the coach are attached at the hip, and that it's the position that has the most influence over his tenure with the team. Now if you were to start a franchise right now and needed to lock yourself to a QB for the next 5 years, how many guys are you taking ahead of Carr?
I count 11 (in no particular order: Romo, Brees, Stafford, Rodgers, Luck, Brady, Roethlisberger, Rivers, Flacco, Wilson and Ryan), with three guys that are probably on par with Carr (Dalton, Tannehill and Bridgewater). And that's assuming you want some of those guys well into their late 30's (I'm assuming 3 years of a guy like Brady + 2 years of a replacement is more valuable than 5 years of Carr).
If I'm a head coaching candidate looking for a job, and I see a guy who's already a top 20-ish quarterback (projecting him into an offense with, you know, some actual talent) that is probably getting better, you're telling me this job isn't attractive? Add in what looks to be an elite pass-rusher on defense? Full of high draft picks? And all of that in a franchise that is one of the most iconic in all of sports?
To summarize, this isn't a job for an up-and-comer, it's a job for an already-been-there.
This is a job for someone like Harbaugh who is regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, or Rex Ryan, who has done more with a pile of garbage than anyone Oakland has seen in a decade. No offense Tony Sparano, but when you coached a team to a 52-0 beat down against the Rams, you lost my vote because you indicated to me that you're closer to our past than the future we're hopeful of.
Oakland has been here before: looking for a new coach — a lot, actually — but this off-season is a time to erase the mistakes they've made in the past. And it isn't just a time — it's actually the time.
Young franchise quarterbacks don't come around that often — and neither does an organization so desperate for leadership and identity.
So, Mark Davis, think big. Make a splash. Bring us back to the days of the Oakland Raiders being the Oakland Raiders.
We're counting on you.