This week has not been all that great, as far as clarifying the coaching situation for the Raiders, or in giving fans an outcome they desire.
For one, Mark Davis apparently interviewed Mike Shanahan earlier in the week, during which it was supposedly discussed that Kyle Shanahan would also be part of a “package” of Mike as HC and Kyle as OC. Despite Shanahan’s rock-bottom status with the Raider Nation, I think most of us are at a point where if we thought Mobutu Sese Seko would give the team the best chance to win, we’d offer to help dig him up.
But here’s the thing — neither Mike nor Kyle Shanahan has done anything to distinguish themselves as being especially astute, or a great pickup as far as coaching hires go. They took a highly regarded QB that Washington had traded dearly to get, got him decent running backs and receivers, and still fielded a mediocre offense. So it’s not the 25-year grudge between Mike Shanahan and the ghost of Al Davis, so much as why anyone needs to talk to Mike Shanahan in the first place. His best work was 15 years ago with a Hall of Fame quarterback; the Raiders can get an average head coach just about anywhere. Even his ability to turn unsung runners into single-season superstars with the Broncos was mostly due to the zone-blocking system, which the Raiders tried with Greg Knapp and have since backed far away from.
The other thing, unless they’re holding out for Denver to finish their playoff run so they can get Jack Del Rio, is that it looks more and more like Mark Davis will decide to keep Tony Sparano and Reggie McKenzie for the 2015 season. This is frustrating, but if Davis is determined to keep McKenzie, and top-drawer (available) coaches like Del Rio and Darrell Bevell don’t want to work under McKenzie, it’s the best of their available options.
Pep Hamilton might be worth looking at, but he’s never run his own program, and he’s never worked with a quarterback not named Andrew Luck. Todd Bowles has already said that he won’t even interview with the Raiders, and it’s strongly believed to be because of McKenzie. Dan Quinn also might be worth interviewing, but again has never head coached.
The day after Dennis Allen was fired, Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis should have been on the phones, building contacts, working a board of who’d they like once the season ended. Everyone wanted Tony Sparano to work out as interim HC, but you have to prepare for the possibility that he doesn’t.
And as inexplicable as it may seem, it doesn’t look like Davis or McKenzie did any of that preliminary work, until maybe after Thanksgiving, if then. It’s as if they just had a scrap of paper with WISH LIST written at the top, and Jim Harbaugh’s name right below that, and nothing else. No backup plan on the off chance that Harbaugh was just using the Raiders as leverage to get more money out of Michigan (or vice versa; he was really just leveraging both organizations to get the maximum payday, like anyone would).
And it shows — there seems to be no rhyme or reason to taking concrete steps to improve the team. No one expects coaches or management to throw veteran players under the bus, but after a season that featured a historically bad running game, blowout road losses (including the worst in 53 years), and consistently poor responsiveness in adjusting to those problems, the fans deserve (at least) either an explanation of the past season or a description of the plan to move forward.
Hell, the city of Oakland deserves those things. You want a new stadium, the taxpayers will have to foot at least some of the bill, whether or not they watch football in general, or the Raiders in particular. That’s a billion-dollar ticket — what has management identified as the improvements to be made in order to justify that expense?
Maybe Mark Davis is being cryptic when he says “maybe tomorrow, maybe three weeks from now,” maybe he’s hinting that he wants Del Rio or Bevell (or Hamilton or Quinn) but expects them to go deep into the playoffs. But maybe Davis also owes the fans some sort of explanation as to his rationale for keeping McKenzie, if only so we have an idea of what the thought process is here.
Look, every GM hire and every coach hire, just like every draft pick and free agent signing and even every game, is a roll of the dice. We all get that. And again, despite the dismal record posted by McKenzie and Sparano, you don’t cut them loose unless you can replace them with someone better. But it’s amazing how thoroughly the organization has managed to exhaust every bit of confidence the fan base would like to have that the people running a billion-dollar business actually know what they’re doing.