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Friday, December 5, 2008
Russell needs help in Oakland

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com' s Bill Williamson  

Cris Collinsworth made an excellent point during the NFL Network telecast of the Oakland-San Diego game Thursday night: The Raiders have to stay on offense when they hire their next coach. I couldn't agree more. JaMarcus Russell needs all the help he can get. 

It is probably time to assume the Oakland Raiders will be hiring a new coach in January so it's time to think about the future of the team and the future of Russell.

The Raiders are 2-7 under interim coach Tom Cable and they have not made significant progress. The team is not playing at a high level on either side of the ball. It is 3-10 and it is nearing the end of another disappointing season.

So it is safe to think Al Davis will be looking for a new coach in 2009. It's clear what he needs to look for in a new coach, other than a man with great patience: He needs a coach who can improve quarterbacks.

This shouldn't be a stretch for Davis. His last 11 head coaches were offensive-minded coaches. John Madden was the last defense-first coach Davis hired.

While the Madden experience was an excellent one for Oakland, the Raiders need to stay on offense this time. They need someone to salvage Russell's career. If Russell can't flourish with a quarterback coach as his head coach, then he will officially be a bust and the Raiders will have to move forward once again.

But until then, the Raiders have to revolve their franchise around Russell. Russell, the youngest starting quarterback in the NFL, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He is the fourth-highest paid player in the NFL this season with a salary of nearly $17 million.

The Raiders are tied into Russell. If it doesn't work, the team that has been in a hole for the past six seasons will be set back even further.

Davis has to do the best he can to make it work for Russell.

He needs a head coach who can teach and mold Russell. Two names come to mind: Dennis Green and Jim Fassel.

Both are proven offensive coaches and both can make Russell better. Most importantly, both men would likely take the job. After the Lane Kiffin fiasco, don't expect many young coaches to line up for this job. But Fassel and Green, both who are doing radio work, would likely jump at the job. Fassel has already lobbied for it.

Are they the answer for Oakland? Maybe not completely, but they could help Russell. And right now, that's paramount to the Raiders.