AFC West: Al Saunders

Mike McCoy continues to make impressive moves with his first NFL coaching staff.

The San Diego Chargers have announced defensive coordinator John Pagano will stay with the team. Joe Barry (linebackers), Greg Williams (assistant linebackers) and Don Johnson (defensive line) will be retained as well. They are not expected to bring back defensive backs coach Ron Meeks and secondary assistant Cris Dishman. Keeping Pagano was an expected, but critical, move. He did a fine job in his first season on the job in 2012 and deserves to be back. San Diego has good, young talent on defense and they responded well to Pagano. Having continuity and the same scheme on that side of the ball is vital.

He has also made impressive hires by getting offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and quarterback coach Frank Reich.

Meanwhile, potential offensive coordinators for the Oakland Raiders are coming off the market . Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is the new coordinator with the Colts. Among the candidates that have been connected to Oakland are Mike Martz, Greg Olsen and Oakland assistant Al Saunders. There is a belief Saunders could emerge as the leading candidate.

Oakland’s offensive coordinator spot is the lone remaining high-profile job in the division. Greg Knapp was fired Dec. 31 and every other team in the division has hired at least one coordinator. I’d be surprised if the Raiders don't make a hire before Monday.
A special teams coaching candidate could be Bobby April. He has been a special teams coach in six NFL cities. He was with new Kansas City coach Andy Reid with the Eagles the past three years.


The Chiefs signed defensive lineman Daniel Muir. He spent some time with the Jets last season with new Kansas City defensive coordinator Bob Sutton. He was originally signed by the Packers in 2007 where new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey worked.

Oakland has O-coordinator options

January, 17, 2013
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I’m sure it had to bother Oakland Raiders fans to see AFC West-rival Denver fill its offensive coordinator job less than 48 hours after it opened. Oakland’s search has been ongoing now for 17 days with no end in sight.

But Denver’s decision to promote quarterbacks coach Adam Gase to offensive coordinator instead of going outside of the organization could benefit the Raiders. There seem to be more offensive coordinators than open jobs at this point.

Among the available candidates include Ken Whisenhunt, Pat Shurmur, Chan Gailey, Cam Cameron, Mike Mularkey, Marty Mornhinweg and Mike Tice.

Oakland has already considered Mike Martz, Greg Olson and in-house candidate Al Saunders. Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton could also be a candidate. He is well-regarded and has NFL experience. Oakland coach Dennis Allen tabbed defensive coordinator Jason Tarver out of the nearby school last year.

Yes, the process is slow, but there is no real timetable. Sure, the Oakland staff is coaching in the Senior Bowl next week, but it doesn’t need an offensive coordinator in place for that game. The Raiders would get by with its current staff if need be. The Senior Bowl is traditionally a prime opportunity to interview for coaches, so perhaps Allen will find his new offensive coordinator there. Allen also needs a special-teams coach, offensive line coach and a linebackers coach.

So, even though the process has been slow, there is no shortage of potential candidates in Oakland.

In other AFC West news:
  • As long expected, the Browns hired former San Diego coach Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. He is reuniting with former San Diego assistant Rob Chudzinski, who is now Cleveland’s head coach. Turner’s son, Scott, is the Browns’ wide receivers coach.
  • Former Kansas City special-teams coach Tom McMahon has been hired for the same job with the Colts.

What is Scott Pioli's future?

December, 31, 2012
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Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is clearly mulling different options and I think he is open to keeping general manager Scott Pioli.

I think one of the ways this could happen is if Hunt decides to hire a coach who is powerful enough to run a big part of the organization and allow Pioli to operate as a top decision maker behind the scenes.

That’s how Pioli made his name in New England. He was Bill Belichick’s right-hand man. In that role, Pioli worked on personnel moves and such. For that to work in Kansas City the right coach would have to be brought in and everyone would have to be on board.

Hunt hasn’t closed the door on Pioli yet and if he does stay, it’s clear it will be in a reduced role. Hunt has said the coach and general manager will report directly to him.

Meanwhile, Kansas City center Ryan Lilja told the Kansas City Star he is retiring. He had a nice season. The Chiefs will be fine because youngster Rodney Hudson will be coming back from an injury. The team likes him. But Lilja’s leadership will be missed.

Fox Sports is reporting the Chiefs will interview Atlanta special teams coach Keith Armstrong. The Chiefs are also talking to Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. I think both may be long shot candidates.

Meanwhile, Hunt sent emails to season-ticket holders Monday, promising better days ahead.

In other AFC West news:

The NFL Network reported that the Chargers have been granted permission to speak to 49ers’ executive Tom Gamble about San Diego's general manager’s job. Gamble is a hot candidate.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will interview with Chicago and Arizona. McCoy is also a hot candidate. I expect him to get a job.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky thinks recently-fired Oakland offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp could provide instant help to his former team, Houston, in the playoffs.

I wonder if the Raiders will consider making offensive assistant Al Saunders Knapp’s replacement. He did a fine job under Hue Jackson in 2011.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen said he doesn’t plan to make any other coaching changes. He needs to find an offensive coordinator, special teams coach, offensive line coach and a linebackers coach. Allen had some issues filing his staff last year as far not getting his first choice. Now, he will have a jump on the process and this will give him a chance to build a better staff.

ESPN columnist Ashley Fox thinks the Broncos are heading toward a victory parade.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- After running in front of the media for the first time in seven months, running back Darren McFadden met the press Tuesday after the Oakland Raiders' organized team activities practice.

Earlier in the day coach Dennis Allen said McFadden was at full speed. McFadden said he began running in April and he has felt 100 percent for about a month. He he thinks the injury, that knocked him out of the final nine games of the season, was a “freak” occurrence and he does not worry about a similar injury again.

Here are some more notes after talking to other Raiders on Tuesday:
  • Quarterback Carson Palmer was impressed by the day of fifth-round pick receiver Juron Criner. However, Palmer said he has seen many younger receivers have good spring days over the years. Palmer walked off the field with Criner and told him he must continue to have these types of days.
  • Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey apologized to fans for “bringing bad attention” to the team. He was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving last month.
  • Second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor expressed relief that there is quarterback coach in Oakland to help him develop. Former head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders handled the job last year. Pryor now works with position coach John DeFilippo on a regular basis.
The Oakland Raiders continue to go back to their recent -- and unsuccessful -- past to fill out their offensive coaching staff all the while keeping an experienced hand.

NFL.com is reporting that 2011 Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders is staying with the team as a senior assistant. The report said Saunders had a year added to his contract that will run through 2013. Saunders won’t be offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach, two roles he covered last year. His specific role is unknown.

Still, I think it is good that he is being retained in some role. This is a young staff. Saunders is an NFL veteran. His experience will help even if it is not in a major role.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the team has hired John Defilippo as its quarterbacks coach. He was Oakland’s quarterback coach in 2007-08, which were JaMarcus Russell’s first two seasons. Defilippo has been the quarterbacks coach at San Jose State the past two years.

He reunites with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. He was the offensive coordinator in Oakland in 2007-08. Yes, Oakland’s offense was anemic those years, but the talent was depleted. The two coaches are inheriting much better talent now.

New Oakland coach Dennis Allen (who worked with Knapp in Atlanta) is clearly comfortable with Knapp and Knapp is comfortable with Defilippo.

Meanwhile, the Raiders reportedly hired USC receivers coach Ted Gilmore for the same position. He worked for former Oakland coach Lane Kiffin at USC.

UPDATE: Ole Miss secondary coach Keith Burns has reportedly been added to Oakland’s staff. He has a long history with Allen. His role has been specified, but it could be as an assistant secondary coach. The word is former Kansas City assistant Tim Krumrie is a candidate to be Oakland’s defensive line coach.

UPDATE: The Raiders just formally announced Saunders will be retained as a senior offensive assistant.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ long journey for a new offensive coordinator took them back to one of the first names that popped up for the job.

Daboll
Daboll
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Chiefs will hire Brian Daboll as coordinator of the potentially dangerous offense. Daboll, 36, was a finalist along with Kansas City quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn and Al Saunders, a former Kansas City offensive coordinator who was just replaced in Oakland.

Daboll emerged as an early candidate. He continues the New England Way in Kansas City. He was in New England with Kansas City general manger Scott Pioli and Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel during the last decade.

There were reports last month that the Chiefs were looking for a dynamic offensive coordinator and Schefter reported that former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman, who ended up as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, was on the Chiefs' radar. While Daboll is considered a promising young coach, it would be inaccurate to describe his previous experience as an NFL offensive coordinator as dynamic.

He was the Browns’ offensive coordinator from 2009-2010 and he was Miami’s offensive coordinator in 2011. Those offenses struggled. However, Miami’s offense made strides in the second half of last season and running back Reggie Bush had his best NFL season under Daboll’s guidance.

Daboll has a reputation for being a hard-edged coach. He was particularly hard on Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy when he was a rookie in 2010.

Daboll’s hiring may be a good sign for Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. They worked together for two years in New England. Both Pioli and Crennel said this week that Cassel will face competition. It is not known yet if the team will bring in someone to legitimately push Cassel or not.

Daboll is inheriting a potentially strong offense. The team will get star running back Jamaal Charles back after he blew out his knee in Week 2. Promising tight end Tony Moeaki will be back after missing the entire season with a knee injury. The passing game has a chance to be very good, particularly if free agent Dwayne Bowe returns. So, there are plenty of pieces for Daboll to work with.

It will be interesting to see if Zorn stays or if the Chiefs bring in a new quarterbacks coach. The Kansas City Star reported that Zorn may quit if he didn’t get the promotion.

UPDATE: NFL.com reported Saturday that Zorn will stay in Kansas City unless the Steelers approach him for their offensive coordinator job. This decision should serve the Chiefs well. Zorn had a good relationship with the quarterbacks last year and keeping him will ensure continuity.

The curious case of Hue Jackson

February, 3, 2012
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What is going on with Hue Jackson?

Not much.

Jackson
Jackson
In one of the more surprising developments on the coaching carousel the past few weeks, the former Oakland Raiders’ coach is not getting much interest on the assistant-coaching circuit.

Jackson interviewed to be the offensive coordinator in St. Louis and he interviewed as quarterbacks coach in Arizona. He wasn’t hired. Jackson has been bypassed for interviews elsewhere. There are openings in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay and perhaps Jackson will be in play there. Nothing has developed yet, though.

Further clouding the Jackson situation is the fact that his offensive coordinator in Oakland, Al Saunders, is a finalist for the Kansas City offensive coordinator job. This is no shot at Saunders, but something is going on here. Saunders is a fine coach who has a lot of experience and who is well respected around the league.

But it was Jackson’s offense in Oakland. Jackson called the plays. You’d think he’d get some interest before his lieutenant.

Perhaps Jackson will land somewhere, but for a coach who was unexpectedly fired, you’d think he’d already have a job. The Raiders were 8-8 in Jackson’s one season as a head coach and the offense made great strides under in him 2010 (when he was the coordinator) and in 2011. He was considered one of the bright, young offensive coaches in the league.

Now, he can’t get an assistant job.

Perhaps what helped get Jackson fired in Oakland is what is hurting him getting a new job. Jackson turned off folks with his attitude following the death of Al Davis in October. After the final game of the season, Jackson infamously chastised Oakland’s players and vowed to take on a bigger role in all aspects of the organization.

Perhaps perspective employees are hesitant to bring on personality like that. It’s too bad, because Jackson is a quality football coach who deserves to have a job by now.
New Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said Thursday he planned to hire an offensive coordinator soon.

NFL.com reports Crennel will choose between three finalists. There are no surprises on the list: Kansas City quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, former Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders and former Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In other AFC West news:

Denver quarterback Tim Tebow talks to ESPN’s Skip Bayless in a three-part, wide-ranging video interview. He talks about everything from respect, LeBron James and religion.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the NFL Network will run Thursday games from Week 2-15 and every team in the league will appear on a Thursday night game in 2012.

The Broncos are raising the prices of some tickets and cutting the prices on others in 2012.

UPDATE: The Raiders announced the hiring of Steve Hoffman as their special teams coach. It had been previously reported. The Chiefs fired him last month.
Lame-duck former Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders met with the Kansas City Chiefs about their open offensive coordinator job, according to Bob Gretz.com.

Saunders has been replaced by Greg Knapp in Oakland, but the Raiders haven’t said what they plan to do with Saunders.

“Al is there today talking with Romeo (Crennel),” former Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil told the site. “He wants to see if there’s any chance to go back to Oakland, but if not he’d love the Chiefs job.”

Saunders is a former Kansas City offensive coordinator. Chiefs quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn also reportedly has interviewed for the job. The Kansas City Star reported Zorn may quit if he is not given the job. He and Saunders worked together in Baltimore in 2010
  • Fox Sports has reported Oakland is hiring former Chiefs’ special teams coach Steve Hoffman. He was just fired by the Chiefs. He replaces the highly respected John Fassel, who took a job with St. Louis. Hoffman is taking over one of the better special teams in the NFL.
  • The Raiders’ defensive coordinator decision could come soon. The team interviewed Greg Manusky, fired in San Diego last month, this week. If Manusky is not the Raiders’ guy, other names should soon surface.
  • The Raiders hired Houston’s Frank Pollack to run the offensive line. That could mean the Raiders will return to a zone-blocking offense, which they ran during a lot of Tom Cable’s regime. It should be an easy transition if that is the way the Raiders go.

How Greg Knapp fits in Oakland

January, 31, 2012
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The Oakland Raiders have not confirmed NFL.com’s report that Greg Knapp will be brought back as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator. Still, here are some thoughts on the pending hire:

This is the most important assistant coach on Dennis Allen’s staff. Because Allen is a defensive specialist, he will be able to help the new defensive coordinator. Yet, it is the offensive coordinator who Allen will have to put his most trust in.

I don’t think this hire will inspire much excitement in the Raider Nation. Knapp has already been Oakland’s offensive coordinator and it didn’t work out well. He is a good, solid coach, but the truth is, he is not known for being one of the most dynamic offensive coaches in the league.

In fairness, Knapp will be working with a much more talented offense in his second tour in Oakland. The Raiders’ offense was anemic when he was the coordinator in 2007 and 2008. When Tom Cable took over as interim coach after Lane Kiffin was fired in 2008, Cable stripped Knapp’s duties from him. In Knapp’s only full season as the offensive coordinator (2007), the Raiders were No. 27 in total offense.

I think what we have to focus on is Allen’s past with Knapp and not Knapp’s past in Oakland. The two worked together in Atlanta earlier last decade. Clearly, Knapp was impressive enough for Allen to give him this chance.

Even though he was most recently Houston’s quarterbacks coach (he did a nice time adjusting to several injuries and he made undrafted rookie T.J. Yates a playoff-game-winning quarterback), Knapp is a run-first coordinator. That jibes well with Oakland’s talent. The Raiders have one of the best running games in the NFL.

Knapp knows some of Oakland’s talent. He had Michael Bush (a free agent who may be given the franchise tag) and starting tailback Darren McFadden in the program when he was last in Oakland. So, that adjustment will not be difficult. For the most part, most of the key offensive parts are new.

Knapp’s hiring likely means 2011 Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders will not be brought back, although it is feasible he could take on a lesser role. But Allen (who originally wanted former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman as his coordinator, but he went to Miami), struck fast to replace Saunders. So, it’s clear he wants to build his own staff. New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie fired coach Hue Jackson because he wanted to find his guy, so it’s only fair Allen is afforded the same luxury.

Still, it will be interesting to see if Allen keeps anyone on Oakland’s staff. McKenzie indicated Monday that there are some coaches on Jackson’s staff that Allen may keep. I’d think perhaps offensive line assistant Steve Wisniewski may be one of them. Meanwhile, several of Jackson’s assistants are leaving. The latest is reportedly tight ends coach Adam Henry.

With Knapp reportedly in the fold, now the biggest remaining job on Allen’s staff is defensive coordinator. Former San Diego defensive coordinator Greg Manusky (he was fired earlier this month) is among those in play. Allen has been denied permission to speak to multiple candidates for the job.
The Oakland Raiders had their press conference to introduce new head coach Dennis Allen on Monday.

Here are some impressions:

Allen
Allen
New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie is convinced Allen is his man. McKenzie -- who bypassed several of his former Green Bay cohorts to go with the 39-year-old former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator -- said he targeted Allen from the start of his process.

I know it’s early and I know there is always hope with every new hire. But it does seem like McKenzie and Allen have the makings of being a terrific pair. Both are young and green in their roles. But both seem to be bright, eager men who are both humble and not interested in being in the spotlight for anything other than winning. McKenzie said they will work closely together and they are a "team."

Allen was asked if he thought the Raiders had playoff talent and he said yes. He knows this is a good situation and he knows with a few moves, this can be a winning franchise again.

Both McKenzie and Allen said they believe in quarterback Carson Palmer. They have to believe in Palmer. There is no chance Palmer is not Oakland’s quarterback in 2012.

Allen didn’t say much about the staff he is building. He didn’t give many hints about whether or not incumbent offensive coordinator Al Saunders will come back. He is under contract for another year. There have been names bandied about for the defensive coordinator job. One name that has surfaced as a possible candidate if Greg Manusky. He was fired earlier in the month as San Diego’s defensive coordinator.

Allen said he will not call the defensive plays and that he will have the role of a "game manager" on game days. I like when head coaches take that role. It allows them to focus on the entire game and not get too caught up on the nuances of one side of the ball. Allen downplayed the importance of schemes, but don’t be surprised if Oakland remains a 4-3 defense. That was the defense he ran in Denver.

Overall, Allen came across well. He seems like a detail-oriented coach who is well-prepared for his role despite being the youngest active head coach in the league.

Hires: What's left?

January, 27, 2012
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With the Oakland Raiders picking Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen as head coach this week, the big-time hires in the AFC West have been made. However, there are some openings remaining in the division that should be filled in the next couple of weeks.

Let’s take a look:

Denver: The Broncos need a defensive coordinator with Allen leaving after one season. Head coach John Fox has said he is not in a rush to replace Allen. Candidates include former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio (he was a coordinator for Fox in Carolina) and Denver linebacker scoach Richard Smith.

Kansas City: New head coach Romeo Crennel is planning to remain the team’s defensive coordinator, a position he held since 2010. The Chiefs have reportedly talked to both in-house and outside candidates for the open offensive-coordinator job. One candidate may be Brian Daboll, who, like Crennel and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, has New England ties.

Oakland: Allen will hire close to a completely new staff, so that will likely take a little time. If Al Saunders does not indeed remain as offensive coordinator, Allen could pursue former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman, who is also being wooed by Miami. Kansas City defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas – Allen’s mentor – could be a possibility for defensive coordinator.

San Diego: The Chargers have the least work to do. They need to hire a linebackers coach to replace John Pagano, who was promoted to defensive coordinator earlier this month.
Don’t be surprised if the Oakland Raiders continue to pick from the AFC West as they add to their coaching staff.

One name to keep an eye on for Oakland’s defensive coordinator job is Kansas City defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas. The former Chiefs star defensive back is very close with new Oakland coach Dennis Allen. They worked together for several years in Atlanta and Thomas served as Allen’s mentor.

Thomas, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been a defensive coordinator for three different teams. Thomas, 68, was last a coordinator in Minnesota, in 2001. He has been the Chiefs’ secondary coach since 2010.

Thomas also has ties to new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie. Thomas was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator in 1999 when McKenzie was an executive. Allen, who was hired by the Raiders this week after being Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2011, will likely have a major role in the Raiders’ defense. However, he will want a trusted assistant to run the defense and Thomas could be that man.

Meanwhile, Mike Sherman could potentially be on Allen’s list as offensive coordinator. Sherman was last Texas A&M’s head coach and Allen is a former standout at Texas A&M. Sherman is also a former head coach of the Packers and has strong ties to McKenzie.

If Allen were to want to pursue Sherman, though, he may have to act quickly. He is interviewing in Miami for the same job. Finding an offensive coordinator may not be pressing for Allen because incumbent Al Saunders is expected to be a strong candidate. Saunders is owed money for the 2012 season and he is familiar with the Raiders’ personnel, so keeping him in place may ultimately be what Allen decides to do.
It will be interesting to see how Dennis Allen builds his staff in Oakland.

lastname
Allen
Allen, the youngest head coach in the NFL, spent only one year as a defensive coordinator in Denver. He spent the previous eight years in Atlanta and in New Orleans.

Allen’s most important hire will be offensive coordinator. With Allen's defensive background, he will need a strong offensive leader.

I’d have to think incumbent Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders has a solid chance of staying on. He is reportedly in Mobile, Ala., scouting the Senior Bowl for the Raiders. Allen is in Mobile, so the two will get a chance to talk immediately.

Saunders would provide stability to the Oakland offense, which is on steadier footing than the Raiders defense. Make no mistake, former head coach Hue Jackson ran the offensive show in Oakland. But Saunders is familiar with the Raiders offense and is capable of running it.

I also wouldn’t be surprised if assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski sticks around, along with some other offensive coaches. Wisniewski is a bright, young coach and the uncle of Raiders guard Stefen Wisniewski, who was a standout out as a rookie.

Because Allen will run the defense, the defensive coordinator job is not as important. But perhaps someone such as Denver linebackers coach Richard Smith (who will also be a candidate for Allen's spot on the Broncos staff) could interest Allen.

What's next for Raiders at QB?

October, 16, 2011
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Jason CampbellAP Photo/Ben MargotRaiders quarterback Jason Campbell is likely out for the rest of the season following this hit.

OAKLAND -- On a day of immense emotion, the Oakland Raiders suffered a crushing blow that will force them to make a huge decision in the post-Al Davis era.

Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. Campbell was injured in the second quarter of the Raiders’ 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. A source close to the situation said it is unlikely Campbell will return this year. Raiders coach Hue Jackson did not give a timetable for Campbell’s injury, but he sounded like a man who knows he needs to make other quarterback plans.

The injury put a damper on what is developing into a very strong season for the Raiders, as well as on a poignant day when the Raiders paid tribute to Davis. Oakland’s owner died Oct. 8 at the age of 82. It was the Raiders' first home game since Davis’ death.

Campbell was one of the Davis’ favorite players, and his acquisition in 2010 helped the Raiders begin a revival as they moved away from colossal draft bust JaMarcus Russell. Campbell was making great strides under Jackson and offensive coordinator Al Saunders this season and was the perfect game manager for an offense that features the NFL’s best running game.

Now the Raiders have to quickly figure out what they are going to do. For now, it looks like backup quarterback Kyle Boller will be given the first opportunity to start.

The Raiders must decide now whether they think Boller is capable of keeping them in contention. Oakland is 4-2 and trails San Diego (4-1) by a half-game in the AFC West. The Raiders host Kansas City next week, then have their bye. They then host Denver. So the Raiders -- who are two games over .500 for the first time in nine years -- have a manageable next few weeks.

Boller was just OK on Sunday as the Raiders won on the steam of a kick return for a score by Jacoby Ford, a touchdown pass on a fake field goal from punter Shane Lechler to Kevin Boss and improved defense. Boller was 8-of-14 for 100 yards. He missed badly on some passing attempts.

[+] EnlargeOakland Raiders quarterback Kyle Boller
AP Photo/Paul SakumaKyle Boller will likely be given the first opportunity to start at quarterback for the Raiders.
Still, Boller is experienced. He has started 46 NFL games, the last coming while with the Rams in 2009. He played under Jackson in Baltimore. Several Raiders receivers said Sunday they will have confidence in Boller if he is their starter. Ford said he will expect to see Boller as the starting quarterback “until I’m told otherwise.”

Ford should expect Oakland to consider other options in the next couple of days.

This is the first big personnel challenge for the Raiders since Davis’ death. Jackson and Mark Davis -- Al Davis' son -- are currently making decisions with input from others including former Raiders employees John Madden, Ron Wolf and Ken Herock.

If the Raiders decide to pursue a quarterback outside the organization who can start, the list probably will begin with David Garrard. He is a free agent who was cut by Jacksonville. He would give the Raiders a veteran presence. But he hasn’t played in six weeks, so there is a rust factor.

Perhaps Oakland would consider calling Denver about Kyle Orton, who was replaced by Tim Tebow last week. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that the only way Denver would trade Orton is if a team suffered a major injury and called the Broncos.

Would the Broncos deal the free-agent-to-be inside the division, though? I bet they would.

I’m sure the quarterback Jackson would most like is Carson Palmer. He coached him in Cincinnati. Yet the Bengals have maintained that they won’t deal Palmer. The trade deadline is Tuesday. Yahoo is reporting the Raiders are already trying to get Palmer.

Of course, there’s another name out there. Yes, Brett Favre. He is 42 and has maintained he is retired. But wouldn’t that be the ultimate tribute to Davis, adding a beaten-up gunslinger to save the season?

That scenario is much more of a pipe dream than reality, and the Raiders must face reality in this situation.

If they stick with Boller, I could see them bringing back Trent Edwards to back him up. Boller beat out Edwards for the backup job this summer. The Raiders also probably will try to speed up the development of rookie Terrelle Pryor. He is expected to be activated from the roster-exemption list Monday. His five-game NFL suspension ended last Monday.

Pryor was expected to be a project. He is still a project, but if other options fail, he could be pressed into action. But he is far from being ready.

This major flux at quarterback is definitely not what this team needed. It's also devastating for Campbell, 29. He fit in well with this team after not succeeding in Washington. Now his future is up in the air. His contract expires at the end of the season. There were indications that the Raiders could give him a new deal. Now, that is likely on hold.

Jackson said Sunday that the biggest thing the team will miss is Campbell’s leadership.

They also will miss the balance he gave the Raiders' offense. With Campbell out, teams will key on stopping the running game, which could limit the offense. The ever-optimistic Jackson vowed that his team will “be just fine.”

There is a lot to like about this team. But the loss of Campbell certainly casts a cloud over this season.

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