AFC West: James Lofton

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The AFC West is changing dramatically.

Comfortable names such as Mike Shanahan and Carl Peterson are memories. New additions to the division are New England hotshots Josh McDaniels and Scott Pioli in Denver and in Kansas City, respectively.

The Broncos and Chiefs have dominated the headlines the past couple of days with high-profile hires. Now it is the Raiders' turn to make some noise. The Broncos are done and the Chiefs may or may not be done depending on if they fire coach Herman Edwards.

With two major hirings complete in the AFC West, all eyes are on Oakland.

There are indications Oakland is moving somewhat on its decision to either retain interim coach Tom Cable or hire someone else. They have already talked to Cable, Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and Packers assistant Winston Moss.

There have been indications that Oakland owner Al Davis is making calls examining other coaches.

The team has made some coaching moves, including the firing of receivers coach James Lofton. The team has also sought to talk to Denver passing game coordinator Jeremy Bates.

This is very intriguing. Bates is a highly-respected coach who called plays in Denver last season. He was credited for helping quarterback Jay Cutler become a Pro Bowl player in 2008. He'd surely help Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who will be entering his third NFL season in 2009.

It is likely Bates is being pursued in Oakland as an offensive coordinator candidate. He fits Davis' mold. He is young, bright and aggressive in his offensive scheme. He'd be a great addition in Oakland.

The Broncos wanted to keep him and Cutler wanted him back. But with McDaniels calling the offensive plays, Bates may want to go elsewhere.

Cable has his chance in Oakland

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
7:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Al Davis made it very clear this afternoon: Tom Cable has to win. If Cable wins, he could stay on as the Raiders head coach in 2009. Until then, Cable is the Raiders' interim head coach.

But he has a chance. Davis's decision to hire Cable is interesting. Initially, the speculation on the eventual replacement for Lane Kiffin, who was fired this morning, surrounded around receivers coach James Lofton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. But it was Cable, the team's offensive line coach, who emerged. Davis said Cable dominates his unit and he thinks Cable can dominate the entire Oakland locker room.

Tom Cable's Coaching Career
2007-08Raiders offensive line coach
2007-08Raiders offensive line coach
2006 Falcons offensive line coach
2004-05UCLA offensive coordinator
2000-03Idaho head coach
1999Colorado offensive coordinator
1998Colorado offensive line coach
1992-97California offensive line coach
1991UNLV offensive line coach
1990 Cal State-Fullerton defensive line coach
2007-08Raiders offensive line coach
1989San Diego State graduate assistant
1987-88Idaho graduate assistant
--Compiled by ESPN Research

Cable is known as one the better offensive line coaches in the league. He turned around the fortunes of Oakland's offensive line using the zone-blocking scheme that he was taught by Alex Gibbs who perfected the scheme in Denver.

Cable, 43, is known as a very businesslike coach, who can be tough on his players. He does have head coaching experience, but it wasn't successful. Cable, who played with former St. Louis coach Scott Linehan for current Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson at Idaho, had an 11-35 record at his alma mater.

Cable said offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will call the plays and Cable will still coach the offensive line. The key for Cable is to make sure young offensive talents JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden continue to develop.

It makes sense that Davis went to the offensive side of the ball. Russell and McFadden represent Oakland's greatest chance for a turnaround.

If Oakland's offense comes alive with the youngsters and the defense learns to put away games in the fourth quarter, perhaps Cable will stick around. If not there will be another coaching search in Oakland next January, where names such as San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Martz could emerge. Until then, Cable has his chance.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The news that Al Davis is meeting with offensive assistants on the Raiders staff is evidence a change is near. Nothing is official, but this may be the sign that a coaching change is imminent.

Davis is meeting with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, offensive line coach Tom Cable and consultant Paul Hackett tonight.

They could be the candidates to replace Lane Kiffin. Earlier in the process, receivers coach James Lofton and running backs coach Tom Rathman were considered candidates to replace Kiffin along with defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and linebackers coach Don Martindale.

There had been speculation Knapp would not want the job and that he would likely reunite with Jim Mora next year in Seattle. The two worked together in Atlanta. But Knapp would be a natural fit to take over in Oakland since he works so closely with quarterback JaMarcus Russell and running back Darren McFadden, the core of the offense. There would be little change in the overall scheme if Knapp took over.

Cable has also been linked to Mora's staff in Seattle. He could be attractive to Davis because he has done a fine with the offensive line. The unit has shown improvement, especially in the run game, under Cable's guidance. He uses a zone-blocking scheme that Denver has used for years.

Hackett is the most experienced of the group. He is a special projects assistant with the Raiders. He was brought in this summer. Hackett was the head coach at Pittsburgh and USC and has been an NFL offensive coordinator. He knows the Raiders' style of offense well.

Davis is meeting with these coaches for a reason. Stay tuned.

Random thoughts from Oakland

September, 28, 2008
9/28/08
4:08
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

OAKLAND -- Random thoughts as the Chargers and Raiders kickoff.

  • Oakland starting running back Justin Fargas (groin) and right guard Cooper Carlisle (ankle) are inactive. Darren McFadden will replace Fargas and Chris Morris replaces Carlisle.
  • Oakland defensive tackle Gerard Warren is suited up. He was listed as doubtful on the injury report with a pectoral injury.
  • San Diego center Nick Hardwick is set to make his 2008 debut. He had foot surgery in the offseason.
  • Raiders receivers coach James Lofton spent time with several San Diego players prior to the game. He was with the Chargers until this offseason. Lofton is rumored to be a head coaching candidate in Oakland if Lane Kiffin is fired.
  • It is near perfect conditions in Oakland for today's game. It is 79 degrees and sunny.

Early-week mail call

September, 16, 2008
9/16/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Not surprisingly, questions and comments regarding the controversy in Denver involving the Chargers and Broncos dominate the chatter.


Cameron from San Diego: hey bill I was wondering why philip rivers isnt getting any credit. everyone is talking about jay cutler but if you look at the stats rivers has thrown just as many touchdowns and only has 1 interception that should have been overturned. he also showed he can come back from behind, there has just been a shaky defence in sd
BW: You are right, Cameron. Rivers had a heck of a game. He was tremendous in the second half against Denver. The Chargers are his team. With LaDainian Tomlinson dealing with a turf toe and the Chargers' defense struggling, this is becoming Rivers' team. And it is evident the Chargers are in good hands.



Tyler from Maize: "No one wanted to go to overtime, least of all Chargers coach Norv Turner, so San Diego pulled the trigger on the two-point attempt. I doubt we'll see that in a couple of weeks." From your blog during the preseason, i wonder if Turner would have made the call in shanahans shoes.
BW: I think very few coaches would make that call, especially at home. That's why it's been three years since it was last tried.


Scott from Honolulu: Just a thought, Last week you asked about the best rivalry in the AFC West. Well I think that after the game this past weekend the Chargers-Broncos rivalry is going to heat up and the game in December will be downright nasty regardless of the standing at that time.
BW: You're right, this rivalry is not at red alert. The two teams finish the regular season Dec. 28 at San Diego. It could have serious playoff implications. Can you imagine how fired up San Diego fans are going to be for that game?


Heather from San Diego: After the "technical difficulties" in yesterdays game, shouldnt it be fair that if the equipment isnt working that they use network footage to review? Because they screwed up and the Chargers received an unfair call on that. The officiating on that game was very one-sided and questionable all around. The team shouldnt have to suffer for it.
BW: Good point, Heather. I was stunned by that decision. There has to be a backup plan. For the play to be ignored by the officials because of a machine not working is not acceptable. There were television replays to be utilized and they weren't. While the Jay Cutler fumble at the end of the game was the focus of the controversy, this call in the first quarter was also huge.


Tony from Anchorage ak: Who do you think the head coach will be in KC next season? I hate to say it but I miss Marty at least we were in the playoffs then... I would really like to see Bill Cowher coaching for KC next year.
BW: At this point, I still think Herman Edwards and Carl Peterson will be back in Kansas City. However, if they both get blown out, Bill Cowher isn't a bad call. He would be both the GM and the coach. Many people around the league look at the Kansas City situation as a prime one. But the Chiefs' ownership is expected to be patient because of the team's youth.


Jeff from Denver: I understand San Diego fans are upset but do they really think that fumble was the only bad call? From my count there were about 5 bad calls hitting both teams that could have changed the outcome. Does Norv not tell his team you have to rise above the penalties and bad calls. San Diego gave up over 450 yards of offense and was held to 80 yards rushing. That is the real problem. Don't complain how you were robbed or that the officials cost you the game. Hey Norv, "Your team cost you the game first. Be a man and hold your team accountable" Just my thoughts, Bronco Fan Taking a Sick day
BW: Yes, there were many questionable calls. I didn't think it was a very well called game.


Aron from Milwaukee, WI: Bill, who do you think is mostly likely to be the next Raider coach if Kiffin is fired on monday? What are your thoughs on how bad JaMarcus Russell, and Darren McFadden played against KC
BW: I think, if Kiffin is fired during the season, a current Oakland assistant such as James Lofton. Tom Rathman or Rob Ryan would get the interim job. As for Russell, he needs more seasoning. He still has a long way to go. I think this entire season will be a work in progress for him. I love McFadden. He is a star in the making.


CJ : Not like this will be posted cause my questions never are but you still think Den will finish 3rd in the division? I hate when people bag on a team because of previous seasonal performance and not take into account any off-season moves or early play.
BW: We have to make predictions before the season. It's a crap shoot. No, at this point, I'd rather not have picked Denver third.


Gus: Bill, if the Chiefs find themselves winless at the trade deadline and are still struggling with the QB situation do you think they consider trading LJ? After all they are rebuilding and have some depth at RB. What do you think?
BW: Johnson will be difficult to trade unless he shows his pre-2007 form. He has a big contract and unless a team was desperate, Kansas City probably wouldn't get much in return for Johnson at this point.

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