AFC West: NFL coaches 010211

Now, there’s some juice to the Denver Broncos’ coaching search.

Finding a new coach is not necessarily about name recognition. There was a time Vince Lombardi was a no-name. I get that. But the fact the Denver Broncos are pursuing former Carolina head coach John Fox should be reassuring to Broncos’ fans. It shows the team isn’t just going to settle for a cheap, inexperienced coach. Denver was trying to nail down an interview date for Fox on Saturday.

The Broncos said they were going to make a push for Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh before he took a five-year, $25 million deal from San Francisco on Friday. But Harbaugh never really gave the Broncos an opportunity to woo him. The other top name on the list, Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, has postponed his interview until the Falcons’ season is over, which may preclude him from interviewing.

Other names on Denver’s list include Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It’s not exactly a who’s who of NFL coaching greats, although Fewell has been sought after.

However, Fox is at a different level. He is a legitimate, proven NFL head coach. Don’t be swayed by his final season in Carolina, where he went 2-14. Fox was forced into a youth movement he didn’t want to be part of and his departure was basically mutual.

He’d probably be refreshed to be with a new organization after nine seasons in Carolina, in which the Panthers were usually solid contenders in the NFC. Fox was known as one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL before he went to Carolina and his defenses there were NFL stalwarts.

Denver could surely use a strong defensive influence. The Broncos allowed an NFL-high 471 points as it went 4-12 in 2010. Fox has a strong group of assistants who he’d likely bring with him and the Broncos’ defense would be bound to improve under his watch.

The key for Fox to be a successful head coach is to have a strong offensive coordinator. But his impact on defense would be a good start to re-establishing Denver’s program.

Fox was very complimentary of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow prior to the draft and he likely would be on board with continuing the Tebow project and make him the starter in 2011, which is the preference of the Broncos.

There are a lot of reasons to think this could be a good fit. Again, Fox shouldn’t be considered the frontrunner merely on name recognition, but adding him to the mix surely gives Denver a stronger pool of candidates.

Denver to talk to Dirk Koetter

January, 7, 2011
New Denver football czar John Elway just announced that the Broncos have received permission to speak to Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to talk to about their head-coaching job.

Koetter has head-coaching experience, which Elway has said is a positive. He coached both Arizona State and Boise State. Koetter is known for his work with quarterbacks.

Koetter is a good football man. But like the other names currently on Denver’s list, he's not exactly a headliner. Expect more names to emerge in this search, which could be a slow process.
It’s time that Al Davis hires Hue Jackson.

Davis survived a scare when San Francisco hired Jim Harbaugh on Friday. Jackson was interviewed by the 49ers on Wednesday.

Davis needs to promote Jackson from offensive coordinator to head coach before another team wises up and starts pursuing Jackson as head coach. The last thing Davis needs is to get into a bidding war for Jackson’s services.

Denver’s list of prospects is uninspiring and I wouldn’t be surprised if it became interested in Jackson. He had immense success in his first season as the Raiders offensive coordinator. Jackson is considered the front runner to be hired in Oakland and to replace Tom Cable, who was unceremoniously dumped Tuesday after going 8-8 this season. It was the first time Oakland was at least .500 in eight years.

I have maintained that the only way the Cable firing will make sense is if Jackson is hired to keep some continuity and to keep the faith of the Oakland players.

So, it’s time for Davis to stop playing around and stop giving Jackson more time to get a better offer if one is out there. I’ve been told that Davis could look at other candidates and that it could be a slow process, which is usually the case when Davis hires a new coach.

But there’s risk involved for Oakland. Davis dodged a bullet when the 49ers landed Harbaugh. So, it’s time for him to go ahead and hire the best man for the job and give his offense the opportunity to continue to grow under Jackson’s guidance.
With the Jim Harbaugh pipedream all but over for the Denver Broncos, new Denver football czar John Elway is streamlining his wish list.

If Denver fans are looking for a household name or seat filler, they may want to temper your hopes. While the list can change at any time, the current group of the Broncos’ candidates is not filled with bright-light names.

Elway said Friday the Broncos are likely out of the Harbaugh talks. Elway did say he is seeking permission to talk to former Denver assistant and current Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and he may call former Giants coach Jim Fassel. Elway has ties to both men.

Other people Denver is going to interview are Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (who may be the top choice at the moment) and Denver interim coach Eric Studesville. New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is expected to be interviewed when the Saints’ season is complete. Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey (considered by many as a top Denver choice) has postponed his interview until after the Falcons’ season ends.

Once you get past Mularkey and perhaps Fewell, this isn’t an overly exciting list. It’s not to say these aren’t good coaches, but they are far from Harbaugh when it comes to name recognition.

In the end, I’m not surprised Harbaugh probably isn't going to end up in Denver. He was too costly for the Broncos’ blood. Plus, I’m not sure if it was a great fit. It seems to me that Harbaugh is the type who will want to make his own decisions. After moving away from Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels in the past two years, the Broncos want their coach to just coach and not make personnel decisions.

Any of the above names would surely be fine with that arrangement.

I wouldn’t be surprised if other names pop up. They could include former Baltimore coach Brian Billick, Miami defensive coordinator and former Denver defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, Philadelphia assistant Marty Mornhinweg, San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera and Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

Billick could be an interesting candidate. He likely wouldn’t be overly expensive and he has had a lot of NFL success.

Could be coaching domino affect

January, 6, 2011
There are several interesting moving parts in the coaching circles that affect the AFC West.

If Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh goes to Miami, who are heavily pursuing him, it will affect both the Broncos and the Raiders. The Broncos are interested in Harbaugh and would have to cross him off their list.

If Harbaugh goes to Miami, he would also be off San Francisco’s list. That could mean the 49ers could turn to Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who interviewed with the 49ers on Wednesday.

Jackson is considered the frontrunner to replace Tom Cable in Oakland.

If Jackson is not the guy in Oakland, could the Raiders turn to former Denver coach Josh McDaniels? It’s been reported that Oakland owner Al Davis is interested in McDaniels.

He fits the mold. He is a young, strong offensive mind. Davis loves those types of coaches. Still, McDaniels has turned down a chance to interview with San Francisco, so he could do the same in Oakland.

I know McDaniels is expecting to become an offensive coordinator and hopes to be in position to be a head coach again in a desirable spot within two years. But in the meantime, the coaching carousel is moving at a rapid pace and it affects the AFC West greatly. Hold on and stay tuned.
Wisely, the Denver Broncos are planning to talk to some defensive coaches in their search to find Josh McDaniels' replacement.

New Denver leader John Elway told the Denver Post he will ask permission to talk to Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Williams has head-coaching experience. Fewell is also garnering interest from San Francisco, Cleveland and Carolina.

Denver will also talk to Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Denver interim coach Eric Studesville. There has been talk that Mularkey could be the leading candidate because of his ability to work with a young quarterback such as Tim Tebow.

But Denver does have some major shoring up to do on defense. It allowed a league-high 471 points this season. Talking to coaches like Fewell and Williams is a sign Denver is prepared to do its due diligence in this process.

Also, Elway told the Denver Post he didn’t get the chance to talk to Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh about the job while Elway served as an honorary Stanford captain in the team’s Orange Bowl win Monday. Still, if Elway wants to talk to Harbaugh, I’m sure he’ll get the opportunity.
The Oakland Raiders are on the clock with offensive coordinator Hue Jackson.

The 49ers are interviewing Jackson on Wednesday for their head-coaching job. The 49ers asked for permission Tuesday. Hours later, Oakland fired coach Tom Cable. Jackson, who was successful in one season as Oakland’s offensive coordinator, is considered the leading candidate in Oakland and I think the timing of the 49ers’ request to interview him and Cable’s firing can’t be overlooked.

Oakland needs to hire Jackson to keep its continuity and momentum. If Jackson goes to the 49ers, the Raiders will be starting over again. I think the Raiders will end up hiring Jackson, but they officially have competition for him.
The San Francisco 49ers sealed Tom Cable’s fate on Tuesday when they asked permission to talk to Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson about their vacant head-coaching opening.

Apparently, Oakland owner Al Davis felt he had no choice but to respond by creating a head-coaching opening of his own.

Hours after the 49ers began their pursuit of Jackson -- who was immensely successful as Oakland’s offensive coordinator in his first season with the team in 2010 -- Davis announced Cable would not be brought back even though the Raiders finished 8-8, their best record since 2002.

Call it a coincidence if you like, but the reason Cable is out is because Davis didn’t want to lose Jackson to the 49ers.

Davis likely couldn’t stand the thought of seeing Bay Area rival San Francisco have a resurgence with Jackson as head coach. It’s been rumored since Jackson was hired as offensive coordinator last offseason that Davis wanted to make him the head coach. So, with the threat of another team coming after Jackson, Davis began the process of making him his coach.

While I don’t think Cable deserved to be canned after the progress Oakland made this season, the only reason this move can make some sense is if Jackson is hired as head coach. It will be a disaster if Oakland is left without Cable and Jackson.

I’m not sure if Jackson will make a great head coach, but he made a great impact on Oakland’s offense this season. Oakland was sixth in the NFL in points and 10th in yards gained in 2010. In 2009, it was 31st in points and 31st in yards. The combination of the release of quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the addition of Jackson paid dividends for Oakland.

Oakland’s running game flourished, especially third-year running back Darren McFadden. The Raiders were more aggressive on offense and attacked defenses unlike in recent seasons. Like Jackson himself, the Oakland offense was loud and brassy. Still, the quarterbacks and receivers were inconsistent and the Raiders committed too many penalties. Jackson will have to work on those areas if he is the next head coach.

If Oakland had to make a change, it must ensure it will maintain the same momentum Cable started and keep Jackson. Perhaps in two years, we’ll look back and say that Jackson is one of the best head coaches in the NFL and it was a master stroke by Davis.

But if Jackson were to become a successful NFL coach elsewhere and the Raiders have to start over with another system, we’ll look at the decision to not keep Cable much differently.
Tom CableJason Bridge/US PresswireTom Cable was fired despite having his best season as Oakland's coach.
If this was going to be his fate, the Oakland Raiders should have fired Tom Cable a year ago.

Canning him now, after a season of true progress, is just another sign of dysfunction in Oakland. The only thing good about this move is that it was quick.

Last year, Cable twisted in the wind for weeks while Oakland pondered whether to fire him after a 5-11 season. Cable was retained and the Raiders improved under his watch. They finished the season 8-8, the first time they have finished .500 or better since 2002, when the team went to the Super Bowl. Oakland was 6-0 against the AFC West this season.

On Sunday and Monday, Cable said he was elated about the progress the team has made and talked about its chances of improving in 2011. Apparently, Cable didn’t do enough to keep the job beyond this season.

What was Oakland looking for?

If the Raiders really thought they’d make the playoffs this season, they were fooling themselves. This season was all about making improvements and the Raiders met that goal under Cable.

Yes, the Raiders still have problems and yes, they were the most penalized team in the league this season. But Cable, who finished with a 17-27 record as Oakland's coach, wasn’t going to solve those issues overnight.

What kind of message does this send to the team?

The job will likely go to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson -- if he doesn’t go to the San Francisco 49ers first. You can’t deny Jackson’s impact on the team. But Cable also deserves credit.

He was a players' coach who was extremely enthusiastic. He was often too much of a cheerleader and he often bordered on being delusional about his team. But the Raiders bought in.

Throughout the season, players complimented Cable for giving the team fire and making it believe. During the past week, many Oakland players stood up for Cable. Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler said it would be a “shame” if Cable wasn’t brought back.

One of the biggest problems in Oakland has been the lack of stability. By moving away from Cable, the Raiders have compromised their continuity, even if Jackson becomes the coach. There will be more changes on this staff and there will be yet another adjustment period for the players. The Raiders will be hiring their sixth head coach since the start of the 2002 season.

I just don’t understand the timing. If Oakland owner Al Davis didn’t think Cable could lead Oakland to the playoffs, he should have just fired Cable a year ago, fresh off the Randy Hanson assault allegations.

I wonder if the Raiders really have a plan or if their 2010 progress came despite their front-office leadership. Cable will likely go back to being an offensive line coach in the league and the Raiders will continue to look for something only Davis can explain.

Raiders announce Cable firing

January, 4, 2011
The Oakland Raiders have formally announced that coach Tom Cable has been fired.

Here is the news release:
The Oakland Raiders will not extend the contract of Tom Cable for the position of Head Coach.

Cable was informed that his contract would not be extended on Tuesday.

Cable, whose contract expired at the conclusion of the 2010 season, posted a 17-27 regular season record as Head Coach of the Raiders. He served as offensive line coach for the Raiders from 2007-September 30, 2008, when he was named interim head coach.

The Raiders express gratitude to Tom Cable for his contributions in his four seasons as an assistant and as Head Coach of the Silver and Black.

Schefter: Raiders fire Tom Cable

January, 4, 2011
ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Oakland Raiders have fired coach Tom Cable.

The Raiders finished 8-8 under Cable this season. It was the first time they were at least .500 since 2002 when they went to the Super Bowl.

Cable’s fast firing could mean the Raiders will try to promote offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to head coach. The Raiders had given Bay Area rival San Francisco permission to talk to Jackson earlier Tuesday.

I will have more reaction later.

A coaching crossroads in Oakland

January, 4, 2011
Things could get interesting in Oakland.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the San Francisco 49ers have requested permission to interview Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson for their open head-coaching job.

I can tell you this: There is no way Oakland owner Al Davis will want to see his offensive coordinator go to Bay Area rival San Francisco. There is no way Davis could sit and watch Jackson resurrect the 49ers and have the entire Bay Area wonder how Davis let Jackson get away to the 49ers.

Schefter reported that Oakland coach Tom Cable is unlikely to return. Cable has done a nice job getting the Raiders to .500 for the first time in eight years. I have long thought the only way Cable will be fired is if Oakland promotes Jackson, who dramatically improved the Raiders’ offense in one season as offensive coordinator.

If Davis fears the 49ers will hire Jackson away, he could make the switch. I think that could be the case if Jackson gets a chance to be a head coach anywhere. But if a team like the 49ers or Denver made a move for Jackson, it could surely prompt Davis to make a change.

Chargers dump Steve Crosby

January, 3, 2011
During the season when San Diego's special teams was killing the Chargers, Norv Turner stood up for the unit's coach, Steve Crosby, and vowed he wouldn’t be fired during the season.

However, one day after the Chargers’ disappointing season ended, the team announced that Crosby’s contract will not be renewed for the 2011 season.

“We appreciate Steve’s hard work and dedication to this team over the past nine seasons,” Turner said in a statement released by the team.

It is not a surprise that Crosby was let go, but it is surprising that he was let go after the team stuck with him during a terrible stretch. The Chargers had major issues on special teams during the first 11 games of the season before settling down. Five of the Chargers’ seven losses were affected by major problems on special teams.

Earlier in the season, San Diego -- which had to deal with having five long snappers after a 17-year veteran David Binn was lost for the season on opening day -- the Chargers had every imaginable collapse on special teams, including having five punts blocked. Punter Mike Scrifres had one punt blocked in his previous six NFL seasons.

Still, Turner backed Crosby, saying the problems were due to players making plays and not because of Crosby's coaching. San Diego did improve in the area toward the end of the season but finished 9-7 and out of the playoffs for the first time since 2005.

San Diego led the NFL in total offense and defense, but its special teams issues helped undermine those accomplishments. In the end, it cost Crosby.

John Elway will come out swinging

January, 2, 2011
It is clear that John Elway is going to try to restore the luster of the Denver Broncos right away when he becomes the leader of the team’s football operations.

The most interesting part of Adam Schefter’s report that Elway has agreed to join the team -- a deal has been in the work for several weeks -- is that Elway will try to pursue Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh as head coach. Harbaugh is considered one of the top prizes available this offseason. He could also be pursued by his alma mater, Michigan.

Elway clearly has ties to Harbaugh. The former Stanford and Broncos star quarterback is going to be honorary captain for Stanford during the Orange Bowl on Monday. So, Elway will have plenty of time to make his pitch to Harbaugh.

Harbaugh is known as a motivator and as one of the bright, young offensive minds working today. The former NFL quarterback has a reputation as a quarterback guru, and that will be attractive to Denver, who has rookie quarterback Tim Tebow.

Denver’s target of Harbaugh means the Broncos will not be afraid to spend money to get the coach they want. The Denver Post reported that the team has reached a settlement with former coach Josh McDaniels, who was fired in December. That means Denver, which also owes former coach Mike Shanahan some money in 2011, may have more money to play with.

If will be interesting to see if Denver continues think big if it can’t hire Harbaugh. Big-name coaches such as Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden (who is a Tebow fan) may require more power than Harbaugh.

It is clear Elway is running this team with help from current general manager Brian Xanders.

Elway has to prove he can make the transition from superstar player to successful front-office type. Targeting Harbaugh shows Elway is going to have the same gun-slinging approach to running a team that he had running an offense.