AFC West: Paul Hackett

Is Oakland's staff taking shape?

January, 25, 2011
The Oakland Tribune has some insight into the Oakland Raiders’ coaching search.

The newspaper passes along two names for the open defensive coordinator position -- former Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan and Jacksonville assistant Joe Cullen. Bresnahan worked with new Oakland coach Hue Jackson -- who is in Mobile, Alabama scouting the Senior Bowl this week – in Cincinnati.

Cullen would be an interesting hire. He is reconstructing both his life and his career after two alcohol-related issues while he was coaching in Detroit five years ago. Here’s an interesting story on Cullen’s recovery.

As expected, some coaches are not returning to Oakland’s staff including veteran quarterback coaches Paul Hackett and Ted Tollner. It’s not surprising. This offense will totally revolve around Jackson, last year’s offensive coordinator. He will call plays in Oakland.

The Senior Bowl is traditionally where teams add to their coaching staff. So, it’s possible Jackson could conduct some interviews while at the Senior Bowl. Oakland could also be waiting for the Super Bowl to be played to add to their staff. Potential defensive coordinator candidates could be Green Bay assistants Mike Trgovac and Winston Moss, who has interviewed in Oakland in the past.
While I believe Matt Leinart isn’t the perfect fit in Oakland because of its current quarterback setup, there are connections between the lame duck Arizona quarterback and the Silver and Black that shows why Oakland has considered him:

Chuck Price, one of Leinart’s agents, has long told the story of Oakland owner Al Davis calling Leinart days after the 2006 draft. Even though Davis took safety Michael Huff at No.7 (Leinart went to the Cardinals at No. 10), Price said Davis told Leinart how much he admired the quarterback and his game.

Oakland assistant Paul Hackett recruited Leinart to USC and the two have a good relationship. Perhaps a reunion would ignite Leinart.

Oakland personnel man Keith Rowan was Leinart’s first NFL offensive coordinator. Rowan picked up Leinart at the Phoenix Airport after he arrived from the NFL draft. Rowan was around Leinart when he was an ascending player and probably still believes in him, which would be important to Leinart moving forward.

Leinart grew up a Raiders’ fan in Southern California. We all know Davis loves Raiders’ fans.

If Oakland were to make a serious push for Leinart, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Arizona asked for backup Bruce Gradkowski in return because they’d need a backup. I'm not sure what Oakland would do in that case.

Here is another AFC West thought: If the Cardinals are looking for a quarterback in return for Leinart, perhaps they’d be interested in Kansas City’s Brodie Croyle. Kansas City head coach Todd Haley coached Leinart in Arizona. Haley has been complimentary of Croyle and I don’t know if he’d find that trade prudent.

But it is clear the AFC West could play a role in Leinart because of past connections, whether it makes perfect sense or not.

UPDATE: The Raiders deny Schefter’s report. The Raiders said they are happy with their current quarterback group. This serves as a nice stance of support for Gradkowski and Boller.

Gruden supports Russell

June, 3, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden -- who will be part of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast team -- chimed in on the quarterback situation in Oakland on SIRIUS NFL Radio.

Gruden believes the Raiders need to go with JaMarcus Russell instead of Jeff Garcia to start the season.

"I think they gotta go with JaMarcus Russell," Gruden said. "He's the No. 1 pick in the draft. They've added Paul Hackett who I think is an outstanding coach. He's a tremendous quarterbacks coach. No one talks about the addition of Paul Hackett. I think he's going to really reach out and help JaMarcus Russell. But they've got a lot invested in him. This is only his third season. This is the time where JaMarcus Russell has to explode onto the scene. Hopefully [Darren] McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, some of his young support system, can help him, because he does have great ability throwing the football."

Garcia played for Gruden in Tampa Bay last season. He belives Garcia will give Russell competition, which will only help the youngster.

"(Garcia is) premier competitor and I think that's the No. 1 criteria that you have to have to survive in the NFL at that position," Gruden said. "You have to be a premier competitor. Garcia is that. And if you look at Jeff's career in the history of this game, he protects the ball as good or better than anybody that's ever played. He's one of the top four or five all-time in not turning the football over. And I think that's one thing that Jeff Garcia always brings to you, is a guy that will protect the football. It might frustrate you at times."

Coach on the spot: Oakland

May, 7, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Oakland coach on the spot: Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett.

It is all about JaMarcus Russell in Oakland. Sure, the Raiders have more issues than just at quarterback, but it is the team's biggest concern. If the Raiders are going to end a six-year slump, it will be because Russell makes strides in 2009. He is entering his third season in the NFL and his second season as a starter.

Russell has been inconsistent and has yet to show he can be a winning quarterback in the NFL. This is where Hackett comes in. He has a long history of successfully working with quarterbacks both in the NFL and in the college ranks.

He must help Russell take the next step in 2009. If not, don't expect the Raiders to regain their winning ways.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Inspired by a similar post by NFC West blogger Mike Sando, we are going to look at the 10 most important assistant coaching positions in the AFC West early in the offseason, heading into the 2009 season:

Ron Rivera, defensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers: Rivera's promotion to defensive coordinator from inside linebackers coach last season sparked the Chargers. Many players attributed Rivera's promotion, after the firing of Ted Cottrell, to the team's turnaround and playoff run. With Rivera in charge of the San Diego defense all season, the Chargers have a chance to avoid an early-season stumble that affected them the past two seasons. If San Diego's defense is in high gear all season, it will be difficult to beat in the division.

Mike Nolan, defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos: The Broncos are San Diego's closest competition at this point. But the only way Denver will challenge for the division is if its defense improves dramatically. Nolan, the former San Francisco head coach, is in charge of that task. The Broncos want to run a 3-4 defense, but they will have to find the personnel to do so. If Nolan can change this defense around, Denver has a chance.

Rick Dennison, run offense coordinator; Bobby Turner, running backs coach, Denver Broncos: Dennison and Turner are a package deal. They perfected former Denver coach Mike Shanahan's vaunted run offense. It was critical that new Denver coach Josh McDaniels keep Dennison and Turner. Now, Denver doesn't have to change its run offense and its usual success on the ground should continue.

Ted Tollner, offensive coordinator, Oakland Raiders: The longtime college and NFL veteran coach needs to establish the running game better than the Raiders did last season. The Raiders have excellent running backs. The run game has to be more of a focus under Tollner.

Unnamed, defensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs haven't announced who will be the defensive coordinator under new coach Todd Haley, but this unit needs a new direction. It has to be much more aggressive. Kansas City set a record for the fewest sacks in NFL history with 10 in 2008. If the Chiefs are going to improve, the Chiefs need a quick turnaround on defense.

Paul Hackett, quarterbacks coach, Oakland Raiders: Hackett needs to develop quarterback JaMarcus Russell. He is entering his second season a starter and has been slow to develop. Hackett is a respected quarterback coach. Russell needs to make strides now and it is up to Hackett to make it happen.

Unnamed, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs: Haley may call the plays, but the Chiefs need a strong offensive coordinator. The Chiefs aren't bad on offense, but it needs to score a lot of points to make up for a porous defense.

Rob Chudzinski: assistant head coach/tight ends coach, San Diego Chargers: The former Cleveland offensive coordinator returns to San Diego where he will be coach Norv Turner's right-hand man. Chudzinski will be an in-game sounding board for Turner and should be very valuable.

John Marshall, defensive coordinator, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders' defense has some talent, but it also gave up a lot of points and was blown out often in 2008. Marshall, an NFL veteran, needs to bring balance and consistency to this group if Oakland is going to improve.

Unnamed, quarterbacks coach, Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs will likely have a good quarterback and whoever is Haley's quarterbacks coach will have a task of bringing the youngster along quickly.

Cable's key is Russell

February, 4, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Here is Tom Cable's most important challenge ahead of him: Quarterback JaMarcus Russell.


If Cable is to somehow buck Al Davis' trend of firing the head coach after a short stint, he will need to make Russell a legitimate quarterback.

It is a quarterback league, and with young standout quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Jay Cutler in the AFC West, Russell will need to make big strides if the Raiders are to become relevant. Russell was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft and has made very little progress. He has showed signs of being a difference-making quarterback, but he still has a long way to go.

During a December game in which San Diego blew out the Raiders, NFL Network commentator Cris Collinsworth said the Raiders needed to hire a quarterback guru to help develop Russell.

Cable's area of concentration is on the offensive line. He has hired Paul Hackett and may be close to brining in Ted Tollner. Hackett and Tollner are both veteran quarterback coaches so their presence will help.

Russell will need the tutelage. If he is going to become a standout quarterback, he will need better teaching than he has received so far. This is Cable's biggest job and his biggest chance to succeed in Oakland.

AFC West news and notes

January, 29, 2009
Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Star looks at the first 15 days of the Scott Pioli era. The Chiefs' new boss is trying to figure out who his new coach will be. Speculation around the league continues to center around Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley who will be available to interview after Sunday's Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes stuck up for San Diego linebacker Matt Wilhelm, who gave him a high five after his punt return for a touchdown against San Diego in the playoffs. Holmes said it was just one college teammate reaching out to another. Holmes and Wilhelm went to Ohio State.

The Oakland Tribune is reporting that new quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett could potentially end up the team's offensive coordinator. Al Saunders is also a candidate to join what is expected to be Tom Cable's staff.

The word around the league is that Detroit may soon talk to former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist about a position. Sundquist was a finalist for the Kansas City general manager's job that went to Pioli.

AFC West news and notes

January, 28, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

• The Oakland Tribune figures that the only reason interim coach Tom Cable hasn't been named the permanent head coach in Oakland is because he hasn't signed a contract. Still, as reported earlier Wednesday, Cable is expected to become the coach.

The Oakland Tribune also reported that Paul Hackett will be the team's quarterbacks coach. Hackett joined the team last summer so he knows Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell's tendencies. Hackett has a good history of working with quarterbacks and he should be able to help Russell develop.

• The Kansas City Star takes a look at the Larry Johnson situation. I still believe this thing ends with Johnson leaving town. I get the feeling not only does Johnson want out of Kansas City but the Chiefs are not in disagreement with him on that. That situation should come to a head in the next month or so.

• The Denver Post is reporting assistant special teams coach and former Denver player Keith Burns is being retained by new coach Josh McDaniels.

Raiders make coaching list

December, 30, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Raiders, who in the past have waited until February before hiring a new coach, been have given indications that they will decide much quicker on who will be the team's head coach in 2009.

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the team is, indeed, moving along. Among the names the paper is saying will be pursued include Kevin Gilbride -- who ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Monday will be pursued heavily by the team -- Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Raiders scout Paul Hackett. Interim coach Tom Cable is also expected to be considered. This is a very believable list.

They are all offensive-first coaches and that is owner Al Davis' top priority when hiring a coach. His last 11 head coaches were offensive-minded coaches. Plus, developing quarterback JaMarcus Russell will be a major part of the job.

There is a faction around the league that believes Gilbride is Davis' top choice, but if he doesn't show interest, Davis could turn to Cable. The Raiders won their final two games with Cable, who was 4-8 as the Raiders' interim head coach. Several players, including Russell, have endorsed him for the full-time job.

Harbaugh's name has been connected to the job for months. He has a relationship with Davis and he would be a good sell in the Bay Area because of the rebuilding job he has done at Stanford. Hackett is a veteran coach who knows the Raiders' personnel after being with the team for the season.

Posted by'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.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Raiders have discussed bringing in longtime college and NFL coach Paul Hackett. He could join the team, likely in a consultant role, soon.

Hackett was last on Jon Gruden's staff in Tampa Bay and worked with Monte Kiffin, the father of Raiders' coach Lane Kiffin there. Hackett, an offensive minded coach, was also the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh and at USC.

If Hackett does join Oakland, it will not hurt the Raiders for sure. With several young pieces on the offense, another set of eyes and ears will not hurt.