NFL Nation: Chuck Bresnahan

What faces Reggie McKenzie

January, 6, 2012
Green Bay Packers executive Reggie McKenzie is expected to start his new job next week as the first general manager of the Oakland Raiders in the post-Al Davis era.

He is taking over a unique situation.

Unlike most teams that hire a new general manager, the Raiders’ focus will be on improving the current team rather than implementing wholesale roster changes.

The keys for the Raiders -- who are coming off back-to-back 8-8 season and is tied for the longest playoff drought in the NFL -- is better play by quarterback Carson Palmer, the healthy return of running back Darren McFadden and improved play on defense.

Assuming McKenzie sticks with Hue Jackson as coach -- there have been rumblings Jackson could be in trouble (a longshot) -- the Raiders’ first order of business will likely be hiring a defensive coordinator. Chuck Bresnahan and some members of his staff are expected to be fired.

Perhaps McKenzie will try to bring a Green Bay assistant such as Darren Perry or Winston Moss with him, although the head coach usually plays a major role in hiring his assistants.

The Raiders have some free agents to address, including running back Michael Bush and safety Tyvon Branch. With Bush likely getting interest as a starter elsewhere, McKenzie may have to decide whether it gives Bush the franchise tag or let him walk.

It is going to be a quiet draft season for McKenzie as the Raiders currently only have fifth and sixth-round picks. They should also get two or three compensatory picks, yet none will be higher than the No. 97 pick near the end of the third round.

While McKenzie may not make a bunch of first-year splashes in Oakland, his team doesn’t really need more than some tweaking and in-house improvements.
There will be change in San Diego after all.

Two days after San Diego ownership made the controversial decision to keep coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith, the team fired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after one season, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. There will likely be other tweaking on the staff.

[+] EnlargeGreg Manusky
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireGreg Manusky lasted just one season as defensive coordinator in San Diego.
This is no surprise.

It had long been thought that if Turner did survive, Manusky wouldn’t. In San Diego, the hiring of Manusky was considered the biggest mistake the team made in 2011 along with allowing running back Darren Sproles to leave and go to New Orleans as a free agent.

Manusky’s defense never caught fire. Last year, the Chargers were the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL under coordinator Ron Rivera., who left to become the head coach in Carolina. However, San Diego’s defense fell to 16th under Manusky.

Manusky, a former San Diego linebackers coach, promised an aggressive defense, but it never developed.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports linebackers coach John Pagano is a favorite to replace Manusky. Pagano reportedly was in line to become the defensive coordinator at UCLA. This opportunity would very likely sway that decision.

Another name to keep an eye on is secondary coach Steve Wilks. He is a player favorite who has drawn comparison to Rivera for his style. Wilks was brought to San Diego by Rivera.

Expect San Diego to stick with the 3-4 defense. The next defensive coordinator will be Turner’s fourth in his six seasons in San Diego. Ted Cottrell was fired midway through the 2008 season.

Whoever the new coordinator will be, improvements will be needed in San Diego. The Chargers need some pass-rushing linebackers, a starting safety and backups at cornerback. Expect improving the defense to be a focal point of the offseason. The move Thursday was just the first step.

Meanwhile, there will likely be three new defensive coordinators in the AFC West. Oakland is expected to fire Chuck Bresnahan. A new defensive coordinator will be brought into Kansas City regardless of whether Romeo Crennel is given the head-coaching job.

Raiders regular-season wrap-up

January, 4, 2012
NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 17
Preseason Power Ranking: 22

[+] EnlargeOakland's Denarius Moore
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREThe athleticism of Denarius Moore is a big reason why hopes will be high for Oakland's offense next season.
Biggest surprise: The Raiders’ young receivers emerged. The group is a bright spot of the team and will be a strong building block for the future. Quarterback Carson Palmer, 32, may have his flaws, but he still has a big arm and the Raiders can make some plays in the passing game. Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick in 2009, is one of the most improved players in the NFL. He had 64 catches for 975 yards this season. He had 35 catches in his first 26 NFL games. Add fabulous rookie Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Louis Murphy, and this is one of the best young receiving crews in the league.

Biggest disappointment: Poor defensive play. The Raiders have one of the more perplexing defenses in the NFL. The unit has plenty of talent, but they didn’t play well together. Oakland gave up way too many big plays on defense. It ranked near the bottom of the league in several defensive statistics and faltered down the stretch, including Sunday in a home loss to San Diego in a game in which the Raiders could have clinched the division title. It will not be a shock if defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan is sent packing. Oakland also could consider becoming a 3-4 defense.

Biggest need: There is a lot of talent on this team. There are areas where improvement is needed, including cornerback, linebacker and on the offensive line. I’d say a top cornerback would be the Raiders’ biggest need, although safety Michael Huff is reportedly moving to cornerback. They missed Nnamdi Asomugha, who signed with Philadelphia as a free agent. Stanford Routt is a nice player, but he’s not a top-flight No. 1 cornerback. If Huff does move, safety becomes a big need. The Raiders will likely have to address most of their needs through free agency, since they don’t have many draft picks.

Team MVP: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski. There were some nice performances by many Raiders this season, but Janikowski was dominant. He has the strongest leg in the league and he has become deadly accurate. He is a true weapon. Janikowski tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in Week 1. He made 31 of 35 field goal attempts and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 12-year career.

What will the future leadership look like?: Much of the offseason will be dedicated to regrouping the front office after the death of owner Al Davis. He died at the age of 82 on Oct. 8. Now that the season is over, Oakland can move on. There have been plenty of reports linking the Raiders to general manager candidates, including Reggie McKenzie and Eliot Wolf of Green Bay. Sunday, in an angry postgame press conference, Oakland coach Hue Jackson vowed to take a bigger role in the organization. That could turn off potential general managers. Jackson is expected to have his share of power, but some of the top front-office candidates may not be interested in sharing power with a young coach.
Don’t look now, but we may actually have some coaching stability in the AFC West.

It had appeared that Denver Broncos coach John Fox -- who was hired, last January -- would be the longest-tenured coach in the division (Fox was hired days before Oakland Raiders hired Hue Jackson). However, the San Diego Chargers' surprise decision to keep Norv Turner for a sixth season may mean it will be a quiet year on the head-coaching front in the division.

The remaining question is with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, it would be a major upset if interim coach Romeo Crennel isn’t kept. The Chiefs went 2-1, including a win over the 15-1 Green Bay Packers, in the three games Crennel was the coach after Todd Haley was fired. The Chiefs’ brass likes Crennel and he is revered by Kansas City’s players. It would be a shock if he isn’t given the permanent job soon.

There will likely be come coordinator movement. San Diego defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan both may be on the chopping block and Crennel will likely make some new hires if he gets the job. Oakland is also expected to look at general manager candidates.

So, there will be some movement this month in the AFC West, but perhaps not on the head-coaching front.
Hue JacksonKirby Lee/US PresswireIt was an emotional win for Hue Jackson and the Oakland Raiders a day after owner Al Davis died.
Al Davis always relished being the man the NFL loved to hate.

Being the leader of the marauding Silver and Black drove Davis until his death Saturday at age 82. For Davis and his team, it has always been us against the world. He wouldn’t want it any other way.

However, a day after his death, Davis’ Raiders are far from the most hated team in sports. Whether or not Davis would approve of the outside support, the Raiders are the feel-good story of the sports world.

The emotional scene on the Oakland sideline following an ugly and perhaps unlikely -- Just win, baby -- victory in Houston on Sunday has to be the most memorable moment of the NFL season to date, and the Raiders’ 25-20 win is arguably the most emotional regular-season victory in the history of the storied franchise Davis ran from 1963 until his death.

As soon as Houston quarterback Matt Schaub inexplicably threw a pass right into the hands of Oakland safety Michael Huff instead of walking into the end zone from inside Oakland’s 5-yard line on the game’s final play -- a sign that the football gods were shining on one of the game’s premier innovators -- Oakland’s sideline broke out in raw emotion.

First-year Raiders coach Hue Jackson -- who respectfully referred to his boss as “Coach Davis” -- immediately embraced defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan and the two clung onto each other tightly for several moments. Jackson then fell to his knees and put his head in his hands, clearly overcome with emotion.

It had been an incredibly trying 24-plus hours for the Raiders, who traveled without their owner from Oakland on Friday night. The Raiders’ players awoke Saturday to a team meeting in which Jackson informed them of Davis’ death.

The Raiders spent the rest of the weekend processing the news and trying to prepare to face Houston. Prior to the game, Jackson told his players that the Raiders were Davis’ life, that the team was what Davis lived for. With a sticker honoring Davis on the backs of their helmets, the Raiders fought their way to a victory that had to put a smile on the face of anyone who knows the history of the NFL and Davis’ place as one of the modern game’s most influential people.

This joyful story might last a while. Coming out of a difficult stretch in which they played the Jets, Patriots and Texans, the Raiders are 3-2 and heading into an easy stretch of their season. Oakland has three consecutive home games, all very winnable -- it hosts Cleveland and Kansas City before the bye week, then hosts Denver. There is no reason why Oakland shouldn’t head into the second half of the season very much in the playoff mix -- a mix from which the Raiders have been absent for nine seasons.

The Raiders sold out for this win. They overcame major penalties; they relied on trick plays and bent but didn’t break on defense. It was so fitting that two of Davis’ most questioned first-round picks in recent memory -- kicker Sebastian Janikowski and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey -- were factors.

As the Raiders fly home from this game and prepare for a likely memorial service, they can rejoice, knowing they would have made Davis proud.

The Davis story will continue. There will be questions of leadership. Raiders CEO Amy Trask said the team will remain in the Davis family, as Davis’ widow, Carol, and son, Mark (who was in attendance Sunday), will run the team. It has been reported that the family probably will hire a general manager down the road, leaving Mark Davis and Jackson to make personnel decision for now. Speculation that former coach John Madden may help the team move away from the Al Davis era has already surfaced. There a lot of questions in Oakland. On Sunday, though, all that mattered was that the Raiders won. In Al Davis’ world, that’s all that ever mattered.

AFC West notes

August, 4, 2011
The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that free-agent receiver Malcom Floyd is close to signing with Baltimore. The Chargers do not want to overpay for Floyd. They did sign Laurent Robinson, who had 34 catches last year. He isn’t a replacement for Floyd, but he will be in the rotation whether Floyd is back or not.
  • The Raiders signed linebacker Darryl Blackstock. He hasn’t played in the NFL in three years. He played for new Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan in the UFL. It’s a low-risk look-see. Why not?
  • ESPN’s John Clayton reported that the Chiefs worked out running back Jason Snelling before signing Le’Ron McClain. It is clear the Chiefs were looking for someone to eat-up some carries.
  • Denver coach John Fox said defensive end Elvis Dumervil has looked outstanding in camp. He missed all of last season with a pectoral injury he suffered early in camp.
  • Denver rookie tight end Julius Thomas is catching on quickly. The fourth-round pick played one year of college football after playing college basketball. He is a project, but he is showing that he belongs in the NFL.

Raiders back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Raiders should be able to get going quickly. Yes, they have a new coach in Hue Jackson, but he was the team’s offensive coordinator last season and there won’t be much change. New defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan isn't familiar with the current roster, but he is a former Oakland defensive coordinator, so he knows the system and has worked with Jackson in the past. New offensive coordinator Al Saunders has worked with quarterback Jason Campbell in Washington. This team should be able to get in sync quickly. More than 30 players participated in a four-day camp in Georgia in late May, which was led by Campbell and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

Biggest challenge: The Raiders have several key unrestricted free agents, including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, safety Michael Huff, tight end Zach Miller and guard Robert Gallery. The Raiders could be facing salary-cap restrictions because they re-signed several prospective free agents before the lockout. They could be missing some key players. Also, the offensive line is in flux and must come together quickly.

Campbell has to be ready: Campbell is a free agent after the season and has to have a productive season to prove he can be the answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future. He had an up-and-down season in 2010, but finished strong and has the backing of Jackson. Still, I would have liked to have seen Campbell get some offseason time with his coach.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Asomugha, Huff, Miller, Gallery.

Raiders stay in-house for DC

March, 7, 2011
The mystery is over.

The Oakland Raiders have named a defensive coordinator.

The winner is Chuck Bresnahan, who was formerly the defensive coordinator in Oakland and in Cincinnati. Bresnahan and new Oakland head coach Hue Jackson worked together in Cincinnati. Bresnahan was the defensive coordinator when Oakland had success early in the previous decade.

[+] EnlargeOakland's Chuck Bresnahan
Scott A. Miller/US PRESSWIREThe Raiders made Chuck Bresnahan their defensive coordinator on Monday.
Bresnahan replaces John Marshall, who was not brought back.

Earlier Monday, we discussed Oakland’s defensive coordinator situation, which dragged out. It had long been expected that Bresnahan was the likely defensive coordinator candidate if the Raiders stayed in-house for their coordinator. When Bresnahan was hired earlier this offseason, he was not given a specific role. He was simply referred to as a “defensive coach.” He held that role until the Raiders promoted him Monday evening.

The Raiders were linked to several assistants from around the league, but in the end, they get a defensive leader who is familiar to both Oakland owner Al Davis and Jackson.

Bresnahan is a fiery coach who is known for being a strong teacher and for being very aggressive. The defensive coaching staff is highlighted by former Raiders’ defenders Greg Biekert and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. Biekert is the linebackers coach and Woodson is the cornerbacks coach.

I think what’s important to remember here is that Bresnahan has been in Oakland for several weeks and he’s been watching film and working toward the future. So, while Monday’s appointment was late, Bresnahan has been hard at work for awhile.

Now, the next key is to see if Bresnahan's defense will feature start cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who will be the most sought-after free agents on the market when free agency begins.

Talking with Hue Jackson

February, 24, 2011
INDIANAPOLIS -- Random thoughts from Hue Jackson’s media sessions at the NFL combine:

Jackson said he isn’t sure if he is going to hire a defensive coordinator. He said he will look at candidates, but he also said he likes his current defensive staff. There is a chance Chuck Bresnahan could be named the coordinator.

Jackson said he is ultimately the offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coach.

Jackson said that he is excited about his new staff and he thinks it’s going to be one of the best staffs in the NFL. He is particularly excited about having former Raiders Steve Wisniewski, Rod Woodson and Greg Biekert on the staff.

Jackson's eyes lit up when asked about Wisniewski’s nephew, Stefan Wisniewski. It is clear Jackson will consider taking the Penn State center/guard.

Jackson said he expects big things from second-year receiver Jacoby Ford. It's obvious Ford will be a starter. Jackson praised the Raiders’ young receiving crew and he said he is not sure the team needs a veteran receiver.

Jackson was asked about pursuing Cincinnati’s Chad Ochocinco. Jackson was careful not to break any league tampering rules and he said he couldn’t address Ochocinco. Yet, he did say the two were close.

Once again, Jackson pumped up quarterback Jason Campbell and said he believes Campbell can lead the Raiders to the playoffs.

Jackson said the Raiders will remain a 4-3 defense, but because they have so many defenders who are good fits for the 3-4, he said multiple sets will be used.

Jackson said he will continue to move toward being a power-blocking run team; the team will still use some zone-blocking schemes.

Jackson said he has been in touch with running back Michael Bush since his arrest for a DUI. He said Bush is doing well.

As he has been known to do, Jackson gushed about Oakland owner Al Davis. He said he doesn’t foresee any potential issues working for Davis and said he often picks Davis’ brain.