Purported 49ers coaching front-runner Hue Jackson has Bay Area history

Hue Jackson went 8-8 in 2011, his only season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Jason O. Watson/US Presswire

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson appears to be the front-runner for landing the San Francisco 49ers' head coaching job, so long as he nails his interview today.

And while Jackson would breathe fresh life into the 49ers' stagnant and No. 31-ranked offense, as well as inject a healthy dose of personality into a franchise in dire need of a facelift, I am reminded of how he lit up the sky the last time he was a head coach before flaming out like some iridescent comet.

Buyer beware? Maybe, maybe not.

I covered the Oakland Raiders when for one season as head coach Jackson was equal parts brilliant offensive showman and shameless self-promoter, a coaching personality who entertained the denizens of Silver and Blackdom while providing hope for an anxious fan base.

Yeah, Hue Jack City was big in the East Bay -- from Jackson talking of his Irish coffees and mani-pedi routine to calm himself before games to his personality spawning a rap song and video -- and the Raiders responded. Jackson had injury-prone running back Darren McFadden playing at an MVP level before an injury ended his season.

And when Al Davis died, with the Raiders sitting at 2-2, Jackson became the team's de facto general manager, engineering the huge trades for linebacker Aaron Curry and Carson Palmer and adding T.J. Houshmandzadeh to an unreceptive receiving corps.

Of course, owner Mark Davis had to give his stamp of approval.

But with the Raiders 7-4, the wheels fell off. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain was arrested for allegedly firing a gun next to a man's head back home in Alabama during a mid-week visit for what he said was a grandfather's funeral. McClain's goofy mugging smile for the camera as he was placed into the back of a police car spoke volumes as the Raiders prepared for a big game at the Miami Dolphins.

Jackson, to show strength, would bench McClain, right? No. Because after sitting out a few plays, McClain assumed his usual role, and the Raiders were rolled.

Karmic comeuppance? Jackson losing the team? A thin roster being exposed?

Whatever the case, the Raiders lost four of their final five games, including two winnable games at home to the Detroit Lions, who went 98 yards late in the game and scored when somehow McClain was defending Calvin Johnson on a deep route, and the season finale to the San Diego Chargers, with the division title on the line.

It was after that game when Jackson blew a gasket. He usually took his time getting to his postgame media conference, showering and putting on a suit. This time? He came straight from the locker room to the dais.

"To say I'm pissed off is an understatement," he said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it .... I'm pissed at the team ... this team needs an attitude adjustment. What I mean by that, the killer instinct has got to exist here."

Jackson added that he was going to be even more involved the next year.

"Let me tell you something, I'm going take a stronger hand in this whole team, this whole organization," he said. "There ain't no way that I'm going to feel like I feel today a year from now. I promise you that. There's no question.

"Defensively, offensively and special teams. I ain't feeling like this no more. This is a joke. To have a chance at home to beat a football team that is reeling ... is one of your rivals, and come in and beat us like that? Yeah, I'm going to take a hand in everything that goes on here."

Many wondered if Jackson, quick with a smile, was simply showing his true colors, or if the stress of the job finally got to him. But a day later, a more measured Jackson showed his cards again.

"The year is over now; now I can tell you what I really feel, and what's really on my mind," he said.

He wanted to be involved in the hiring of the new general manager. No dice. He wanted to work with Reggie McKenzie. No way. McKenzie fired Jackson because he wanted his own "guy" as coach and Jackson went back to the Bengals.

Four years later, you'd have to assume Jackson learned from his earlier East Bay experience that began with so much fire and brimstone and offensive fireworks and bluster and ended with a thud. How might it translate in a new Bay Area existence with the 49ers?