By Pete Prisco, CBS Sports Senior Writer
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (CBS Sports) — If your idea of a good boss is a demanding, aging, meddlesome man who lives in the past and spends much of his time in a white or black sweat suit you’d expect to see from a mob man on the street corner, then the Oakland Raiders coaching job is just for you.
Some would say it’s the abyss, a position some coaches have actually shied away from pursuing for two big reasons.
Al and Davis.
Davis, the Raiders character of an owner, goes through coaches like he goes through hair gel: a lot. His constant interference has turned the Raiders job into a punch line to a joke for many.
You know, Commitment to Excrement.
So why then is Hue Jackson, the newest Raiders coach who takes over for Tom Cable, so excited about the job? Doesn’t he know that coaches like Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Lane Kiffin and many others have worked for Davis and left wondering if they worked for an NFL team or a madman stuck in the past?
The perception is the Raiders job simply isn’t a good one.
“I don’t believe that,” said Jackson during a break from NFL scouting combine duties in Indianapolis. “If someone said the Raiders head coaching job was open, there’d be a line from here all the way back to the hotel of people wanting to get this job. I don’t believe that for one second. It’s the Raiders. You work for Al Davis. You’re in Oakland, California. You’re in the AFC West. And it’s the Raiders. Come on?”
Jackson is in his first time as a head coach after 10 years as an NFL offensive assistant, including last season as Raiders coordinator. He said the excitement he shows isn’t just because he has the job. He means it. He referenced the story he told to John Wooten, the head of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, from three years ago. It went like this:
Jackson: “There’s one job I want. The Oakland Raiders.”
Wooten: “You have to be kidding me.”
Jackson: “I want that job.”
Wooten: “You mean to tell me you want to go out there and work with Mr. Davis in Oakland. Do you know what’s gone on there.”
Yes, the job is one of 32 in the league, which makes it attractive. But Davis calls the shots. He picks the players. He signs the players. He acts as a coach of sorts at times. The system is the Raiders way — speed, speed and more speed with a vertical passing game on offense and pressure on defense with man-press coverage in the secondary. Those are Davis staples, things he’s had his teams do since he was the coach back when the Beatles were still pop stars.
“We have some of the finest people in that organization ever, and I’m talking about Coach Davis,” Jackson said.
Coach Davis. That could be what sums up the problem right there. How many owners have Coach in front of their names? OK, besides Jerry Jones, who thinks it should be there.
“I can’t speak for the men before me, but my relationship with Coach Davis is probably different than everybody else,” Jackson said. “There are 32 of these jobs. And the owners are the owners. It’s their football team. I have great respect for that. Coach Davis is a resource for me. Not just talking about who we want to draft.
“This guy knows football. I can sit down and have a conversation about the power play, about the gap play, about the zone play. That’s different. That’s not putting down any of the owners I worked for, but he was a coach in this league. He understands the daily grind our players go through week in and week out. All the stories you hear about this, that and the other. I haven’t experience it yet. When it does come, I’ll deal with that too.”
Notice the word when. It’s coming. We all know it. That’s who Davis is — like him or not.
Just win, baby? How about just butt in, baby?
The one thing that will appease Davis is winning. And the Raiders might be on the verge. Oakland hasn’t won a Super Bowl since the 1983 season, back when Davis’ slicked-back hair might have actually been in style. The last time the Raiders won the division was in 2002, but they finished 8-8 last season and 6-0 in the division under Cable.
“I think our players walked away with a lot of confidence in our division because we did play well in division games,” Jackson said.
The key going forward will be the growth of the quarterback. Davis has always preferred a passer who could get the ball down the field. Jason Campbell had his moments doing that last season, but there are still doubts.
Jackson said he thinks he’s good enough.
“I think the last half of the season he did a tremendous job leading our team,” Jackson said. “And making big-time plays. I expect him to take us where we want to go.”
It had better be where Davis wants them go. He’s gone through 10 coaches since 1987 — nine if you count Art Shell twice — chasing the Super dream again.
It’s about time Commitment to Excrement becomes Commitment to Excellence again.
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