Commentary

Choice is simple for Davis: Fassel or Green

In his search for the next Raiders coach, Al Davis will need to turn to someone who knows him and accepts his ways, John Clayton writes.

Originally Published: October 9, 2008
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Jim Fassel and Dennis GreenGetty ImagesFormer NFL head coaches Jim Fassel and Dennis Green both know Raiders owner Al Davis and understand how to work in his environment.
Even though times are tough now, Al Davis has a long history of successes.

He set up a player-friendly franchise that for decades was known for being able to recruit some of the top athletes in the sport. A former NFL head coach, Davis always had a great eye for young assistant coaches. He spotted the talents of Jon Gruden, Sean Payton, Ken Whisenhunt and many other bright young offensive minds well before they became head-coaching commodities.

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As he ponders new head-coaching choices for the Oakland Raiders after a season in which he dumped Lane Kiffin after four games, Davis has two choices. He could rely on his coaching eye again and try to find the next among the best and the brightest. Or he could go for a sure thing. To my way of thinking, Davis has no choice. He either hires Dennis Green or Jim Fassel or he fails. The solution is simple.

The Raiders' years of failure and turmoil will make it hard to recruit good young coaches. Davis won't have any problem getting bright young coaches to talk to him. Who wouldn't talk to a Hall of Fame icon? The problem will be getting someone to accept the job. Davis doesn't like to pay top dollar for young coaches, and young coaches will be scared off by the lack of a strong front office and how Davis still makes major decisions. Only those who know Davis and accept those ways would be willing to take the job.

The other problem facing Davis is the way he deliberates. He doesn't make decisions quickly. He'll keep the Raiders assistants who are under contract on hold until he finds a replacement, and then let them know about their futures. Davis prefers to interview slowly. He'll use the Senior Bowl in late January as a time to talk to candidates. He'll carry the process into Super Bowl week, and maybe longer. That would mean Tom Cable would be dangling as an interim candidate, and the organization would be stuck in neutral until February.

This franchise needs to move forward, and it needs to move forward fast. That's why Green or Fassel should be interviewed and hired as soon as the season concludes. Why waste time? They are Davis' only true choices. Either would be willing to accept the position for the right money and the chance to bring back one of the best brand names in sports. Each coach has been a winner. Each coach has a defined style of leadership. Each coach knows Al and understands how to work in his environment.

The Raiders and Davis can't afford to experiment. Too much is at stake. Davis admitted last week he's entering into lease negotiations in Oakland. Raiders fans are frustrated. Green or Fassel would be a simple solution. Davis doesn't have to make this too complicated.

John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer