Shell has return engagement as Raiders coach
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Al Davis had grown sick of watching his rivals beat up on the Oakland Raiders, outplaying, outcoaching and even out-toughing his team.
The swagger that once made the Raiders the NFL's most intimidating team and contributed so much to his mantras of "Commitment to Excellence" and "Just Win Baby" had long left the franchise.
After suffering through three straight losing seasons for the first time since joining the franchise more than four decades ago, Davis reached back into the past to try to restore that aura.
Davis introduced Art Shell as his new coach Saturday, bringing back his former Hall of Fame offensive lineman and head coach to turn his struggling organization around.
"It may take us a short while, but we'll get that nastiness of the Raiders back," Davis said. "That's one of the reasons I'm going to depend on the great Art Shell to help us get that done."
Davis admitted Shell was the team's second choice after Louisville coach Bobby Petrino turned down an offer. And Shell will have a tough job ahead of him.
The Raiders have won just 13 games the past three seasons, including only one against division rivals Denver, Kansas City and San Diego in coach Norv Turner's two years at the helm.
Davis talked about how much the Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers hate the Raiders and he wants a coach who can instill the importance of that rivalry into his players. Shell is ready for the challenge.
"When you walk out there, when you into that stadium, you walk out there with a presence. Mr. Davis called it a swagger," Shell said. "I just want to get back to the point where when we walk into a stadium, they know the Raiders are in town. And when we walk into the Coliseum, the Raiders are here. ... We've got to create that attitude, and that's what I expect to do."
Shell hasn't been a head coach since the Raiders fired him following the 1994 season and hasn't worked on the sidelines at all since leaving his job as an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons five years ago.
Even though he has spent the last five years in the NFL office, Shell is confident the game has not passed him by. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is staying with the team and Shell will have to hire an offensive coordinator after Jimmy Raye left to take a job with the New York Jets.
Shell's style will be a familiar one, harkening back to the Raiders' glory years.
"Everybody has a way of doing things. The Raiders have a way of doing things. We're about winning. And we will win," Shell said. "We will be tough. We will be power. And I want the ability, as always to strike from anywhere on the field. That's important to me."
He has the personnel to do that with a strong-armed quarterback in Kerry Collins and one of the game's best deep threats in Randy Moss. The Raiders still have to decide whether to stick with Collins, who will count $12.9 million against the salary cap next season. Turner's inability to maximize Moss' ability played a big role in his failure as coach.
One of the biggest areas of improvement needed for the Raiders is at offensive line. The team averaged only 3.8 yards per carry, allowed 45 sacks and committed far too many penalties from the offensive live.
That's Shell's strength. He played in eight Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls in his superb career. He coached the lines for the Raiders, Chiefs and Falcons, winning another Super Bowl with the Raiders and helping Atlanta get to one as well.
"I'm excited about having a coach. I'm even more excited having a former Raiders player as coach," linebacker Danny Clark said in a phone interview. "He has been in that locker room, played for that owner and knows what it's like to be in silver and black."
Davis said he has "never forgiven myself" for firing Shell. He has gone through five coaches in 11 seasons since firing Shell, possibly scaring some candidates away from the job.
Shell had a 54-38 regular-season record with the Raiders, leading them to the AFC championship game following the 1990 season. The Raiders have had only three winning seasons since Shell was fired -- one less than he had in five full seasons as coach.
"As I said at the end of the season, changing the coach staff won't do anything if the players don't want to go out there and play," safety Jarrod Cooper said in a phone interview. "It's on us to get this done."
The first black head coach in modern NFL history when the Raiders hired him in 1989, Shell only got a handful of interviews for another chance over the years despite his record.
Several other coaches, including Turner, got second chances despite having losing records in their first stints, a practice advocates for minority coaches attribute to a "double-standard."
Cyrus Mehri, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who partnered with the late Johnnie Cochran to pressure the NFL into establishing minority hiring guidelines for teams after the 2002 season, has spotlighted Shell's situation in the past.
"He definitely has the fire in the belly to get back in coaching," Mehri said. "We had him as one of the people we thought deserved serious consideration because we know how much he's ready to get back into this."
Shell becomes the seventh black coach currently in the league. Of the 10 openings this offseason, the only other black coach hired was Herman Edwards, who was traded from the New York Jets to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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