Oakland Raiders: 7 Best Replacements for DC Chuck Bresnahan

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IJanuary 9, 2012

Oakland Raiders: 7 Best Replacements for DC Chuck Bresnahan

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    Have you ever seen a worse-coached defense than the Oakland Raiders' defense this year?

    Fired defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan made 2010 defensive coordinator John Marshall look like Buddy Ryan. The Raiders struggled against the run last year (No. 29), but they were No. 2 against the pass and No. 11 overall.

    In 2011, they struggled against everything, finishing No. 27 against the run, No. 27 against pass and No. 29 overall. Losing corner Nnamdi Asomugha didn't help, but an 18-spot drop is too much for the talent still there.

    Bresnahan fumbled the defense all season long, making only one crucial stop against the Texans. But other than that, the Raiders were right where opposing teams wanted them if a game was close down the stretch.

    Bresnahan's strategy in Buffalo and at home against Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers cost the Raiders an 11-5 record and the playoffs. Bresnahan couldn't figure out that his personnel didn't match the zones he ran.

    He actually ran a Tampa 2, with middle linebacker Rolando McClain in deep coverage against Calvin Johnson—talk about insanity. He didn't learn from it, getting beat a couple of weeks later by Vincent Jackson.

    With Bresnahan now gone, the search for a new defensive coordinator begins. That led me to rank a list of defensive coordinators Oakland should consider hiring.

    Turn the page to get a look at it.

No. 7: Steve Spagnuolo

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    Steve Spagnuolo is a brilliant, aggressive 4-3 defensive coordinator who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2007. That led him to a head coaching job with the St. Louis Rams, from where he was just fired.

    Spagnuolo is the only 4-3 coordinator on the list job because of his magic with Raiders defensive line coach Mike Wauffle in 2007. He's not higher because I don't think the Raiders should go with the 4-3 look for 2012; Oakland's front seven screams 3-4.

No. 6: Kevin Greene

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    Kevin Greene is one of those high-motor guys who could really be contagious like he was as a player. He is now a linebackers coach for the Packers, having a big hand in the development of Clay Mathews Jr.

    The former 3-4 outside linebacker could also do wonders for Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry. Greene is a pure Dom Capers disciple, playing for him with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers.

    Now he's in Green Bay, bringing pressure with the bump-and-run coverage behind it. New Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie also knows what he brings, which puts Greene on McKenzie's radar.

    However, e's not higher because there are some better candidates, and I'm not sure Greene would leave Capers.

No. 5: Pepper Johnson

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    Pepper Johnson is now a defensive line coach for the New England Patriots, as a Bill Belichick disciple. However, he really comes from the Bill Parcells coaching tree since Belichick himself comes from there.

    Johnson was also an inside linebacker for that vaunted New York Giants defense in the 1980s and 1990s. His experience there would give really give 2010 first-round pick Rolando McClain something to listen to, as I'm sure McClain would be going back home to the 3-4 under Johnson.

    McClain and the Parcells/Belichik coaching tree has Johnson on the list—but he's not higher because there are four better fits.

No. 4: Dennis Thurman

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    Dennis Thurman has done a good job over in New York as the Jets' secondary coach. He helped in the development of Darelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, keeping the Jets' pass-defense among the league's elite.

    Since he works under Jets head coach Rex Ryan, I would say Thurman is on Ryan's coaching tree. We already know the Ryan name is synonymous with defense in the NFL, so there's plenty there.

    The Jets run a lot of bump-and-run over there too, so it's a nice fit, which is why I have Thurman on the list. He isn't higher, though, because the Jets wouldn't let the Raiders interview him last year.

    Therefore, there's no way of knowing if they will this year.   

No. 3: Mike Singletary

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    Mike Singletary is an excellent defensive mind who comes from the Ryan coaching tree. I say Ryan because he played under the father, Buddy, with the Chicago Bears, then was son Rex's linebackers coach while he was the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.

    Singletary led Buddy's 46 defense, a variation of the 3-4, so there's no telling what he would cook up. He was never a coordinator, which probably would have helped him as a head coach with the San Francisco 49ers.

    Singletary also coaches with the same fire and passion he had as a player, which is needed for this defense. That's why I have him on the list—his resume and personality make him an excellent defensive coordinator.

    You can also look at the defense that Singletary helped put together in San Francisco. He's not higher because I don't know if the Vikings would even allow him to interview with the Raiders.

    Look what he's done for Patrick Willis—what would he do for McClain?

    In my book, it would be an excellent hire.

No. 2: Mike Nolan

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    Mike Nolan is the the most proven 3-4 defensive coordinator out there and should get major consideration. He excelled with the Raven in the early 2000s, then became the head coach of the 49ers in 2005.

    His choice of Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers ended up being his eventual undoing. He then went to the Denver Broncos, switched them to a 3-4 and led their defense to the fewest points allowed in 2009.

    From there, he went to Miami, and took their defense from No. 22 in 2009 to No. 6 in 2010. They fell to No. 15 in 2011, but that was due in large part to the offense not staying on the field much early on.

    That part of Nolan's resume alone put him at No. 2; there's one other that I see as a better fit.

No. 1: Winston Moss

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    Winston Moss in every way is the best candidate to take Bresnahan's spot as defensive coordinator. He is from the Dom Capers coaching tree, which means there will be all kinds of blitzing with bump-and-run behind it.

    Moss is the linebackers coach in Green Bay where McKenzie just came from, but their bond goes deeper than that. They are both Raiders, having played for the team, and Al Davis loved his former players.

    Moss is also a fit for head coach Hue Jackson, who wanted to hire Moss before this season. For those of you who believe Jackson is out because McKenzie is in, I wouldn't read too far into that.

    Henry Wofford of CSN Bay Area.com reported that his sources believe that to be ridiculous:


    "One of the sources said, 'Reggie McKenzie and Hue Jackson are joined at the hip. They are proud to be on the same team. Hue is delighted he can now focus on what he does best, which is coach. Reggie and Hue have the same Sports Agent, Ken McGuire, to think there's a rift between these guys is simply ridiculous.'"


    Add that to Moss being the guy both Jackson and McKenzie would want.


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    To me, this is a good-looking list of candidates.

    It the Raiders want to go with the 4-3 again, I like Spaguolo, but I want to see the Raiders go with the 3-4. From there, all of the candidates sound good to me, as Nolan seems the most available. Then you have Singletary, who may be the most knowledgeable straight-up, having been with Papa Ryan.

    Of the 3-4 coordinators, though, Nolan brings the most experience and the highest decorated resume. 

    But Moss seems like the best and most likely candidate for the Raiders that I can see. He would follow McKenzie, another former Raider, and join a man who wanted him all along anyway.

    One thing is for certain: Every candidate named would do much better than Bresnahan did.