Hue Jackson was a lot of things: Fiery. Brash. A gifted offensive coach. A gambler, just like the man he revered, Al Davis.
But was he a bad head coach?
Reggie McKenzie seems to think so.
The newly-appointed Raiders general manager—the first man not named Al Davis to ever have that title—decided to fire his inherited rookie head coach today.
It’s not unusual for a general manager to replace a coach he didn’t hire; after all, McKenzie’s success will largely be measured by the performance of his coach. But this move was ill-timed and foolish. For a team desperately lacking consistency this century, why would you dismiss a man who was present for the first non-losing seasons since 2002?
Was this team perfect? Far from it. A 7-4 start was marred by a 1-4 finish, and the Raiders fell just one win short of the postseason.
But Jackson had done some great things with this team. He transformed a moribund offense (31st in 2009) into one of the league’s most potent (ninth in 2011). He brought back some of the organization’s swagger with his bravado. He engaged the fans constantly, and we responded by selling out every home game for the first time since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995. And despite losing his starting quarterback, a Pro-Bowl-caliber running back and dealing with the 29th-ranked defense in the NFL, he still managed an 8-8 record.
Jackson deserved another year to see if he could deliver on his promise to take this team to the playoffs. With a talented general manager in place, Jackson would have been free to leave personnel matters in his hands while concentrating on the team and scheme. Imagine what this team could have accomplished with a full offseason for Carson Palmer and a capable defensive coordinator on the sideline.
Was firing Hue Jackson the right decision?
But now, we’ll never know if Jackson could have delivered a 10- or 11-win season. As for Palmer, his future as a Raider is very uncertain. Palmer was Jackson’s guy all the way, and the coach was going to do anything in his power to see the veteran quarterback succeed.
The brief and tumultuous tenure of Jackson is over: Here are some things to consider as we head into an uncertain time in Raider Nation.
Don’t look for a big name coach to come to Oakland
Raiders fans are already throwing out famous names as possible replacements for Jackson—guys like Bill Cowher or Jeff Fisher. Don’t count on it. The Raiders are in a strange new world under Mark Davis, and no one (including Mark Davis himself), knows how it will compare to the reign of King Davis I. After all, the younger Davis just OK’d a decision that was trademark Al Davis: firing a first-year head coach.
No one is sure how the Raider organization will be run now, so look for the team to hire a promising assistant coach. Winston Moss has been a popular rumored candidate. A former Raider, Moss has been linebackers coach for the Green Bay Packers since 2006 and was promoted to assistant head coach in 2007.
Expect to be waiting a while for a replacement
Despite what McKenzie said during today’s press conference, the coaching search will take a little time. With guys like Moss busy with the playoffs, we may be waiting until after Super Bowl Sunday for a new coach to be named.
McKenzie also has a lot of decisions to make in terms of the direction of the franchise: Does he keep Carson Palmer? Bring back Michael Bush? Who goes and who stays on the defense? How will he manage the cap? All of these things will have to be considered as a part of the coaching search, because different coaches will be better suited to different situations.
Be ready to see heavy influence from the Raider “family”
Mark Davis has made no secret about the strong connection he feels to the extended Raider “family,” and he has regularly sought advice from past Raiders like John Madden. McKenzie himself is a former Raider, after all, and will probably welcome advice from former Raider greats. But make no mistake: They won’t be calling the shots. Their input will be considered, but it’s obvious from Jackson’s firing that the buck stops with McKenzie.
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