The Raiders are still searching for an offensive coordinator and offensive-line coach after firing Greg Knapp and Frank Pollack last week. In less than two weeks the Raiders will travel to Mobile, Ala., to coach the North team in the 2013 Senior Bowl, and it would be helpful to have a complete coaching staff.
To this point, the search for an offensive coordinator has been void of any media leaks. There hasn’t been so much as one reported interview, rumored name or educated guess out there. General manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen are keeping an extremely tight lid on the search.
There are plenty of candidates out there for the job, including these 10 and several others that might be lesser known. Any good organization is going to determine what kind of candidate they want before conducting a search. At some point, McKenzie and Allen have discussed the traits they want in the next offensive coordinator in Oakland.
What might those traits be and which candidates fit the description? Jay Glazer of Fox Sports recently tweeted that the Raiders want a “high-octane” guy, and that there aren’t many choices. Since it’s anyone’s guess whether “high octane” describes the offense or the coach, this is really not news at all. Every NFL team wants a high-octane offense.
The best guess here is that the Raiders are looking for a high-energy offensive coordinator which makes a lot of sense. Hue Jackson was just such a coach, and he took Oakland’s offense to heights not seen since Jon Gruden was in Oakland. Jackson was promoted to head coach in 2011 and fired after one season.
There are certainly other traits that the Raiders want in their offensive coordinator, and high octane or high energy doesn’t have to mean volatile.
There are a few traits that the Raiders should be looking for in their next offensive coordinator which might steer the direction of their search.
One of the biggest issues with Knapp was his insistence on running the zone-blocking scheme and the West Coast offense. It wasn’t entirely Knapp’s fault, because he was hired by Allen to run those schemes.
Since Al Davis and Jackson had chalked the Raiders full of players that fit a vertical game and had a running back that was not fit to execute the running scheme, the offense flopped. Knapp’s play-calling was also a contributing factor as well as the play of the offensive line.
If the Raiders want to run those schemes, it makes more sense to run an offense that fits the personnel, and then slowly transition to new schemes. Until which time the rebuild is complete, the Raiders need an offensive coordinator that can adjust the schemes to his players.
Knapp started to make these adjustments late in the season, running stretch plays with Mike Goodson and the more traditional man blocking with Darren McFadden. It was too little and too late to help the Raiders. The passing game also struggled under Knapp’s guidance despite good yardage numbers. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore regressed, and only Brandon Myers seemed to benefit from the new offense.
The Raiders should be looking for an offensive coordinator that will tailor a scheme specifically to the talents of his players. That means power and man runs for McFadden and more deep shots to Moore. A transition to a West Coast offense and zone-blocking could still happen, but should be done gradually.
The best offenses usually incorporate a mixture of concepts to maximize their effectiveness against every opponent. The Raiders need an offensive coordinator that will maximize the talents of his players and carry the load while Allen works on the defense.
Oakland’s coaching staff is light on experience. Allen is the youngest head coach in the NFL, and has been a head coach for one season. Jason Tarver is a young defensive coordinator that just completed his first season in that job at the NFL level.
Special assistant Al Saunders, who worked primarily with tight ends this season, is long on experience. Saunders is one of the many candidates who could step in as offensive coordinator. Saunders isn’t young, but he’s definitely a high-energy guy and he would bring back Jackson’s offense.
Dipping into the pool of position coaches to find the next offensive coordinator seems unlikely since the Raiders will probably want to mitigate the risk of catastrophic failure. Allen and McKenzie can’t afford another flop on offense, and the defense isn’t going to rebound in one season.
There are plenty of experienced candidates available, but there is a problem. Experienced coaches that are out of work aren't usually very good at their jobs. If they were, they wouldn’t be out of work. They usually have flaws of some kind.
The Raiders might find a coach that is flexible and experienced, but finding one that routinely maximizes his talent will be much harder. The Raiders need an offensive coordinator that gets results, and the situation in Oakland may not be that attractive since the offensive coaching staff has basically been left intact.
There aren’t going to be many available candidates that fit all three criteria the Raiders want that are willing to come to Oakland. Teams also have to allow access to interview position coaches for coordinator positions, meaning the candidates that might be willing and are employed could be prevented from talking to the Raiders.
The Raiders may ultimately have to settle for a less-than-ideal candidate—one that is light on production, experience or flexibility. Usually this would be a recipe for disaster, so the Raiders should take their time and find the absolute best candidate for the job.
Until the Raiders hire a permanent offensive coordinator, Saunders is more than qualified to run an offense during the senior bowl. Saunders could be the favorite for the job simply because of the improvement of Myers and his familiarity with the players.
Raider Nation is left to wait and wonder who will be the next offensive coordinator, and what kind of candidates the team is considering to fill the spot. The hiring of Knapp was uninspiring from the start, so the Raiders have some work to do to regain the confidence of the fan base.