With a quarter of the head coaches in the NFL fired at the end of the season, the NFL coaching landscape has been significantly stirred. The Oakland Raiders fired Greg Knapp and have been searching for an offensive coordinator to replace him.
It didn’t take long for teams to start hiring with the goal of having a complete staff before the college all-star games. Finding a position coach or two isn’t a problem, but most teams would like to have their head coach and coordinators hired so their scouting staff know what schemes they are running before finishing the year-long process of player evaluation.
The Raiders have been curiously quiet on their search for an offensive coordinator. There haven’t been reports of candidates getting interviews in Oakland, which is curious since this is the time of year ripe for leaks.
Surely the Raiders are searching, so what’s the holdup?
One reason the Raiders might be taking their time is because they have an in-house option. Al Saunders was the offensive coordinator under Hue Jackson in 2011 and was retained as an offensive assistant in 2012.
Saunders worked primarily with tight ends this past season, and Brandon Myers had a breakout year. Saunders would likely return the Raiders to their 2011 offense, which is one that Darren McFadden and Carson Palmer thrived under in the past.
With Saunders, the Raiders can afford to be patient and wait for the perfect candidate. You could make a case that there aren’t many options available to the Raiders who could possibly have more experience and knowledge as Saunders.
Despite his age, Saunders is also a high-energy coach, which could be something the Raiders desire in their next offensive coordinator. The Raiders can swing for the fences for their offensive coordinator because Saunders is on staff.
NFL teams can’t block an interview for a head coaching job, but they can block an interview for a coordinator position should that coordinator already be employed by another team. While there are plenty of candidates that are available, they might not be candidates the Raiders like.
The Raiders have to request interviews and hope that teams will grant the request. If the coach in question is part of his current team’s long-term plan, that team might not be inclined to grant the Raiders permission. The Raiders are therefore stuck trying to find the perfect candidate in a pool of candidates they may not love.
Some teams in the playoffs might not want their position coaches to interview until they are eliminated from the postseason. If the Raiders have their eye on these coaches and believe their teams will let them interview at a later date, they might be willing to wait a few weeks to make sure they have a chance to interview all the best candidates for the job.
There is one other option that could be in play: The Raiders have targeted their man, but he might be in line for an open head coaching job or a more desirable coordinator position. The best coordinators probably have multiple suitors, leaving teams like the Raiders in a waiting game just hoping to get picked.
There are guys who have been interviewed to be a head coach, like Pete Carmichael and Aaron Kromer in New Orleans, who might be waiting to see if they get a second interview. If they don’t, they both probably have the option to stay in New Orleans.
Would you rather work with Drew Brees or make a change and hope you can squeeze good production out of Palmer and McFadden? For a number of guys, that’s a simple choice to make. The position in Oakland isn’t ideal for a lot of reasons, and it would take the right candidate to take the job.
Marc Trestman is a candidate to be the next head coach for the Chicago Bears but could be looking to get back into the NFL should he not get the job. If Trestman doesn’t get the job, he will have to decide if he wants to remain a head coach for a CFL team or if getting back into the NFL game as a coordinator would be better for his career.
The Raiders could have a hard time enticing the best candidates to take the OC job, and that might be slowing down the interview process. Ideally, the Raiders would have their offensive coordinator hired before they travel to Mobile, Ala. to coach the 2013 Senior Bowl, but Saunders gives the Raiders a convenient fall back if they aren’t ready to make the move.