Given that the Raiders' coaching for 2008 was a comic sideshow for most of last season, it doesn't seem too far fetched for the Raiders to improve on that chaos in 2009. To enable that improvement to occur, some coaching cupboards had to be emptied.
While the Raiders didn't "change" the head coach after the season, they removed the interim tag on him. They did, however, change many of the other folks. The two most significant changes were at offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator, with a nod to the QB coach.
Offensive coordinator/passing game coordinator
After the revolving door on play-calling last season, Tom Cable has retained those duties, and Knapp is gone.
Ted Tollner was added to the staff as passing game coordinator, which to my mind provides a sounding board and counterbalance to Cable’s O-line and running game obsessions.
In my ideal version, the Cable Guy and the other offensive coaches gameplan all week, and then during the game, Cable holds the script but listens to the non-Davis guys upstairs about what they see and what some options of attacking could be.
If the model is something other than that or Cable starts to ignore their input, I fear some of the less than imaginative play-calling we saw last year could reoccur.
If the media’s statements are true, Kiffin tried to fire Ryan, but Davis kept him.
After last year’s performance, Ryan is gone, and Marshall is in. On the surface, we traded one coordinator of a bottom of the league defense for another.
However, in Marshall’s past, with good talent and an offense that kept his defense off the field, he has been to the pinnacle of the league.
Is this Raider team good enough to reach that level? We shall see.
The question is whether the Raiders have the talent to execute his plan, and honestly, whether some guys start earning their paychecks.
For any defense to succeed, the offense needs to stay on the field for at least a little while. In order to improve the time of possession over last year, the Raiders must keep the ball longer.
While Paul Hackett has a checkered past as a coordinator, he has worked with several quarterbacks to make a significant difference in their performance.
Aside from the plethora of media concerns about Russell’s work ethic, I believe the major improvement we can see is from Hackett’s input on fundamentals. Foot position, accuracy, and mechanics, these are all items that will channel Russell’s raw talent into a more refined quarterbacking ability.
Since this year's opening day coach is different that last year's it's a change - just not an offseason one. The difference between Tom Cable and Lane Kiffin cannot be understated. Night and day is not a dramatic enough difference.
As Kiffin’s antics at Tennessee have shown, discipline, structure, and consistency are not remotely his forte.
Cable is so stable, he’s almost boring. At the same time, he has the fire in him of a lineman who looks forward to getting dirty in the trenches and going toe-to-toe with the opponents best rusher.
In the last half of last season, fans saw the team start to take on that persona. The Raiders went right at the heart of the opposition in their house, traded punches with them, and did not flinch.
If that belief has been internalized by the team, it is a vast improvement over the previous six years and can drive the cultural change we’ve hoped for.
OC/PG—2009 stability beats 2008 chaos
DC—2009 philosophy beats 2008’s inability to adjust within games
QB—2009 experience improves over 2008 ineffectiveness
HC—2009 hard work wins over 2008 flash with no substance
The four changes above represent a change in philosophy at the major leadership positions within the team. They are guys who can show the team a different way to do things, and a better way than the past.
However, as the adage goes: The coaches don’t make the tackle, complete the pass, or run the ball. How effective these coaches are at driving that belief home to the players will determine the fate of this season.
On every team, the coaches lead the way, but the Raiders haven’t had a good coach/leader in nearly a decade, and everyone—players and fans—is ready to see one on the sidelines again.