New Coaching Staff Key to Oakland Raiders' Success in '09
Besides Head Coach Tom Cable, there are very few returning coaches on Oakland's coaching staff. Just seven of 19 coaches return from the beginning of 2008 and only strength coach Brad Roll and Willie Brown return to coach the same position.
Both Sanjay Lal and John Fassel take large promotions going into the 2009 season. Lal will have a difficult job coaching the receivers and Fassel has the biggest shoes to fill after the departure of special teams coordinator Brian Schneider to USC.
Then there is former USC Head Coach Paul Hackett, who takes over as quarterbacks coach after assisting the team with special projects last season. He spent last season keeping a close eye on the development of JaMarcus Russell and now will have a chance to mold him.
The Raiders also added Ted Tollner as passing game coordinator. Tollner seems to be taking the lead on coaching the receivers, with Lal more in the background. Tollner will act as an overqualified receivers coach. He will assist Cable calling plays which is why he has the odd title.
Cable plans to call the offensive plays. Hackett and Tollner figure to influence the process heavily. This three-headed monster will act like an offensive coordinator and will be vitally important for the Raiders success this season.
Hopefully Cable has the guts to continue to call plays as he did down the stretch in 2008. Both Hackett and Tollner could potentially seek to make the play calling more conservative.
The defense can be playoff caliber if the offense can score consistently enough to cover up the biggest weakness. Dwaine Board will try to elevate the play of the defensive line in 2009, but scoring more points will certainly help this unit more than anything else.
The change to Jim Michalczik as offensive line coach should be a relatively seamless transition from Cable. He brings a lot of experience and he still has Cable to lean on if needed.
John Marshall probably should be mentioned. The new defensive coordinator probably will continue to be under the constraints placed on the defense by owner Al Davis. He may be in the most precarious position on the staff.
Anytime Marshall goes against the wishes of Davis he must be successful. Going against the Raider way and having success is one thing, doing it and not having success is another.
This coaching staff appears to balance the experience and age of Art Shell's coaching staff with the youthfulness and perspective of Lane Kiffin's staff. Hopefully this will prove to a winning combo for the Raiders.
Hackett's performance as quarterbacks coach will be the most important. If Russell develops into a solid quarterback the other offensive coaches will have an easier job. If the offense does better, so too will the defense.
That said, the offensive staff will be under the most pressure because of the youth at the skill positions. Fans will want to see improvement from these young players and wont refrain from criticism of the coaches should key players go underutilized.
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