Oakland Raiders: Raiders' All-Time Coaching Blunders

Carl CockerhamSenior Analyst IMay 19, 2011

Oakland Raiders: Raiders' All-Time Coaching Blunders

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    There is actually hope in Raider Nation right now as the Raiders finished 8-8 in 2010.

    The Raiders also have a rich history with three Super Bowl wins and are the only team the NFL that went to at least a conference championship in every decade of the NFL's existence.

    But the seven years prior to 2010 were about as horrible as it gets for the once-proud organization.

    So what was the thing that held the Raiders back for all that time?

    You got it!

    It's coaching!

    There were some coaching blunders from the good ol' days, but I believe the last seven years of futility is the main source.

    Turn the page to have a look. 

#10 Michael Huff at Strong Safety

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    I have to put this one on the Raider owner and who Raider head coach Hue Jackson calls "Coach Davis."

    Through the wishes of then-Raider head coach Art Shell, he selected Michael Huff in the first round in 2006. Huff came out with the reputation of a cover guy with good ball skills who shies away from contact.

    So what do the Raiders do with him?

    They put him in the box as a strong safety!


    Stuart Sweigart was the single high safety at the time and he was nothing to write home about. What this did was compound the Raiders' woes against the run and retard the growth of Huff, who didn't see action at free safety on a regular basis until 2009.

    He just started to form into a pretty good free safety in 2010 as he intercepted three passes. This has to be top 10 because everyone knows you don't put a skinny kid who shies away from contact in the box. 

    It isn't higher because it wasn't a big difference, as the Raiders were horrible at that time anyway.

    He was at least able to shut down tight ends from the strong safety position, though.

#9 Lane Kiffin Can't Keep His Mouth Closed

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    Rule No. 1 is you don't talk back to or about people who sign your checks. That is especially the case when the checks Davis signed are as big as the ones he signed to Kiffin.

    For some reason, everything they didn't see eye to eye on made to the media. Both sides did their part to turn it into a game of who do you believe but it doesn't matter if you don't sign the checks.

    We won't know if he's NFL head coach material until he tries it again at some point, because he couldn't shut up in Oakland. He did hit the ground running as he settled at USC after a brief stint at the University of Tennessee.

    Why is this top 10?

    This isn't the way to turn around a struggling organization and it got him fired for "cause."

    Why isn't it higher?

    The team was already horrible.

#8 Tom Cable vs. Randy Hanson

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    In 2009, then-Oakland Raider head coach Tom Cable became annoyed with Raider assistant Randy Hanson. That led to a confrontation that escalated to a point that Hanson ended up with a broken jaw.

    Cable is very lucky that Davis rules his domain very tightly and it was very hard for any details to get out.

    Violence in the workplace isn't tolerated at any other job and shouldn't be in the office of a football organization.

    Why is this top 10?

    The nature of the incident was big against a guy that was put in his presence by his boss. He was also a first time NFL head coach for a known dysfunctional organization that doesn't need more negative attention.

    Why isn't it higher?

    The team was bad anyway, and Cable wasn't fired until the year after.

#7 Art Shell's Confrontation with Jeff Hostetler

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    Art Shell didn't really do too badly in his first stint with the Raiders as a head coach. He was 54-38 from 1989-1994 with three playoff appearances, including an AFC Championship game.

    But things started to get a little ugly during the 1994 season.

    Okay, a lot ugly.

    Tom Walsh was the offensive coordinator at the time and his offense was from the 1960s. I remember when Ron Jaworski, one of the best NFL analysts ever, used to comment on how badly the offense was designed on ESPN's Monday Night Matchup.

    Jaworski said, "There's nothing wrong with the vertical offense. It's not that you can't go deep anymore but you need to have options underneath if the deep ball isn't there. Otherwise, your quarterback won't last." 

    Walsh didn't get the memo and it all came to a head in a Oct. 16, 1994 game against the Miami Dolphins. Going into the game word out of Raider Nation was that quarterback Jeff Hostetler and receiver Tim Brown weren't even speaking to Walsh.

    After the Raider offense struggled due to the Dolphin blitz, Hostetler gave Shell a piece of his mind. Things would then escalate into a full-on shouting match that was caught on camera.

    Shell then pulled Hostetler in favor of Vince Evans, who got off of his rocker to play that season. The decision to change the quarterback instead of the calls caused things to get worse on offense.

    Shell ended up going back to Hostetler, but it was too little, to late.

    The Dolphins won the game 20-17 in overtime.

    Why was it top 10?

    It was only one game, but Shell was fired that year, and I believe that to be the reason he was fired.

    Why wasn't it higher?

    Shell and Walsh did ruin a good quarterback that won a Super Bowl, but it wasn't that one game.

#6 The Immaculate Reception

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    I'm sorry, I refuse to show the part where Franco Harris runs the ball in for the game-winning touchdown. I wasn't alive yet but I am an NFL Films junkie and it makes me sick to my stomach every time is see it.

    Jack Tatum, then wearing No. 31, blasts Frenchy Fuqua and the ball ends up flying through the air. Harris luckily ends up with it and runs his slow behind in for a touchdown with time running out.

    It could have been easily prevented if then Raider head coach John Madden used the prevent defense. Instead, they were in what looked to be man coverage with two safeties over the top.

    The prevent defense did exist back then because Pop Warner invented it in 1912.

    Why was this top 10?

    I don't believe in the prevent for two-minute situations but this happened with 22 seconds left in the game. Harris surely wouldn't have made it through a prevent defense and the Raiders likely would have went to the next round.

    Why isn't it higher?

    You can't just say the Raiders would have beaten the undefeated '72 Dolphins in the next round. Plus the fluke of a play didn't cost Madden his job, and I can't say that I know what the thinking on defense was in those days.

    Madden was the greatest, but he did tear that one up.

#5 Gradkowski for Campbell

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    Cable does it again.

    This one can go even higher in the future depending on how Jason Campbell plays going forward.

    Raider owner Al Davis traded for the former Redskin quarterback and was very excited about it. Campbell then wins the starting quarterback job and struggles, opening things up for Bruce Gradkowski, who also struggled and got injured. 

    Campbell is then inserted back into the lineup, goes 4-2 with three straight wins, then ends up being replaced by Gradkowski again. Now that's when the Cable committed the ultimate blunder with the Raiders

    So why was that top 10?

    The guy that his boss traded for finally started to play well and won three games in a row for the first time in seven years. He had a chance to go above .500 for the first time in seven years but he sat him for a career 65.9 rated quarterback.

    Plus, it got him fired.

#4 Justin Fargas over Darren McFadden

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    Sure we can talk about how injuries slowed running back Darren McFadden's ascension to the top of his game in the beginning. But a lot of people don't realize that he didn't have a chance to do much when he was healthy.

    This is because Kiffin gave the starting running back job to Justin Fargas. Kiffin was on the staff at USC when Fargas was there, so it had to be the USC connection that led to Kiffin's decision.

    Okay, Fargas ran very hard, but he could only run so far.

    He was the heart and soul of the Raiders at one point, but at a point that the Raiders had no heart and soul. Please don't take this as a diss on Fargas, because I loved him in 2007 and recognize he gave all he had.

    But Davis drafted McFadden in the first round because he has phenomenal talent as he showed in 2010.

    On top of that, Michael Bush got a chance to show that Fargas was the third-best running back on the team late in the season after Kiffin was fired.

    Why is it ranked so high?

    Darren McFadden is one of the best football players in the league, and Fargas was never close.

    Why isn't it higher?

    The team was terrible when Kiffin got the job, so we can't say this held the Raiders out of the playoffs.

#3 Marc Wilson for Jim Plunkett

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    This is another one for "Coach Davis."

    Then-head coach Tom Flores wanted Jim Plunkett to be his starter as he led the Raiders to a Super Bowl win in 1980. Early struggles from Plunkett led Davis to give the starting quarterback job to Marc Wilson.

    What happened to defending the title with the team you won it with?

    What happened to giving a Super Bowl-winning quarterback the benefit of the doubt?

    The Raiders ended up falling to 7-9 as Wilson was part of the problem, not the solution, throwing 19 interceptions and 14 touchdowns.

    About Wilson: I went to a football camp as a kid that Don Mosebar was a special guest at. He told us a bunch of Raider stories and the subject shifted to Wilson.

    Mosebar said, "I remember one time Marc Wilson had a horrible game. He threw three interceptions in the first half and then we went to the lockerroom. Marc was really upset, so he threw his helmet. Rod Martin said, 'I'm surprised that didn't get intercepted.'"

    That was Wilson!

#2 Marcus Allen on the Bench

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    I can make a case for No. 1 on this one and it belongs to "coach Davis."

    Marcus Allen is the best football player the Raiders have ever had. Jerry Rice doesn't count because Rice was not in his prime when he donned the Silver and Black.

    You disagree?

    Name another Raider that won Rookie of the Year, NFL MVP, and Super Bowl MVP. All of this happened within Allen's first four years as a pro and the Raiders were 43-14 during that span.

    Marcus Allen ended up fighting injuries in his fifth year and the Raiders were 8-8 that year. Bo Jackson  was then brought to Raider Nation and Allen willingly moved to fullback for the phenomenally talented Jackson.

    But when Jackson got hurt, Allen still either played fullback or sat in favor of the likes of Vance Mueller! I bet most of the people that read this don't even know who the H - E - double hockey sticks that is.

    The Raiders were a perennial playoff contender when Allen played for the Raiders. When Jackson went down and Allen was sat for personal reasons, the Raiders were a contender no more. 

    Forget the holdout or whatever it was, you paid him the money, so let your best player play.

    The Kansas City Chiefs sure let him play against the Raiders!

#1 Art Shell's Choice for an Offensive Coordinator

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    Art Shell made the biggest blunder in Raider history when he was hired for the second time to coach the Oakland Raiders in 2006. He hired bed-and-breakfast owner Tom Walsh to be the offensive coordinator.

    Walsh last coached with Shell 12 years prior and wasn't very good at it then! You would think that Shell learned from the first time Walsh coordinated his offense!

    Was it a loyalty thing?

    Loyalty to someone that isn't even good is horrible and the results of Walsh's play calling were just that, horrible!

    The Raiders finished dead last in every offensive category there was and set records for such futility. That made the Raiders almost impossible to watch even for the most diehard fan.

    No wonder why Randy Moss gave up.

    Shell ruined a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and almost ruined a future Hall of Fame receiver. This is No. 1, because this move was the single most destructive thing that ever happened to the Raiders.

    Plus he made the same mistake twice!


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    The Raiders really don't have that many wacky decisions throughout their history. It just seems that way because most of them happened between 2002 and 2009.

    The storm now appears to have passed as the Raiders did get to .500 last year. They seem poised to improve even more in 2011 with newly hired head coach Hue Jackson at the helm. 

    Raider Nation is now hoping that Jackson doesn't end up on this list.

    That really makes me realize something.

    If you look at Raiders history, tell me who's coaching the team and I'll tell you how they were doing.

    Remember that, Al!

    Remember that, Hue!