Lal and Fassel Face Challenge For Raiders

A.J. DeMelloCorrespondent IJune 10, 2009

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 14:  Johnnie Lee Higgins #15 of the Oakland Raiders looks on during their NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 14, 2008 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Raiders defeated the Chiefs 23-8. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The Raiders felt confident enough in their assistant coaches that they chose not to look any farther then to promote two of them: Sanjay Lal and John Fassel.

When Raiders receiver coach James Lofton was fired (yet there was some rumor or tidbit following the firing that he would stay with the organization in a reduced role), and special team's coach Brian Schneider took his leave to join Pete Carrol's staff at USC, it seemed that the Raiders would have a challenge trying to find better coaches for those positions.

The Raiders wasted almost no time with replacing Lofton with Sanjay Lal, who has spent the past two years on the Raiders staff as an offensive quality-control coach.

Lal's experience ranges from passing game coordinator at Miramonte High (where he coached QB Ken Dorsey and WR Drew Bennett) in which he helped them win four North Coast Section championships including a 13-0 record in 2001, to wide receivers coach at Los Medanos College, to being an assistant at St. Mary's college.

Lal spent three years at CAL on Jeff Tedford's staff with the role of offensive administrative assistant prior to joining the Raiders in 2007. Lal doesn't jump out as a great move, but with Ted Tollner also serving as a receivers coach too in some capacity (considering that he will be passing game coordinator), it doesn't look too bad.

Only positive things have been said from the young receivers and Javon Walker about the round table meetings and such, so we'll see how it all plays out.

The other promotion went to Jim Fassel's son John, who last year was an assistant to Brian Scheider's great special teams unit. Before joining the silver & black, Fassel spent three years with the Baltimore Ravens an an assistant coach, two in which he was a special teams assistant.

The question here is whether or not the past three years being a special teams assistant is enough for him to make the jump to special teams coach.

He will now control a unit with play-makers such as Justin Miller and Johnnie Lee Higgins, who both possess the ability to take it to the house when they touch the football. Fassel will need to game-plan accordingly, as well as adjust and take the unit under his grasp to continue what Schneider started in 2007 when first joining the Raiders.

Obviously, Tom Cable and Al Davis must have figured why let in two new coaches when you can try and keep some cohesiveness amongst the players and coaching staff by promoting two young and upcoming coaches?

We'll see how these units do this year with two first-year titled assistant coaches at the helm, and if the Raiders were right to look in-house instead of outside.

With a lot soon to be invested in Darrius Heyward-Bey, and already with veteran receiver Javon Walker, Lal will need to really get this group going. Johnnie Lee Higgins was the Raiders leading receiver with just 22 receptions last year.

If the Raiders were so quick to can Lofton, who has a lot of experience working with receivers—a former one himself (a good one at that)—and one who demands great play,Lal will need to have better results if he wants to stick around. 

Both Fassel and Lal have good talent to be coached, molded, and ready to sick on the rest of the league. It's up to them to improve their players from their 2008 form, and since it's looked brighter in Oakland since the Gruden era, don't be surprised it they have success.

With the losing mentality drifting out the window and the mindset of a winner entering the building, things are looking better for the Raiders.


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