What’s next?: Raiders’ search for next offensive coordinator

The firing of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp on Monday signals another new offensive system for the Raiders to learn for the 2013 season.

Head coach Dennis Allen fired offensive line coach Frank Pollack along with Knapp, suggesting that he may have recognized that the zone-blocking scheme that he defended all year may not be a right fit.

It appears that the Raiders are not “tied” to any certain system, leaving an array of offensive coaches available for hire.

“What I want to do is I want to get the right guy for the job and I’m not tied into the system, but I want to make sure that we’re able to be a successful, productive offense,” Allen said during his Monday press conference. “We have to have some rhythm and some explosiveness in our offense.”

Below is a list of some candidates I believe may be considered for the offensive coordinator vacancy.

From the NFL Ranks

Al Saunders

Al Saunders has an obvious connection with the Raiders having served as the offensive coordinator in 2011 and currently on the coaching staff as an offensive assistant coach. Though he was listed as the offensive coordinator in 2011, it was head coach Hue Jackson that held play-calling duties.

The 65-yeard-old coach has been working in football since 1970, including 29 years in the NFL alone, including as wide receivers coach and assistant head coach for the Super Bowl XXXIV Champion St. Louis Rams.

Saunders, who is of the Don “Air” Coryell coaching tree, then brought his extensive playbook to the Kansas City Chiefs where he featured one of the NFL’s top offenses from 2002-2005.

Saunders is known for having a large playbook that involves lots of pre-snap motion and a vertical passing game.

Allen stated that Saunders would be considered as they are going to explore all options until they find the right guy. The hire would make sense as he has extensive coaching experience and has been working within the organization for the past couple of years.

Norval “Norv” Turner

Norv Turner expressed interest in looking for offensive coordinator vacancies after being fired by the San Diego Chargers on Monday.

Like Saunders, Turner has ties to the Raiders after serving as the offensive coordinator in 2002-2003 before being named head coach for 2003-2004 before being fired by Al Davis after going 4-12.

Turner made a name for himself while serving as the offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-1993, during their back-to-back Super Bowl victories with quarterback Troy Aikman. Turner also ran a top five offense in points scored while in San Diego from 2007-2011.

Turner’s experience in the NFL and more importantly, in the AFC West, would be beneficial to young Dennis Allen.

Cam Cameron

Recently ousted by the Baltimore Ravens in favor of Jim Caldwell, who had never been a play caller before, Cameron has served as an offensive coordinator for two teams.

Cameron started as an offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers under Marty Schottenheimer from 2002-2006. Though he was able to provide an explosive offense during his tenure in San Diego, he did benefit from having future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson as well as quarterbacks Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers.

Cameron got on the hot seat for his conservative play calling and inconsistency in the Ravens offense. Raider Nation will likely not like the idea of Cameron after seeing Knapp’s conservative play selection all season.

Pat Shurmur

Like Turner, Shurmur was another head coach casualty on “Black Monday”, being fired by the Clevelenad Browns after a 5-11 season.

Prior to his two-year tenure as head coach with the Browns, Shurmur served as quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2007) and offensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams (2009-2011).

While in St. Louis, Shurmur helped improve the Rams’ offense in nearly every category as the team improved to a 7-9 record after going just 1-15 the year before.

Ken Whisenhunt

Though he is reportedly already on the Bills’ radar for their open head coaching position, Whisenhunt would be a solid candidate for the Raiders open OC position.

While he found little success with the Arizona Cardinals during his head coaching tenure, Whisenhunt found success while serving as the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers (2004-2006).

Whisenhunt believes in an old-school brand of football with a heavy dose of the rushing attack. The former tight end could be beneficial to getting the Raiders’ rushing attack back on track.

Chan Gailey

Chan Gailey is also another former offensive coordinator that didn’t pan out during his head coaching stint with the Buffalo Bills and was fired on Monday.

Gailey is believed to be a bright offensive mind that also believes in pounding the football on the ground.

Gailey has 12 years of coaching experience in the NFL to go along with college coaching experience . Gailey also has connections with former Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Reeves, who coach Allen thinks highly of and considers a mentor.

From the College Ranks

Chris Ault

Once Chris Ault announced his retirement from the University of Nevada, speculation arose that the inventor of the “Pistol” offense would make the jump to the NFL.

The speculation quickly linked Ault with a possible reunion with his former quarterback Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. The 65-year-old Ault has stated that he is still in his “offensive prime” and may want to try his luck in the NFL.

Ault is knowns for his creativity in using the strengths of his personnel. Though Terrelle Pryor would fit the “pistol” offense, Ault would likely be able to create a scheme that could utilize Darren McFadden and the Raiders offense.

Pep Hamilton

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen tapped into the Stanford system when he hired Jason Tarver as the defensive coordinator, and he could do so again by going after Pep Hamilton. Hamilton is currently Stanford’s offensive coordinator over the last two years after taking over play-calling duties for Jim Harbaugh.

Hamilton has previously worked in the NFL, serving as a quarterbacks coach.

A former quarterback himself, Hamilton would be a nice addition to help mentor Pryor or any other young quarterbacks the Raiders may bring in. He also has proven to be a strong supporter of running the ball as Stanford has averaged 173.3 rushing yards per game this season.

Jeff Tedford

While I don’t see this one happening, why not throw his name out there? The former Cal Bear head coach has a history or producing top quarterbacks, most notably Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.

Tedford has also always found ways to utilize his playmakers like Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and Desean Jackson. Tedford would not only be beneficial to the quarterbacks on the roster, but also the playmakers .


Author: Chris McClain

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