Raiders eyeing two recent league champions for head job

Giants coach PC X Fassel

The top two candidates for the Raiders head coaching position next season both just won the championship in their respective leagues. Jim Fassel, who was rumored to have been considerably interested in the opening with the Raiders, just last week led the Las Vegas Locomotives to a UFL championship. And Raiders former offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, who just led the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes to a Grey Cup victory, is currently the most talked about candidate.

After Jim Fassel coached his Locomotives team to a UFL championship, he was quoted as saying he plans to be back next season to coach the team.

“I loved this,” Fassel said of his UFL experience. “I loved coaching in this league and I just had a ball coaching these guys. You saw the character and the toughness they have.”

If you take him at his word, then he is no longer on the list for the Raiders. But when he was asked about a return to the NFL he said “I can’t say that I’d rule it out.” So I would venture to say that his hat is most certainly still in the ring. After he pushed hard for the job last season, one would have to think that he still has some interest.

 

There remains interest between both sides for good reason.

The Raiders remain interested, despite never pulling the trigger on the hire, because Fassel is a proven winner. The UFL championship only proves that he has still got it.

He won the 1997 NFL coach of the Year Award in his first season as the head coach of the New York Giants. Then in 2000 he coached the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance. He was the head coach of the Giants for seven seasons until 2003.

Fassel’s interest in the Raiders comes from his Bay Area ties. He was an assistant coach at Stanford where he worked with John Elway. Later he would become an Oakland Raiders assistant as well. And apparently his experience was a positive one because he has been eager to return to the Raiders’ sideline for a few years now.

In November 2008, Fassel reportedly sent a letter to Al Davis detailing his interest in becoming the next head coach of the Raiders. Davis ultimately made the decision to remove the interim tag on Tom Cable and go with him for the foreseeable future. But with the many negative incidents surrounding Cable to go along with the Raiders’ continued losing ways, Cable looks to be on his way out after just one full season. Throw in the fact that his son, John Fassel, was promoted last offseason to special teams coordinator and you have a reunion of another sort as well. Add to that, Fassel’s timely recent success, albeit in a lesser football league like the UFL, and the likelihood of Fassel becoming the Raiders next head coach could be heating up.

Then there is Marc Trestman.

He was the last successful Raider offensive coordinator during the 2002 Super Bowl year. The name John Gruden has made Raider fans swoon ever since he was let go by the Bucs this past offseason. Raider fans never wanted to see Gruden go in the first place and the years of losing since then have made it parting even more painful. After Gruden was traded, Bill Calahan was handed the head coaching job and Trestman was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. But despite Callahan wearing the headset and being on the sideline when the Raiders went to the Super Bowl, not many credit him for the accomplishment. Trestman, on the other hand, received glowing endorsements from soon-to-be hall of famer Jerry Rice and 2002 league MVP Rich Gannon. In fact Gannon credits Trestman for his having won the MVP trophy.

And why wouldn’t he be grateful to Trestman? That 2002 season was Trestman’s first season as the Raiders offensive coordinator and the Raiders led the NFL in total offense with 389.8 yards per game and passing yards with 279.7 per game on their way to the Super Bowl. Gannon would go down with injury the next season, Trestman would be fired along with the rest of the staff and the Raiders have been dismal ever since.

Gannon and the Raiders were not the first to benefit from Trestman’s direction. Prior to being a offensive coordinator or head coach, Trestman was a longtime quarterbacks coach. His track record with quarterbacks is beyond reproach and his experience goes back 27 years.

In 1983 during his first year as the quarterbacks coach at the University of Miami, Bernie Kosar passed for 2,329 yards and Miami won the national championship. The next year, Kosar completed 262 passes for 3,642 yards, both school records.

In 1988 Trestman became the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns where he would be reunited with Bernie Kosar and the team finished 10-6 and made the playoffs. The next season he was promoted to offensive coordinator. That year Kosar passed for 3,533 yards and 18 Tds and the Browns made it all the way to the AFC Championship game.

In 1995, during his first year with the 49ers, the team led the NFL with 457 points scored and 4,779 passing yards. Then in 1997 he moved on to be the quarterbacks coach in Detroit. That year Lion’s quarterback Scott Mitchell passed for 3,484 yards which was the second most in team history. In 1998 he was with the Arizona Cardinals as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. That year quarterback Jake Plummer threw for 3,737 yards, and the Cardinals made the playoffs for the first time since 1982 and won their first post season game in 51 years.

Fast forward to today where after a 14-3 regular season record, Trestman has coached his Montreal Alouettes team to a CFL championship after coming from behind in the fourth quarter to beat the Saskatchewan Rough Riders 28-27 and take the Grey Cup.

This isn’t a come out of nowhere fluke either. In 2008, Trestman’s first season as head coach of the Alouettes. He led his team to an 11-7 record and a birth in the Grey Cup. After the season he was nominated for the CFL’s Annis Stukus Award as the league’s top coach and he won the 2008 Outstanding Coach of the Year from the CFL Players Association.

Trestman had interviewed to return as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator in January of 2009 before Tom Cable decided he was going to appoint himself to the post. That appointment has been a decided disappointment and with Trestman securing the coveted Grey Cup as a head coach, he may now have his sights a bit higher than just coordinator.

So, what else does Marc Trestman have to prove? Apparently nothing considering the fact that the Buffalo Bills have been rumored as one of the suitors for his services next season. However, with candidates like Mike Shanahan and Russ Grimm also interviewing for the position, Trestman appears to be somewhat of a long shot for the Bill’s job.

This leaves the door wide open for a return to the Raiders. Al Davis has no doubt been longing for the successful Gruden years on Oakland, as has the Raider Nation. But a few things keep that from being a reality. One big one is the salary that John Gruden would demand. He was traded away in 2001 because of his salary demands and there is no chance that they have changed. Not only that but Gruden just signed an extension to remain a Mondy Night Football analyst. He has said that he will eventually want to coach again but not this coming season.

So the logical choice for Davis would be to bring in the man who had success in Oakland as an offensive mind and went on to prove his worth as a winning head coach. From Grey Cup to Silver & Black.

Other coaches receiving interview invites (whether accepted or not) could include:

Jim Harbaugh- Has made the Stanford Cardinal into a sudden powerhouse.

Jeff Tedford- Known for his great work with quarterbacks and resurrecting the Cal Bears

Steve Mariucci- Had success with the 49ers before falling off in Detroit. He has been trying to get back to the NFL ever since.

Herman Edwards- Former Chiefs and Jets head coach and played on the Eagles team that the Raiders beat in Super Bowl XV. He was oddly complimentary of the Raiders as an analyst for ESPNthis offseason. He would fulfill the Rooney Rule.

About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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