The Raiders’ new passing game coordinator, Ted Tollner, is a highly regarded offensive mind, especially in regards to the passing game. Not long after Tollner was hired by the Raiders, SportingNews had this to say about him:
“Tollner is a former QB coach who could be instrumental in the development of JaMarcus Russell.”
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune lists JaMarcus Russell as the only quarterback on his list of “Offensive Players Poised for a Breakout Season” and he credits Tollner as the main reason why this could happen.
So when Tom Cable was given the duties of hiring someone to fill the position, he knew who to call and he had a lot of folks who lauded his choice to fill the role. But how did Tollner know that it was the job for him?
“When Tom called me he said, “here is what I am looking for, are you still interested in coaching?”. I said ‘yeah I still enjoy coaching a great deal, you tell me what you are looking for and I will tell you if I think I can fit’ because at this stage of my career I don’t need to get into a situation where I don’t think I fit,just to work. I have done all the different things, and at some stage of your career all you really want to do is help turn a program around and not worry about is it this title or that responsibility just help them win and I am comfortable with that and I like the fit.”
And thus far, he still feels that way. With Tollner having had a mini camp, OTA’s and eleven days of training camp to get a good feel for what he will be coordinating this year.
“I’m impressed with our work ethic. They want to turn it around and they’re willing to pay the price, and that’s what’s happening right now. From a work ethic standpoint, they’re doing the right things. We’ve got a lot of things to correct and fix, but if you don’t have that, you don’t have a chance, and we have that. They are tired of coming up short.”
Last season Kiffin remarked several times if we have to rely on the pass we’re not going to win a lot of games. That did not put a lot of faith in this teams passing game at the time. And while that mindset could be viewed as counterproductive, you can’t argue that the arial attack for the Raiders was far from solid. The question is whether Tollner now has enough confidence in JaMarcus and company that if the Raiders were to get into a situation where he was forced to rely on the pass does he think they have the players and scheme to pull it off?
“For me to say that right now would be a little bit premature because we’re young. But I think we’re young with ability that excites us. We’re excitably young and unproven. So whether we can do it or not, that’s going to all come out in the wash. But I know this. For us to be a winning football team, we’ve got to find a way to complement the run game with a more effective and productive pass game. We have to. In every situation. And we’re excited as a staff. I think our players are excited. But you have to temper that. Until you do it, you’re just excited about potential. But we’ve got to do it. That’s our challenge. But it’s exciting for all of us right now to say, ‘OK, we’ve got a chance if we can complement the run game productively.”
Which is an honest, albeit not a very glowing, endorsement of the current state of the Raiders passing game.
Obviously, how JaMarcus Russell progresses will have a huge bearing on how Tollner game plans as well as if it will breed success in the Raiders offense. The status of the progression appears to be a ways off from the sounds of it. And there are a great number of challenges that lie ahead for the big quarterback.
“As young as [JaMarcus] is with really one year in the league, it’s a little bit of everything. And that’s not unusual. Everything happens so fast from the college level to the pro level as far as pass rush and protection, you can’t put your offensive line and protectors in jeopardy by hanging onto the ball. The stress that Paul’s had with him to fit into our whole scenario right now is we have to get the ball out on time… anticipation becomes a real critical issue. Most college quarterbacks have to learn that.”
It can be rather unpleasant to hear a passing game coordinator talking about the transition from college to the pros in regards to a quarterback entering his third year in the NFL. But at this point the most important thing that we see from Russell is building confidence in his surrounding cast and acclimating to yet another game plan. But don’t think that will hold back Tollner’s plans for this offense.
“Again, we know we have to get a whole bunch better with our pass offense to get where we want to get. We’ve set some high goals. We want to be in that winning side of it and be a playoff-type team. That’s what our goal is. That’s what Tom’s vision is. That’s part of the reason I got excited about joining. I like his vision and I wanted to be a part of it. How fast that happens , we’ll find out.”