It’s official: Hue’s the man in Oakland

After weeks of speculation, the Raiders made it official Monday when they promoted offensive coordinator Hue Jackson to head coach. The Raiders were the last team in the NFL without a head coach and no one was quite sure when Al Davis would make his decision. Or rather, when he would make his decision public. Jackson seemed like the obvious decision but the bigger question mark was when Davis would officially make the move. That answer came on Monday.

Hue Jackson was brought in last offseason with the hopes of reviving a stale Raiders offense that was previous “led” by former #1 overall pick, JaMarcus Russell. Some thought his hiring would mean the resurgence of Russell’s once promising career. But not long after Jackson arrived, Russell was departing.

With Russell not around to hold the Raiders back any longer, Jackson was able to execute his gameplan and the Raiders became one of the most improved offenses. Jason Campbell came into his own late in the season and Darren McFadden had his best season at running back to help bring the Raiders back to respectability.

But the ensuing 8-8 campaign was not enough for Tom Cable to receive an extension as head coach. And after just a year on the Raiders sideline, the man who was thought to be the head coach in waiting would be ‘waiting’ no more.

The press conference to introduce Hue Jackson as the Raiders’ next head coach will be held Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. at Raider headquarters in Alameda.

Despite the late announcement, there were no other candidates in line for the job. Early on there were rumors of others such as the usual John Gruden speculations as well as former Stanford head coach, Jim Harbaugh. But Harbaugh was hired by the 49ers and the Gruden rumors died down as they always do. That just left the inevitable hiring of Jackson.

The Raiders made a huge leap in offensive production under Jackson’s tutelage. Compared to the previous season (with Cable calling the plays), their points per game average went from nearly dead last in the league (31) at just over 12 ppg, to sixth in the league with nearly 26 ppg. They were also second in the NFL in rushing at 155.9 yards per game.

The suddenly confident offensive attack helped the Raiders break a seven year streak of 11 or more losses, go undefeated in the AFC West, and kept them in the playoff hunt until week 16 of the regular season.

Prior to the final game of the season, several players expressed that they would very much like for Cable to return. Many players were upset when Cable’s contract was not extended as he was well liked by his players. Most publicly critical was punter Shane Lechler who flamed the move in an interview with CSN Bay Area. In his rant, he said in no uncertain terms that several players set to become free agents may not return because Cable was let go. He mentioned Robert Gallery and Michael Bush in particular.

Nnamdi Asomugha also liked Tom Cable and his contract voided itself at the end of the season due to unreached stipulations. Asomugha has said that he would like to see Jackson get the job, along with several other other Raiders including Jason Campbell, Stanford Routt, and Zach Miller. ‘Continuity’ is the most common word being thrown around as they had hoped to have it with Cable but also know their best chance to keep it is with the hiring of Hue Jackson.

Hue Jackson has no head coaching experience at any level although he has been coaching in the NFL for ten years and coached college ball for 15 years prior to that. He has made the rounds in the NFL, having held several different offensive coaching positions for five different teams in those ten years.

He was brought in to take over as the Raiders’ offensive coordinator after two seasons as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach. There he was credited with the speedy development of Joe Flacco. Prior to his short stint in Baltimore he was the Falcons’ offensive coordinator (2007), wide receivers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals (2004-06), running backs coach and later offensive coordinator of the Redskins (2001-03).

He began his coaching career as an assistant for his alma mater, University of the Pacific (1987-1989). He also held a position at Cal State Fullerton before moving on to Division I as quarterbacks coach at Arizona State (1992-1995). He then spent one season as offensive coordinator at Cal where he worked with Tom Cable (1996) before getting the call from USC to be their next offensive coordinator (1997-00).

Jackson has always had tremendous respect for Al Davis and the Raiders. He was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. After high school he played quarterback at University of the Pacific just up the freeway from Oakland in Stockton.

According to ESPN, long time NFL offensive coordinator Al Saunders is the most likely candidate to become Jackson’s offensive coordinator. Raider fans may recognize him most as the longtime offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs (2001-2005). Saunders has connections to Hue Jackson as well as Jason Campbell which is why the hiring makes some sense.

Defensive coordinator John Marshall will also need to be replaced as his contract was also not renewed. Al Davis was never pleased with missing the playoffs and the defense giving up 30 points six times during the season (all were losses) certainly shoulders some of the blame. There are some thoughts going around as to who has the best shot at the position. The first rumor to come out was of a possible return of Rob Ryan as the Raiders’ defensive coordinator but he has since been signed by the Cowboys to the same position. Several sources had Ravens secondary coach, Chuck Pagano, with the inside track but he has since been promoted to the Ravens defensive coordinator.  

The Raiders could be looking for a lot more staff when you consider that defensive line coach Mike Waufle and defensive backs coach Kevin Ross are the only coaches currently under contract. The defense as a whole gave up a few high scoring games but Waufle is safe in large part to the defensive line racking up 47 sacks this season, which was tied for second in the NFL. I would not be completely surprised if Waufle isn’t considered for a promotion to defensive coordinator.

But for now, the Raiders finally have their new head coach and he is the right guy for the job. Staying in house is the best thing for the Raiders. Getting the head coaching position settled means they can shift focus on filling out the staff and re-signing possible free agents. Now, come on CBA. Let’s get it done so Hue has something to coach in 2011.

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About Levi Damien, Senior Writer

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