Replacing John Marshall

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis has wrapped up his staff evaluations and is expected to name Hue Jackson as the Raiders’ head coach some time early this week, the ninth Raider head coach since returning to Oakland. All signs point to two new coordinators being introduced in addition to Jackson, although the process of hiring coordinators may not happen as quickly.

Al Davis has allowed 2010 defensive coordinator John Marshall’s contract to expire and the Raiders are not expected to renew the deal. Davis was reportedly peeved about Marshall’s use of a five safety package against the Jacksonville Jaguars that may have cost the Raiders points in their losing effort. My intuition tells me that Davis doesn’t like the aggressive style of Marshall’s blitz packages either. Davis is known for liking a more conservative scheme. Marshall’s defense allowed six 30-plus point games by opponents, though four of those came after injuries to middle linebacker Rolando McClain, defensive end Richard Seymour, and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

It has also been reported that the Dallas Cowboys are no longer looking for a defensive coordinator, with Rob Ryan assuming the position in 2011. Now that Ryan is off the market, let’s take a look at some potential replacements to be the leader of the Raiders’ defensive unit in 2011.

Top Available: Sean McDermott

Just last season, McDermott was ranked as ProFootballWeekly’s best NFL defensive coordinator after taking over for the departed Jim Johnson in Philadelphia. He was with Johnson for ten years before the legend passed away and all indications are that he paid close attention. McDermott was relieved of his duties in Philadelphia just three days after the 2010 season though head coach Andy Reid said that he would be retained. The 2010 Eagles defense was not as impressive as some of their past squads and gave up a league high 31 passing touchdowns this year.

But a lot of the problem with the Eagles’ defense during McDermott’s tenure has been the high number of injuries. He’s had to deal with eight different starting middle linebackers in a 4-3 scheme. He’s also had five different starting cornerbacks and five different starting safeties. So some of the blame can be placed on complex ideas being lost on young players who haven’t yet grasped the basics of NFL defense. McDermott may be overlooked because of the “pressure scheme” that he learned from the master, Jim Johnson, but he should be considered a candidate since he is one of the better prospects of the 4-3 coordinators in the league.

On the Team: Mike Waufle

Best known as the mastermind behind the defensive front that rattled Tom Brady at the end of the New England Patriots’ “perfect” season, Waufle spent the last year creating a solid front four for the Raiders as their defensive line coach. This past season, Waufle helped construct a unit that had 38 of the Raiders 47 sacks. That mark of 47 sacks was the second highest total in the league this year.

Waufle was highly instrumental in the development of a few stars during his time with the New York Giants, like Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Barry Cofield. One of the things Waufle likes in his players is versatility, which is why you saw Kamerion Wimbley line up as a linebacker in base packages and a defensive end in passing situations in 2010. With the Raiders having “hybrid” players who can play outside linebacker and defensive end like Quentin Groves, Trevor Scott, and Wimbley, as well as guys who can play inside and out on the defensive line in base defense situations like Desmond Bryant, Richard Seymour, and Lamarr Houston, Waufle could become the perfect successor to Marshall for the Raiders.

Under the Radar: Dave McGinnis

For the past seven seasons, McGinnis has coached the linebackers for the Tennessee Titans. For six of those seven seasons, he has served as an assistant head coach for Jeff Fisher. Working under Defensive Coordinator Chuck Cecil, McGinnis is not likely to receive a further promotion any time soon. He has guided three Titan linebackers — Keith Bulluck, Stephen Tulloch and David Thornton — to become leaders of a defense that finished in the NFL’s top ten in both total defense and rushing defense in 2007 and 2008.

McGinnis built his reputation and knowledge during a ten year stint (1986-95) with the Chicago Bears as linebacker coach, where he worked with one of the best linebacker corps in the game: Mike Singletary, Wilber Marshall, and Otis Wilson. He coached Mike Singletary for seven of his twelve years in the league with each ending in a trip to the Pro Bowl. During his tenure in Chicago, the Bears advanced to the playoffs six times and the defense finished in the top six of the NFL six times, including a first or second place ranking three times. With the youngsters developing at linebacker in Oakland and the need for an improved rushing defense in addition to the Titans entering a rebuilding period, McGinnis may be the perfect under the radar candidate to come in and lead the Raiders defense.

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