Year after year, Al Davis sizes up his coaching staff. Starting first with the head coach. Prior to Norv Turner, a sub 8-8 record was unacceptable and grounds for immediate firing. Below is a bit of history you may already know, but is worth mentioning for what I will get to after.
After a five win season for Norv, Davis thought best to allow the scouting department, for which he is the main decision maker, to re-tool the talent depleted team after the run of the late 90s and early 00s. After all, that run was due in large part to aging super stars such as Tim Brown, Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson and Rich Gannon.
After Turner failed to increase the win total to an acceptable level, Davis went the familiar route of looking for a new head coach. I believe to this day Al Davis wanted Sean Payton, but when Payton spurned the Raiders for a raise in Dallas, Davis was forced into a corner. He waited a while without finding a plan B and when the market of potential head coaches dried up, he was left with Art Shell. Shell had been trying to get another shot for a while and he remained close with Davis.
After Shell’s disastrous season, Davis had no choice but to cut Shell loose. If you want to be real about when the Raiders hit rock bottom, this was the season.
I think that the Shell hiring was as much a favor to Shell as anything. I don’t think Davis anticipated such a disastrous result. Davis simply failed to understand how the players of today would respond to an old school thinker like Shell and the antiquated system of offensive coordinator Tom Walsh. Mr. Bed & Breakfast.
To add to these issues, was a front office being pulled apart by a disgruntled Michael Lombardi. Lombardi is, by the most conservative sense of the word, a weasel.
After cleaning house, Davis was having some issue attracting top names as he had been able to do in the past and he went on the lookout for the next Madden or Gruden. The Lane Kiffin era begins.
Kiffin, was never in it for the long-term. His intention was to move on after a couple seasons. He was essentially, too much like Davis for the relationship to work. Kiffin used Davis and was able to parlay his time for the head gig in Tennessee and now USC. Davis unwisely waited to fire Kiffin, when he likely could have just paid him to go away. The lost season was momentarily saved by the unknown Tom Cable, who inspired a second half surge to five wins and a permanent job offer.
Tom Cable assembled a staff that included coaching veterans John Marshall, Ted Tollner, and Paul Hackett. The now much older staff would turn what was a hopefully end to 2008 into another five win season in 2009. They also managed to reduce the production output from the last three first-round draft selections instead of increase that production.
So Davis, with a looming lockout and spurned by the likes of Jim Harbaugh, decides to keep Cable and look to rebuild the coaching staff around him. This is a new approach for Davis or at least it seems to be.
The first thing Davis needed to do was find an offensive coordinator to take play-calling responsibility from Cable. Play-calling, offensive line, and head coaching duties are too much for any one man even the best coaches in the NFL would not attempt such a feat.
Hue Jackson was highly recommended, demonstrated a good track record with multiple offensive positions and was a younger African American who perhaps could get through to JaMarcus Russell on a level the much older Caucasian coaches could not. The Hue Jackson hire, while for a different position was not unlike his hire of Jon Gruden. A star assistant with a track record of success. What is new about this is instead of fire the head coach and bring in Jackson as a head coach, he decided not to promote a coach to a position higher than merited.
Now, Clancy Pendergast will join the staff. Preliminary reports were that he would join as a defensive backs coach, but the Raiders have not yet confirmed how Pendergast will help the defense.
Defense has typically been an area where Davis meddles, so one has to assume Pendergast really impressed the him. Pendergast record as a defensive coordinator has been largely unsuccessful and is a clear reason why this will be his third job in as many years.
Pendergast installed a 3-4 defense in Kansas City. This rendered Glenn Dorsey almost useless and the Chiefs drafted Tyson Jackson in the first round in 2009 to jump start the new system. Was this the idea of Pendergast or of new GM Scott Pioli?
Of course the system failed miserably, and while you could pin this on Pendergast, it would be difficult. Still Pendergast hasn’t done anything special with the defenses he has coached, besides a defense that played well enough to get the Cardinals to the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
Pendergast Stats as Defensive Coordinator:
100 career games
Average Points Allowed: 24.36 points per game
Average Margin of Defeat: 11.7 points
Average Margin of Victory: 10.6 points
14 points or fewer: 21% of games
15-24 points in 39% of games
25+ in 40% of games.
30+ in 25% of games.
He impressed Dennis Green to get his first defensive coorinator position, but hasn’t done much to deserve it.
He hardly inspires greatness, but as an assistant, he could prove more valuable than as a defensive coordinator. Time will tell.