by Michael Stephens

The Oakland Raiders have gone from one of the NFL’s most intimidating teams to one that has been outplayed, out-coached and even out-muscled by foes week in and week out.

More than a decade after being dismissed as the team’s coach, Art Shell is back to change all of that.

The Hall of Fame offensive lineman is back for a second stint as owner Al Davis is determined to turn his moribund organization around. Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and University of Louisville coach Bobby Petrino were both rumored to be top candidates for the job, but Davis turned instead to Shell, who went 54-38 as head coach of the Raiders from 1989-1994.

“It may take us a short while, but we’ll get that nastiness of the Raiders back,” Davis said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m going to depend on the great Art Shell to help us get that done.”

The Raiders have won a combined 13 games the past three seasons since reaching Super Bowl XXXVII in early 2003. AFC West rivals Denver, Kansas City and San Diego have had field days with the hated Raiders, and Shell says he is ready to instill the importance of these rivalries into his players.

“When you walk out there, when you into that stadium, you walk out there with a presence. Mr. Davis called it a swagger,” Shell said. “I just want to get back to the point where when we walk into a stadium, they know the Raiders are in town. And when we walk into the Coliseum, the Raiders are here. We’ve got to create that attitude, and that’s what I expect to do.”

Shell hasn’t been a head coach since the Raiders let him go, but his style will be a familiar one: Hard-nosed.

“Everybody has a way of doing things. The Raiders have a way of doing things. We’re about winning. And we will win,” Shell said. “We will be tough. We will be power. And I want the ability, as always to strike from anywhere on the field. That’s important to me.”

Shell has the personnel in place with the strong-armed Kerry Collins at quarterback and Randy Moss as a premiere deep threat. Perhaps the biggest area of improvement is Oakland’s offensive line, which allowed 45 sacks, committed many penalties and enabled the running game to pick up just 3.8 yards per carry.

Working with the offensive line is thought to be Shell’s biggest strength. He played in eight Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls as a player, and has coached the lines of three NFL franchises. He was the first black head coach in NFL history when the Raiders hired him in 1989, and Davis says he has “never forgiven himself” for firing him. Oakland has had five coaches — and only three winning campaigns — since.

Current Raiders are already excited about the move.

“I’m excited about having a coach. I’m even more excited having a former Raiders player as coach,” linebacker Danny Clark said. “He has been in that locker room, played for that owner and knows what it’s like to be in silver and black.”

Fantasy owners can be excited, too — or at least cautiously optimistic. Collins (20 TDs, 12 INTs) and Moss (60 receptions, 1,005 yards, 8 TDs) were major fantasy disappointments last year as the touted team went a miserable 3-13. The inability of a talented offense to generate big plays caused many owners (and Davis) consternation and led to Norv Turner’s dismissal as coach.

With Shell running the show, expect Oakland’s turnaround to begin with its offensive line and for the position players to benefit in turn. Running back Lamont Jordan (1,025 yards, 9 TDs) should shine in his second year as the starter, and Collins can light anyone up if he gets protection. Be conservative with these guys, but the Files is confident that this coaching change will mean good things for Raider Nation.

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Pingback by Fantasy Football Files » Blog Archive » 49ERS WIN COIN TOSS FOR SIXTH OVERALL DRAFT PICK

February 25, 2006 @ 2:37 pm

[…] Fans of the 49ers aren’t sure how to react to the fact that the team won a coin toss over the Raiders for the sixth overall draft pick in April’s draft. […]

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