ALAMEDA, Calif. (Jan. 4, 2006) -- Al Davis is putting his lead personnel man in charge of making preliminary contacts with potential candidates for the Oakland Raiders' coaching vacancy, then the owner will get involved later.
The men who make the cut with Michael Lombardi will sit down with Davis himself.
The Raiders returned to work Jan. 4 to begin planning their search, one day after firing coach Norv Turner following two losing seasons in which the team won only once against the AFC West.
"Right now, in 20 cities in America, everyone is trying to figure out how they can win next year," Davis said. "And the coaches who are considered great young coaches right now, next year some of them will be raising their hand looking for jobs. That's the way this business is."
The Raiders also must make decisions soon about the futures of their assistant coaches, though Davis said he expects at least some of them to stay with the organization.
As far as finding Turner's replacement, the club is going to take its time. Davis likes offensive-minded coaches, but Turner was a highly regarded offensive mind and still had problems getting the most from an Oakland offense featuring Randy Moss, Jerry Porter, Kerry Collins and LaMont Jordan.
"We're going to do the right thing, however long it takes," senior administrator Artie Gigantino said.
Whoever gets the job will try to turn around a team that has posted three straight losing seasons for the first time since the 76-year-old Davis came aboard in 1963 to coach and eventually own the team. The Raiders finished 4-12 this season, losing their final six games and eight of the final nine.
"As a player, we've got to keep going on because our job depends on winning," fullback Zack Crockett said. "Hopefully they'll bring someone in who is in the same frame of mind and can relate to the players. The main thing is it's about winning. If you don't win, these things can happen. Everybody's at fault. We'll see brighter days."
Two potential candidates are in Baltimore: Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel.
Fassel, who coached the Raiders' QBs in 1995, was Collins' head coach with the New York Giants during the quarterback's best years -- including during the 2000 season when Collins took his team to the Super Bowl.
Fassel is one of few former assistants to leave the Raiders and stay on good terms with Davis. He is a California native and was at Stanford from 1979-83, credited for recruiting and coaching John Elway.
Fassel has the vote of his current boss.
"We're going to be very supportive of Jim's looking and hopefully being able to procure a head coaching job. I think Jim would be outstanding," Ravens head coach Brian Billick said last week.
Neuheisel has visited the Raiders' wine-country training camp twice in recent years at Davis' invitation and Davis has said he likes Neuheisel, who could come at a good price.
Davis didn't rule out again going after Art Shell, now the NFL vice president. Davis has repeatedly said he regretted firing Shell after a 9-7 campaign in 1994.
"I have great respect for him," Davis said. "He was a truly great player. We are happy that he is working for the NFL now in a high-powered position. We'll see what happens in the future."
While Davis didn't eliminate the idea of bringing in fired St. Louis coach Mike Martz in some capacity, he hinted it probably wouldn't be in the top spot because of the owner's concerns about Martz's health. He was forced to step down from the Rams in October with a heart ailment.
Fresno State assistant athletic director Steve Weakland said the school had not yet formally heard from the Raiders regarding interest in coach Pat Hill, but that's not necessarily required and is more of a courtesy when it comes to courting college coaches.
The 54-year-old Hill, who just finished his ninth season leading the Bulldogs, and Lombardi worked together in Cleveland. Hill joined the Browns in 1992 and stayed five seasons, coaching tight ends and offensive line in addition to working in the personnel department evaluating players. Hill's Fresno State bio says he "would have been happy to remain in the NFL had the Fresno State job not opened a possibility for him."
"There are head coaches in the college ranks who have been in the NFL," Davis said. "There is nothing that holds us back from doing what we think is right."