ALAMEDA, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2006) -- Art Shell was introduced as the Oakland Raiders' new coach, returning to the franchise more than 11 years after he was fired following his first stint.
Shell, a long shot when the 5½-week search began after Norv Turner was fired Jan. 3, first talked to owner Al Davis about taking the job last week. The 59-year-old Shell emerged as the leading candidate when Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt told the team he didn't want the job.
"It's coming home," Shell said. "It's coming home to finish what I started. "
Shell, who had been working as the senior vice president of football operations and development for the NFL, hasn't been a head coach since the Raiders fired him following the 1994 season in a move Davis has said he still regrets.
Davis was praising Shell on Feb. 11.
"It's tradition, history, excellence, leadership. It's wrapped up all in one when you mention the name Art Shell," he said.
Davis has gone through five coaches in 11 seasons since firing Shell, possibly scaring some candidates away from the job.
"As I said at the end of the season, changing the coach staff won't do anything if the players don't want to go out there and play," safety Jarrod Cooper said in a phone interview. "It's on us to get this done."
Shell did have success while working with Davis. The coach had a 54-38 regular-season record with the Raiders, leading them to the AFC Championship Game following the 1990 season. But he didn't get a second chance as a head coach until now.
He worked as offensive line coach for two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and four with the Atlanta Falcons before stepping down following the 2000 season.
The Raiders have had only three winning seasons since Shell was fired -- one less than he had in five full seasons as coach.
"I'm excited about having a coach. I'm even more excited having a former Raiders player as coach," linebacker Danny Clark said in a phone interview. "He has been in that locker room, played for that owner and knows what it's like to be in silver and black."
The first black head coach in modern NFL history when the Raiders hired him in 1989, Shell becomes the seventh one currently in the league. Of the 10 openings this offseason, the only other black coach hired was Herman Edwards, who was traded from the New York Jets to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Cyrus Mehri, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who partnered with the late Johnnie Cochran to pressure the NFL into establishing minority hiring guidelines for teams after the 2002 season, said he believes Shell's long hiatus has to do with a "double standard" when it comes to giving second chances to coaches.
"He definitely has the fire in the belly to get back in coaching," Mehri said. "We had him as one of the people we thought deserved serious consideration because we know how much he's ready to get back into this."
Mehri said Shell's hiring took "the sting" out of disappointment of no new black coaches getting a chance at a head job, but said there's still more work for the NFL to do.