ALAMEDA, Calif. (Nov. 29, 2006) -- The Oakland Raiders' soap opera season took another strange turn when coach Art Shell accused a member of the organization of trying to undermine the coaching staff and rooting against the team.
Shell did not name the person, but said it was not a coach or a player. He said the person has been calling media members around the country and criticizing coaches.
"I'm a fighter," Shell said. "I sit back and I watch things happen and then it gets to the point where you cross the line. That line has been crossed and I won't sit back and allow it to happen anymore."
Shell's latest comments came in response to questions about his decision Nov. 28 to demote Tom Walsh from his role of offensive coordinator to tight ends coach and replace him with John Shoop.
"When you root against me, you're rooting against the Raiders," Shell said. "When you root against Tom Walsh, you're rooting against the Raiders. And for someone to do that is unconscionable. It's unconscionable. It's detestable and I think it's an outrage."
The drama is the latest for a lost season in which star receiver Randy Moss has gone on the radio nearly every week with criticisms of the team and receiver Jerry Porter was suspended for insubordination after clashing with the coaching staff.
"How can you accept a paycheck from somebody that's given you a job and given you an opportunity to try to excel in life, and then turn around and call your cronies around the league? And it gets back to me and I'm tired of it," Shell said.
Shell said the "character assassination" began soon after he was hired in February to begin his second stint as Raiders coach. He said the attacks have also been directed at owner Al Davis.
The internal strife is reminiscent of Shell's first stint as Raiders coach, which ended after the 1994 season when he believed he was being undermined by one of his assistants, Mike White, who ended up replacing Shell.
Shell went on to work as an assistant coach in Kansas City and Atlanta and never saw those sorts of problems.
"It shouldn't be like that," Shell said. "Every organization should be here on the same page, from the bottom up, from the groundskeeper on up. Everybody should be on the same page, trying to do the right things, trying to help this organization win. I went to Kansas City, that's the way it was. It was like that. Every individual was on board. Atlanta, every individual was on board. And it should be like that here."
But it hasn't been ever since Porter made public his trade demands and criticisms of the coaching staff at the start of training camp. Porter was inactive the first four games of the season despite leading the team in receptions a year ago and then was suspended for two games for insubordination after getting kicked out of practice.
Some players publicly questioned Shell's handling of the Porter situation, especially since the offense was struggling without him.
Moss went on his radio show days before the season opener complaining that things are "fishy" around the Raiders. He's also suggested that he would be better off if the team traded him and blamed his many dropped passes on being unhappy with the situation.
Oakland (2-9) has scored a league-low 132 points this season and is assured of a fourth consecutive losing season for the first time in franchise history.
The Raiders were last in the league in passing offense and total offense, 21st in rushing offense, and have allowed a league-high 53 sacks.
Walsh had come under criticism because he had been out of the NFL since 1994 and spent the past seven years running a bed and breakfast and serving as mayor of Swan Valley, Idaho.
Shell said it was very difficult to demote his friend.
"You have to be patient," Shell said. "I'm a very patient man, so I'll take my time always before I make a rash decision. I felt at this time the decision needed to be made. It was very hard, very hard for me to do because I have a lot of respect for Tom Walsh. Tom Walsh has taken a lot, a lot of abuse from a lot of people and that has disappointed me."
The Associated Press News Service
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