Raiders Re-hire Art Shell as Head Coach

After failing to hire the wrong coach several times, Al Davis has finally re-hired Art Shell to coach the Oakland Raiders.

Al Davis finally found a new coach for the Oakland Raiders — a man he regretted firing more than a decade ago. Art Shell was hired for his second stint as Raiders coach Friday night, one day after Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt became the latest candidate to tell the team he didn’t want the job.

Shell, a long shot when the 5 1/2-week search began after Norv Turner was fired Jan. 3, first talked to Davis about taking the job last week. The 59-year-old Shell met most of Friday with Davis and other team officials and will be formally introduced at a news conference Saturday.

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.


Davis has gone through five coaches in 11 seasons since firing Shell after the 1994 campaign, possibly scaring some candidates away from the job.

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. He hadn’t gotten a second chance as a head coach after he was fired, a move Davis has often said he regretted.

The Raiders have had only three winning seasons since Shell was fired — one less than he had in five full seasons as coach. With less than two weeks until the scouting combine begins, Shell will have to work quickly to put together his staff and set his offseason priorities.

He takes over a Raiders team that has struggled mightily since going to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season. They won just 13 games over the last three years, the first time they had three losing seasons in a row since before Davis joined the franchise in 1963.


Shell made eight Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls as a standout offensive tackle in a 15-year career with the Raiders that led to his induction into the Hall of Fame. He replaced the fired Mike Shanahan during the 1989 season and lasted through 1994, the team’s final season in Los Angeles.

Davis also interviewed Al Saunders, James Lofton and Rod Marinelli, and had talks with former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz, Oakland quarterbacks coach John Shoop, and Louisville coach Bobby Petrino. Saunders decided to take a job running the Washington Redskins’ offense, Marinelli was hired as Detroit Lions coach, Martz will be the Lions’ offensive coordinator next season and Petrino said he wants to stay at Louisville.

An amazing odyssey. Davis has become the Michael Jackson of the NFL, making one inexplicable move after another. And that’s after nearly a quarter century as one of the smartest owners in football, coaching the team successfully himself and then hiring men of the caliber of John Madden and Tom Flores to run the team.

For reasons most can not fathom, when free agency hit Davis began running the Raiders like a fantasy football team, signing big name but past-their-prime free agents and firing coaches before they could even get a system in place.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.