With the stench of a 2-14 season hanging on the air, Al Davis and crew must shake off the embarrassment of the darkly comic second Art Shell Era and choose a new leader to put the Silver and Black back on the path to the Super Bowl—or at least respectability.
The candidates who have been linked to this less-than-desirable position range from the usual suspects (Bobby Petrino, now locked up by the Atlanta Falcons, Denny Green, NFL&id=920&line=87954&spln=1">possibly Tom Coughlin) to the absurd.
But if the Raiders really want to make a bold statement with their hire—as they certainly would have in their glory days—one dark horse candidate should go right to the top of their list: offensive mastermind Norm Chow.
Chow's name has been whispered in connection with several NFL head coaching gigs this offseason, but the interest so far seems to be speculative at best. His last shot at a top position came when he was a finalist for the Stanford job back in 2004. The Cardinal ultimately chose Walt Harris instead...and look how that turned out.
After being turned down by Stanford, Chow took his offensive wizardry to the Tennessee Titans, where he went to work for USC alum Jeff Fisher. After taking his lumps in his first year as O.C. with a horrendously under-talented team, Chow drew high praise during his sophomore campaign for his work in molding Vince Young into an effective NFL quarterback over the course of a single season.
Now, it should be a matter of when—not if—Chow earns a head coaching spot.
And what better time and place for him to ascend to that status than this year in Oakland, where the Raiders are poised to spend the number one pick in the draft on one of two quarterbacks—Brady Quinn of Notre Dame or JaMarcus Russell of LSU. In Bill Walsh's absence, Chow has officially become the dean of NFL quarterback tutors. His track record speaks for itself: Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Phillip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Vince Young.
The last time the Raiders chose a quarterback with their first pick was in 1991, when they embarked on the ill-fated Todd Marinovich experiment. With Chow at the helm, they'd have some serious insurance against the possibility of another bust.
And Chow would be a logical fit for the Raiders on more than just the QB front. Al Davis is known for favoring offensive innovators with prickly personalities. Chow fills the bill on both counts, and would join the lineage of such past Davis hirees as Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden.
Chow has also shown a fondness for the vertical passing offense over the years, which is a definite must for any Davis employee—and the reason why the Raiders owner is supposedly considering Steve Sarkisian, Chow's replacement at USC, for the Oakland job.
Memo to Al: Why settle for a pale imitation when you can have the real deal?
The biggest impediment to Oakland hiring Chow might be the mounting evidence that Al Davis has lost his fastball. His last few coaching hires have been less than stellar. Bill Callahan was a dud. Norv Turner was woefully miscast as a head coach. And Shell was doomed from the start.
Still, the smart money says the salty old coot has one good hire left in him before he kicks the bucket. If he can recapture even an ounce of that "Just Win, Baby" chutzpah, he'll cast his lot with Norm Chow and let the rest take care of itself.
If not, Oakland fans, well—
You'll always have the A's.
(Until they move to Fremont, anyway.)
Update: Chow has now emerged as a candidate for the Arizona Cardinals head coaching position. Good call, Mike.