Art Shell Steps Down As Raiders Coach

By JOSH DUBOW
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 4, 2007; 11:34 PM

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Art Shell's second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders ended after just one season, the franchise's worst in more than four decades. Shell met with owner Al Davis on Thursday, and afterward the team announced that he would not return as coach for the final season of his contract.

"While Art will no longer serve as head coach, he and Mr. Davis have discussed and will continue to discuss opportunities for Art to remain a valued member of the Raider organization," the team said in a statement.

Shell's departure from the sideline marks the third coaching change for Davis in the past four years. Oakland has just a 15-49 record in that span, including a 2-14 mark this season that was the Raiders' worst since 1962.

When Shell was hired to replace Norv Turner last February, he vowed to return the Raiders to their glory days. Instead, Oakland had the league's worst record and set franchise marks for losses and fewest points scored.

ESPN and Yahoo.com first reported that Shell was out as coach.

Shell was unavailable for comment Thursday, but said Monday that he expected to be back for a second season.

"I firmly believe in what we're trying to do," he said then. "And I firmly believe in where we're headed with this thing. Many times, a record is not an indicator, and I know it's wins and losses that count, but I think and believe that we're a better group than we were at the beginning of the year or at any time in the offseason."

Shell, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle in his playing career with the Raiders, was previously fired by Davis following the 1994 season after posting a 54-38 record in five-plus years and leading the team to three playoff berths.

Davis said he long regretted firing Shell, and finally brought him back for a second stint after some other candidates bowed out during a lengthy search to replace Turner.

This stint wasn't nearly as successful.

Jerry Porter, the team's leading receiver in 2005, clashed with Shell's coaching staff over offseason workout plans and publicly demanded a trade on the first day of training camp.

That ultimately led to Porter being benched and later suspended, leading some players to question whether the feud was damaging the team.

Those questions only grew louder as Oakland lost its first five games, sparking talk of a possible winless season.

Consecutive home wins in late October against Arizona and defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh provided a brief respite, but Oakland lost its final nine games.

While the defense under coordinator Rob Ryan was a bright spot for the team, the offense was by far the worst in the NFL. Ryan is expected to be a candidate to replace Shell.

Shell hired his old friend Tom Walsh as coordinator even though Walsh had been out of the NFL since 1994 and most recently had been running a bed and breakfast in Idaho.

Walsh's background and the team's poor performance made the Raiders a laughingstock around the league. They failed to score an offensive touchdown in eight games, including all four national television appearances in prime time.

Shell demoted Walsh late in the season but the team did not fare any better under John Shoop and finished last in the league with 168 points _ the fifth-lowest total in a 16-game season. The team also allowed a league-worst 72 sacks.

Shell was unable to generate much at all from big-play receiver Randy Moss, another player who criticized the staff. Moss complained about being worked too hard, said things were "fishy" and speculated that he might be better off on another team.

The Raiders have struggled mightily since returning from Los Angeles following the 1994 season. They have had just three winning seasons in that time, including the final two seasons under Jon Gruden and Bill Callahan's trip to the Super Bowl following the 2002 season.

Callahan was fired after going 4-12 the next season and replaced by Turner, who was just 9-23 in his two seasons.

The Raiders finished in last place in the AFC West for four straight years and their struggles have been most evident against division rivals. Oakland is winless in the division the past two seasons, losing 14 straight and 22 of 24 games to San Diego, Denver and Kansas City.

© 2007 The Associated Press