The Oakland Raiders made a good choice in hiring Hue Jackson as their new head coach.
Jackson has worked with a lot of good offensive minds, and he has the kind of presence a head coach needs to lead a team.
The big question that will determine Jackson's success or failure is: Does he have a quarterback who can win for him?
The Raiders have had 18 starting quarterbacks and nine head coaches in the 16 years since they moved back to Oakland in 1995. Oakland has had only three winning seasons in the last 16, and all came with the same quarterback-coach combination -- Rich Gannon and Jon Gruden.
Raiders owner Al Davis is convinced Jason Campbell is poised to lead the team back to the playoffs. Over the last five games of this season, Campbell went 3-2, completing 64.7 percent of his passes with six TDs, two INTs and a passer rating of 96.4. Davis said before the season he sees a lot of Jim Plunkett in Campbell, which is high praise.
"He reminds me of Jim Plunkett at this particular phase in his career," Davis reiterated last week. "I said it then and I believe it now. But I also believe that Jim Plunkett was one of the great players of our time. Won two Super Bowls and has never gotten the acclaim he desires or deserves. He was a Heisman Trophy winner, he was a Super Bowl winner, he did as much in pro football as John Elway did, who it took 15 years to win a Super Bowl, somewhere close to that.
"I remind you that these things don't come quickly to anyone," Davis said. "You all espouse the greatness of Brett Favre uh, one Super Bowl that he won with the Green Bay Packers. I saw in Jason Campbell someone down the road who can really throw the football, can run, and there are some things we have to do with him, but I think the guy who's going to be handling him in the future knows what to do and how to do it."
Campbell is 20-32 in six years as a pro and he was benched early in the season by the Raiders. But he does have a career completion percentage of 61.7 percent the past five years and he has 68 TD passes and 46 interceptions for his career. He had four different offensive coordinators in four years at Auburn and four coordinators in six years in the NFL.
"He played flawless," Jackson said of Campbell late in the season. "He played almost as good as you can play as a quarterback in our league. Led us to some very impressive wins. And I look forward to him doing the same thing this year in our system, same system, opportunity to go out with the same teammates."
Davis thinks Campbell is far superior to Auburn QB Cam Newton, whom he referred to as "Kim."
"One point I want to make, that might be of interest to you, Kim Newton is the quarterback for Auburn, and they were the national champions this year," Davis said. "When Jason Campbell played for Auburn, he was 13-0 his senior year. I want you to all check it out with -- a lot of you have scouts and this -- who the better player was coming out of college, Jason Campbell or Kim Newton?"
Jackson, 45, makes a great impression as a leader. He can get players to follow him. He learned offense working with Gruden at Pacific, Steve Mariucci at California and Paul Hackett, a great offensive mind, at Southern Cal. Jackson worked in the NFL with good coaches like Marty Schottenheimer, Marvin Lewis and John Harbaugh. He's ready. Jackson last week hired an outstanding offensive coordinator, Al Saunders. That will be a challenge for Campbell, too, however, because Saunders' playbook is thicker than most.
Davis' appointment of Jackson came in a rambling, disjointed news conference that lasted more than 90 minutes. Much of it focused on fired coach Tom Cable. Davis acknowledged Jackson had some of Gruden's leadership traits.
"He was like, what's his name? Gruden," Davis said. "Gruden was like that -- feisty, he could lead the defense. But they are different, definitely, Hue Jackson and Jon Gruden. But on that particular thing they are very similar."
The Raiders have talent. They ranked sixth in the NFL in scoring this season, averaging 25.6 points a game. They have some explosive players at skill positions, like running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, and receivers Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford. They have some big-time talents on defense, starting with linebacker Rolando McClain.
Can Campbell produce right away? And if he doesn't will Jackson get the chance to survive with a franchise that has had six head coaches in nine years?
The Raiders' promotion of Jackson continued a pattern for the franchise. Davis has alternated between offensive line coach and offensive play-calling "guru" with his last 11 hires, dating to the Mike Shanahan appointment in 1988. Following Shanahan were Art Shell (OL), Mike White, Joe Bugel (OL), Jon Gruden, Bill Callahan (OL), Norv Turner, Shell (OL), Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable (OL) and now Jackson. The Raiders have not had a defensive coach since John Madden retired in 1978.
Davis said he would have fired Cable even if Oakland made the playoffs this year because of Cable's off-field problems, which included a fight with former assistant coach Randy Hanson and allegations of abuse by several women.
Among the many other opinions dropped by Davis at the news conference: He said New England would have beaten the Jets last week if the Pats still had Randy Moss. Davis said he regrets trading Moss in 2007: "The coach [Lane Kiffin] wanted to trade him. He scared him. All the coaches are scared of him."
From the Department of A Decade Late and Credibility Short comes the news that Mike Pereira, former NFL VP of officiating, thinks the tuck rule should be retired.
"A pass should only be ruled incomplete if the ball comes loose in the actual act of passing the ball," Pereira wrote this month in his role as a Fox Sports commentator. "If it comes loose in the tucking motion, then it should be a fumble."
No argument there. The rule, which cost the Raiders a famous playoff game at New England in 2002, was enforced in the Ravens-Chiefs playoff game this month. It's just hard to accept the about-face now from a guy who vociferously defended the rule and was in the ideal position to try to change it from 2004 to 2009, when he led the officiating department.
Davis' reaction to Pereira's stand: "Oh, well, we knew that's coming. We just didn't know when it was coming. They took the game from us, let's be honest about that."
The Bills' schedule for 2011 ranks second toughest in the league, based on the 2010 records. Carolina has the hardest schedule in 2011, and Arizona has the easiest. The Chiefs had the easiest schedule in the league this year. They're the only team that will play each of today's four conference finalists next season. Kansas City's schedule is tied for third hardest next season.
The early favorite to land QB Vince Young now is Minnesota, since the Vikings hired Titans QB coach Craig Johnson for the same position.
Pats special teamer Patrick Chung said it was solely his call to switch to a fake punt late in the first half against the Jets. Chung dropped the ball and the Jets had a short field en route to a 14-3 lead. Chung said the Jets' defensive alignment created the opportunity for the fake. In replays, it looked like Chung would have run for the first down if he didn't muff the snap. It might not have mattered if the Pats ran the ball more in the first half, when the Jets were daring them to stay on the ground. BenJarvus Green-Ellis averaged 5.3 yards on just four first-half carries.