Report: Shell out after one year with Raiders


Published: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Art Shell's second stint as coach of the Raiders will end after just one season, the franchise's worst in more than four decades, ESPN reported Thursday night.

Facts

Dolphins to talk to Chargers' Cameron

  • MIAMI — The Miami Dolphins received permission to interview San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for their head coaching vacancy, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said Thursday.
Cameron is the first confirmed candidate since former coach Nick Saban left Wednesday for Alabama. Cameron also is expected to interview for jobs with the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons. Before joining Chargers' staff as offensive coordinator in 2002, Cameron was head coach at his alma mater, Indiana, from 1997 to 2001. Other possible Dolphins candidates from the NFL include Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman, Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow and Pittsburgh Steelers assistants Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt.

Shell met with owner Al Davis on Thursday to discuss the future of the team following a 2-14 season that was the worst for Oakland since 1962.

Shell planned to tell his coaching staff at a meeting Friday that he would no longer be coach, ESPN reported on its Web site. The report said it was unclear whether Shell was fired or resigned.

The Raiders declined to confirm the story and attempts to reach Shell were unsuccessful. Yahoo.com, citing two sources it did not name, said the meeting with Davis was believed to be about negotiating a settlement for the final year of the coach's contract.

Shell's ouster would mark the third coaching change for Davis in the past four years. Oakland has just a 15-49 record in that span.

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

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.

JETS

Quarterback Chad Pennington overcame a second torn rotator cuff in as many years — and incredible odds — to win The Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

The seven-year veteran acknowledged that dark thoughts passed through his mind in the days following the injury in Week 3 of last season.

"Not having a goal, not having a challenge, not having a carrot out in front of you as an athlete is a bad place to be," Pennington said. "It's sort of like 'The Twilight Zone.' You have no drive, you have nothing to go for."

His outlook improved after he had surgery and the Jets' medical team helped him focus on his rehabilitation.

"Then I had a challenge ahead of me," he said. "I had a goal, I had something to go after and my total mind-set and attitude changed. I was starting to get back to normal."

And he came back, maybe even better than before. The seven-year veteran has led the Jets to a surprising 10-6 record and a wild-card berth one season after they went 4-12 — most of it with him sidelined — and changed coaches. He started all 16 games in a season for the first time, finished second in the AFC with a 95.7 passer rating and threw for a career-high 3,352 yards, along with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Most importantly, he re-emerged as a leader.

"No situation rattles him," receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "I've never seen him rattled. Obviously, when you have your leader like that, you feel the same way he feels, that we can't get rattled out there."

Pennington earned 27 votes in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL. He finished ahead of two other quarterbacks, Drew Brees of New Orleans (8) and Cincinnati's Carson Palmer (5). Pennington, the fifth quarterback to win the award in its nine years, is the first Jet to receive the honor.

Last year's recipients were New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi and Carolina receiver Steve Smith.

"It does mean a lot to me because I've put in a lot of hard work and there's been a lot of people that have supported me throughout the entire process and have put in a lot of hard work with me," Pennington said. "To me, it's a group award and it involves so many people in so many different areas in so many different places that have taken time out of their schedules that have helped me get back to being the player I want to be, and to have a chance to play the game that I love to play."

Pennington came to training camp determined to win a four-man competition at quarterback.

"When you're put in difficult situations, I think you have to fight human nature sometimes and human nature sometimes wants to feel sorry for itself and come up with excuses and look for ways to get out of a situation," he said. "I just chose not to listen to my own human nature."

Or to the naysayers, of whom there were plenty.

After all, how could an NFL quarterback who already had a reputation for not having a strong arm possibly come back from two operations on his shoulder in consecutive years? There was no precedent for it.

"In Chad's mind, there was never any doubt," coach Eric Mangini said. "He was extremely committed to doing everything he could possibly do to put himself in a position to come back from those injuries."

The latest occurred last season in Week 3 when Pennington was sacked by Jacksonville's Paul Spicer, who hit the quarterback from behind and pulled his right arm behind his back as he was about to throw. Pennington keeps a picture of the play on his desk at home as a framed reminder of how far he's come.

"I would say that at some times during the rehab and at some times during the competition, I think I had to look at it as if the slate was wiped clean," he said. "What I had done in the past didn't matter anymore."

Once he was medically cleared to practice, Pennington was ready to run the offense instituted by Mangini and new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

"It didn't matter what time I was passing through (the training room), if Chad was getting rehabbed, he was multitasking with his playbook," Mangini said. "It was like a mobile study center where he was getting worked on and working at the same time."

Pennington easily beat out Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger and Kellen Clemens for the starting job, and proved he was back with consecutive 300-yard games to start the season. He has also routinely bounced back from hard hits to the shoulder.

"If this situation did anything for me, it showed me how important staying in the present and staying in the now is, because that's the only part of your life that you can control at that moment," Pennington said. "You can't control the past and you have no idea what the future holds."

BRONCOS

Investigators scoured a spray-painted 1998 Chevrolet Tahoe impounded early Thursday for clues that might lead them to Darrent Williams' killer.

Police said they believe the SUV might have been used in a New Year's Day drive-by shooting that killed the Denver Broncos cornerback and wounded two other people.

Passers-by spotted the vehicle, parked south of Denver International Airport, and called police anonymously, police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

Detectives were canvassing the remote neighborhood of snow-covered empty lots and industrial buildings under construction.

"We figure somebody might have seen this vehicle on the street or might have seen someone getting out of this vehicle," Jackson said.

The SUV, which was hauled away, will be inspected by crime lab investigators, he added, declining to discuss specifics of what they would look for or what tests they might conduct.

Jackson said detectives felt fortunate the SUV wasn't torched.

"It's pretty obvious if you get a piece of evidence intact, you have a chance to evaluate it and process it," he said. "We will go through it methodically, determine what's in there and what might help us with the investigation."

The vehicle was spray-painted black on the sides, front and back, but the top remained white — the original color of the vehicle authorities sought. The SUV's license plates also matched the one sought by investigators. The rear plate had been spray-painted, but the front plate was unaltered.

State confidentiality laws prevent police from saying whom a vehicle is registered to. Multiple Denver media outlets, citing unnamed sources, have reported the SUV belongs to Brian K. Hicks of Denver, who is jailed on drug and attempted murder charges.

Hicks' lawyer, Walter Gerash, was hospitalized Thursday for a hip replacement and wasn't available for comment, said Andrew Reid, another member of his law firm.

"At this point, we know of no involvement or connection with Mr. Hicks in the murder of the Denver Broncos player," Reid told The Associated Press.

Hicks, 28, has been jailed since Nov. 9 on a charge of possessing drugs with intent to distribute. He also is accused of shooting at a woman who was later killed a week before she was to testify against him last month.

Hicks, who didn't respond to a jail interview request by The AP, has been called a gang member by prosecutors. Police, however, refused to say whether they believe the Williams slaying was in any way gang related.

"Who killed this individual is what matters, it doesn't matter if it's gang related or some guy in a business suit," Jackson said.

Police also won't say whether they know the motive for the slaying but have said there was a disturbance at a nightclub where Williams attended a New Year's Eve party.

Although Hicks was behind bars the day of the shooting, police want to know who was using the vehicle in the early morning hours of New Year's Day, when a gunman sprayed a white stretch Hummer with at least 14 bullets, one of which struck Williams in the neck.

Candlelight vigils are planned at the shooting site Friday and at Invesco Field on Saturday.

The Broncos will charter a flight to Fort Worth, Williams' hometown, where a public funeral will be held Saturday at Great Commission Baptist Church. A public viewing is planned for Friday night.

Denver Crime Stoppers is offering its standard cash reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

Jackson said police were receiving plenty of tips.

"We're not hitting a stone wall. This is a very active, ongoing investigation. I would say it's going well," he said. "I think the community is outraged by what took place here. I think that's why the people are coming forth and giving us information.

"We still need their assistance because somebody knows who was in this vehicle and who was driving it."

But the Rev. Leon Kelly, who helps Denver area teenagers escape gangs and drugs, suggested the specter of gang involvement might silence anybody with key information.

"You don't want the bad guys to win, but if you do the right thing, what do you get?" Kelly said. "Two thousand dollars? That's not even enough to take care of your funeral."

CHIEFS

Defensive end Jared Allen will spend 48 hours in jail after a municipal judge revoked an earlier agreement and found Allen guilty of driving under the influence.

Allen, who was charged with a DUI in May, was initially given a deal to have the charge dismissed if he completed a program. But on Sept. 26, he was charged with a second offense in nearby Leawood.

Prosecutors moved to negate the agreement, and on Wednesday the judge agreed, finding Allen guilty and sentencing him to jail time.

He must report to the Johnson County Jail on Feb. 16, Court Administrator Robin Barnard said Thursday.

As part of a plea agreement, Allen was also fined $500, given a suspended 90-day jail sentence and placed on one year's probation.

He is scheduled to appear in court Feb. 14 on the Leawood charge.

LIONS

Guard Ross Verba has been arrested on a felony warrant for writing bad checks in Nevada.

A state trooper made the arrest Tuesday after pulling over a vehicle on Interstate 94 near Foster for speeding. Authorities said Verba, 33, was a passenger in the vehicle.

Capt. Doug Notbohm, commander of the Wisconsin State Patrol in Eau Claire, said Verba was cooperative throughout the process.

"The officer recognized the name, and (Verba) voluntarily identified himself as an NFL football player," Notbohm said Thursday.

The trooper discovered that Verba had a felony arrest warrant from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the bad check unit of the Clark County, Nev., district attorney's office.

Verba spent the night in jail and was released Wednesday after Nevada authorities lifted a hold on him.

Notbohm said he was told Verba had resolved a misunderstanding regarding an outstanding debt with a Las Vegas establishment.

The number at Verba's most recent listed residence in suburban Minneapolis had been disconnected, and he could not be reached for comment. A message left with the Lions was not immediately returned.

Verba started seven games this year before a groin injury on Dec. 10 against the Vikings ended his season.

He was the Packers' first-round draft pick in 1997 and started at left tackle for the Packers when they reached the Super Bowl later that season, which ended with a loss to the Broncos.

After four seasons in Green Bay, Verba went on to play four seasons for the Cleveland Browns, but his relationship soured with the organization. He paid back a $465,000 roster bonus to be released in 2005.

Verba had wanted to make the same money as St. Louis' Orlando Pace and Seattle's Walter Jones, who make about $7.5 million per season. Instead, he didn't play in 2005 and signed a one-year deal with Detroit with a club option for 2007.

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