Raiders' hunt for a coach continues


Published: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Southern California assistant head coach Steve Sarkisian withdrew from the Oakland Raiders' coaching race Friday, just days after apparently emerging as the favorite to succeed Art Shell.

Sarkisian, a former Raiders assistant who also coaches quarterbacks for the Rose Bowl champion Trojans, was the first coach to interview for the job after Shell was fired Jan. 4 following Oakland's NFL-worst 2-14 season.

Sarkisian was at the Raiders' training complex in Alameda for further interviews Wednesday and Thursday, but the discussions apparently weren't fruitful.

"I thank them for their interest in me," Sarkisian said in a statement released by the university. "While the job was never offered to me, at this time in my career, I've told them I want to stay at USC. I strongly believe that the Raiders' job is a great opportunity for whomever their next head coach is going to be."

The Raiders also issued a statement, affirming that the 32-year-old Sarkisian never was offered the job, and that USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin — who also spoke to Oakland about becoming an assistant — wasn't part of any prospective package deal to hire the two young Trojans coaches.

The San Diego Union-Tribune also reported that Chargers receivers coach James Lofton was told he won't be hired by the Raiders after interviewing last week.

Former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan are the only other candidates known to have interviewed. Oakland spokesman Mike Taylor said he didn't know whether any interviews with new candidates had been scheduled yet.

Owner Al Davis is looking for his fourth coach since Jon Gruden left following the 2001 season. Oakland has won just 15 games in the four seasons since reaching the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.

EAGLES

Coach Andy Reid said he canceled a news conference by Donovan McNabb because he wants the injured quarterback to concentrate on his rehab.

McNabb hasn't spoken at length to reporters since he tore a knee ligament on Nov. 19. He had planned a news conference for Friday.

"He's been working like crazy right now and I don't want anything distracting him," Reid said. "I want him focused in on taking care of his knee, and that's what he's doing. He came out (Thursday) and ran in the pool for the first time and he didn't have a limp when he ran in there. Those are all positive things."

PANTHERS

Carolina hired former New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis as their new secondary coach.

Lewis, who was fired by the Giants last week, replaces Rod Perry, one of three Panthers' coaches fired Monday.

Lewis was the first assistant hired when Tom Coughlin took over the Giants in 2004. Lewis had two good seasons, but the Giants' defense struggled this season, ranking among the worst in the league by allowing an average of 342 yards a game and 228 passing yards a game.

Before joining New York, Lewis spent nine seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, five as secondary coach and four as defensive coordinator.

"Tim's experience as both a player and coach in the NFL provide him with a sound knowledge of the defensive backfield," Panthers coach John Fox said. "Our staff is familiar with him and we think he will make strong contribution to our defense."

Lewis, who played four seasons with the Green Bay Packers in the 1980s, takes over a Panthers' secondary that struggled in 2006. Cornerback Ken Lucas was plagued by injuries and Chris Gamble gave up numerous big plays. Safety Mike Minter had an up-and-down year and turned 33 this week.

The Panthers must also replace offensive coordinator Dan Henning and offensive line coach Mike Maser. Both were fired along with Perry.

Two of Fox's assistants, quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy and running backs coach Jim Skipper, and Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese are among the candidates to replace Henning, who was let go after a disappointing 8-8 season that began with Super Bowl hopes.

Partly due to injuries, the Panthers averaged only 16.8 points per game, nearly eight fewer than 2006.

BUCCANEERS

Former Seattle and Oakland assistant Bob Casullo was hired as tight ends coach for Tampa Bay.

Casullo replaces Ron Middleton, who left Tampa Bay for a position at Alabama. He spent the past two seasons as special teams coach in Seattle after working four seasons with the same title in Oakland.

Part of Casullo's tenure with the Raiders (2000-01) was spent under Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who left Oakland in 2002.

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