Davis eying members of the New England Patriots' staff

Friday, January 23rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) _ Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis apparently will wait until after the Super Bowl to talk to his next coaching candidates.

Davis appears to have his eyes set on members of the New England Patriots' staff _ perhaps defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel or offensive coordinator Charlie Weis _ and not Dallas assistant Sean Payton after all.

It was widely reported Tuesday that Payton would get the job after he had a second set of interviews with Davis. But the Cowboys said on their Web site Wednesday that Payton has decided to stay with Dallas.

Davis said he never offered the job to Payton.

``There is no timetable (for hiring a coach),'' Davis said in a rare meeting with reporters Wednesday that lasted more than an hour at team headquarters. ``The thing is to try to be right. I had hoped something would happen last weekend and it didn't happen.''

That was the hint that Davis wants to talk to the Patriots coaches, which he can't do until their season is over. New England plays Carolina in the Super Bowl in Houston on Feb. 1.

Davis has interviewed five candidates to replace Bill Callahan, fired Dec. 30 after a 4-12 season. Payton was one of four people to meet face-to-face with Davis and the only one to return for a second round of talks.

For now, Mike Lombardi, an executive in the player personnel department last season, is acting senior assistant. The Raiders lost Bruce Allen earlier this month when he became the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

``Mike Lombardi is a bright young man,'' Davis said. ``He does our talent evaluation of pro personnel. He can do contracts and he can do cap-related things. He will do some of that. He's going to move in and kind of move into Bruce's place but we don't want him to do too much cap and related contracts. We have other people in the organization who can do that.''

There are many decisions to be made this offseason, including on the status of four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson, 38-year-old quarterback Rich Gannon, who's coming off shoulder surgery and is due to make $7 million next season; 41-year-old receiver Jerry Rice and 37-year-old receiver Tim Brown, the longest-tenured member of the Raiders who has worn the Silver and Black in all 16 of his NFL seasons.

Oakland, plagued by injury, posted its worst record since going 4-12 in 1997. The Raiders tied with three other teams for fewest wins in the league in the biggest collapse by a team that reached the Super Bowl the previous year.

``The greatness of the Raiders will continue in its future,'' said the 74-year-old Davis, dressed in his usual black sweatsuit and leather V-neck pullover and carrying his trademark towel. ``There are years of glory, there are a few years of defeat. And make no mistake about it, 2003 was a year of defeat, and we intend to go through that mountain even though those rocks are coming down and bring this wagon through again. And we'll be there again.''

Davis criticized Callahan's decision to bench stars Charlie Garner and Woodson before the team's final game at San Diego and made clear that discipline is not always the best way to deal with players in this era. Players challenged Callahan and that led to dissension in the locker room.

In the past, Davis has given chances to young coordinators with offensive minds who don't have previous head coaching experience _ including Callahan and Jon Gruden.

``If you get a young bright mind, I don't mind that, if it's based on vitality and newness and freshness,'' Davis said. ``I say one thing, whoever we hire, I'm not looking for a disciplinarian. I don't believe that's the way to go with this modern day, with this culture, with these groups of young athletes.

``These guys are educated guys, most of them, and we've got to inspire them and convince them. There are a couple that are tough to handle, but that's part of the group process. You bring in a disciplinarian who's going to stand up in front of them, and somewhere along the way they're going to get tired of that, and they're going to challenge it. I just don't want that. I want freshness and vitality. It's a different way of looking at it than some people look at it. I don't know how I'd respond to a disciplinarian.''

When asked whether his team is in disarray, Davis firmly said no.

``What has happened, we consider normal and I don't know what you mean by disarray,'' he said. ``We didn't win, if that's what you mean by disarray. You have to win in this business. Nothing else matters, other than life or death. This culture of professional football, it's who wins. It's not in disarray by any means.''