Say Goodbye to Art Shell
by Glenn Dickey
Nov 29, 2006

THE DEMOTION of offensive coordinator Tom Walsh and the elevation of tight ends coach John Shoop means the Art Shell experiment will not last beyond this season.

Shell has been loyal to his old friend, Walsh, even as criticism mounted. From the first game of the season to the 11th in this 2-9 season, it was obvious that Walsh was totally out of touch. His offense lacked imagination and he could not make any adjustments at halftime. The last loss, to the Chargers, was typical. The Raiders offense was fairly productive in the first half and controlled the ball for more thn 19 minutes. But in the second half, the Chargers defense shut the Raiders down and sacked quarterback Aaron Brooks five times.

Clearly, Al Davis had had enough. The decision was the right one, but this has always been the problem for Raider head coaches: The players know whoís really in charge. Iím sure Shell will quietly resign at seasonís end, so Davis wonít have to fire him for a second time.

Shoop has been an effective offensive coordinator before, especially in his 2001-2003 run with the Chicago Bears. Itís questionable how much he can do at this stage of the season, but if heís given a full year in 2007, he could make a difference.

Thereís also this thought in the back of my mind that, at 36, Shoop might be a candidate to become the Raiders head coach. Davis doesnít have viable options. Thatís why he had to settle for Shell, whom nobody else had thought was head coach material since he was fired by Davis before the Raiders moved back to Oakland. John Madden and Jon Gruden, were both younger than Shoop when they became head coaches. And, of course, so was Davis in 1963.

BAD CALL: Yes, the disputed call in the Raiders-Chargers game was a horrible one. Everybody but the game referee knew that was a fumble, no matter what the cumbersome NFL rule book says..

But, whoís to say that the Chargers wouldnít have gotten the ball back after a Raiders three-and-out and come down to score, anyway? As usual, the Raiders did nothing offensively in the fourth quarter, so itís hard to pin the loss entirely on that officiating gaffe.

The 49ers also got a bad call, when cornerback Walt Harris seemed to knock the ball loose from receiver Torry Holt and then run it back from a touchdown, but the play was overruled on instant replay. Thatís supposed to happen only if thereís conclusive evidence. If anything, the shots on TV (which were the same ones the referee saw) supported the original decision, but it was changed, anyway.

After the game, though, the 49ers were not whining about that call. There should be a lesson there for the Raiders.

BRAVE HEART: Iím usually in favor of a team going for the first down instead of settling for a field goal down near the goal line, but I think 49er coach Mike Nolan made the right call on that play in the Ramsí game.

Yes, the 49ers had been running the ball well, but that was with Frank Gore and mostly in the center of the field. Gore was out of the game with an ankle injury and the 49ers had just failed to get the first down on a third-and-one run by Michael Robinson.

The real key to the decision was that the game was being played in a domed stadium and Ramsí kicker Jeff Wilkins had made a 51-yard field goal just before the half. If the 49ers had not gotten the first down, it wouldnít have taken much for the Rams to get in position for a game-winning field goal.

BIG GAME: I havenít yet heard anybody say ďAnything can happen in the Big GameĒ this week, perhaps because youíd have to go back to 1948, when Cal came into the game with only one loss and Stanford with only one win, to find a greater disparity between the two teams.

In truth, there is no more unpredictability in this rivalry than in college football overall. There are upsets every week during the season, because these are very young men, mostly between 19 and 21, and they have big emotional swings.

In the last 20 years, there have been only two big upsets. In 1991, Stanford beat Cal, which finished the season No. 8 in national rankings. Perhaps the biggest upset since World War II came in 1986 when the Bears, with only one win coming in, beat Stanford in Joe Kappís last game as Cal head coach.

Lately, the game has been very predictable. Stanford won seven straight years, 1995-2001, and Cal has won the last four under Jeff Tedford. I expect that streak to continue Saturday.

FREE AGENCY: When baseball players first got free agency, Charlie Finley proposed that every player be a free agent at the end of the season. That was exactly what Marvin Miller, then the executive director of the Players Association, feared. He knew that, if every player was a free agent, salaries would stabilize and players would get just what they were worth.

Instead, owners agreed with the PA on a system that would allow a limited number of free agents each year. That scarcity has driven up the price of free agents, never more than this year. It isnít just the money but the length of the contracts. Alfonso Soriano, for instance, is getting $136 million over eight years. Soriano had a career year this year at 30. Historically, players have peaked at 27-32, but Soriano will be 38 by the end of his contract. Lots of luck, Cubs.

SHOCKER: Al Davis is trying to sell 31 per cent of the Raiders, but anybody who buys that share will have no say in the way the club is run. Gosh, youíd think people would be lining up to snap up that offer, right? No takers yet, though. Go figure.


LETTERS: I updated this section with nine new posts yesterday.

TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS!

Tickets are available for the Big Game and the Pete Newell Challenge on this link, as well as tickets for 49ers, Raiders, Warriors and Sharks games. Tickets are also available for the Holiday Bowl, in which Cal will be playing.

Tickers are available for these holiday events in the Bay Area:
--High School Musical, the Concert, Dec. 1
--Panic At the Disco, Dec. 5
--Live 105 Not So Silent Night, With the Killers, Dec. 8
--Dancing With the Stars, Dec. 27

Tickets are available for the Bill Cosby concert in Phoenix on January 13. During the holiday season, tickets will be available for bowl games. There are also popular holiday programs, including Radio City Christmas, Wicked and Jersey Boys.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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