ALAMEDA — Though they shared the same row flying to and from Denver this weekend, Raiders owner Mark Davis has yet to formally meet with interim head coach Tony Sparano regarding his future with the Oakland Raiders.
Sparano, at his end of the season press conference Monday, gave what felt like an interview for the position, but to the media instead of Davis or general manager Reggie McKenzie. He touched on a number of topics, but focused on the positive far more than the negative.
The biggest negative is a 3-13 record this season, and an 11-37 record over the past three.
The positives, of which there truly are few, have to do with a very young core, including a tremendously talented quarterback, veteran leadership and what seems to be a possible stud running back.
“There’s 27 players on our team that are first or second year players that have played a total of 10,196 plays. That’s good news for the Oakland Raiders. … Those are all good things for the future here, and that’s the message that I left with them. Talking about the future. Things that they need to do in the offseason, and the direction that the Oakland Raiders are headed.”
Defensive tackle Antonio Smith believes that the Raiders might not have won a single game this season if not for the hard-nosed mentality of Sparano that kept a fire under players butts’ and pushed them every week.
But with the potential of a bright future for the organization also comes competition for the job, reportedly Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles being a top candidate, and no confirmation from the Raiders that Sparano is even being considered long term.
Nonetheless, Sparano contends that the Raiders are his team to coach:
“All I want to do right now is be the head coach of the Raiders. How badly? Very, very badly. This is my team. I left my team today. I’m looking forward to starting over again with them. Those decisions will be made down the road. I only have one concern now and that’s to be head coach of the Oakland Raiders.”
If, when reading that, you asked yourself if he was talking to a mythical figure found in Greek lore, you’re half correct. There is no mythical figure, or anything resembling Greek lore, but players and others presumed Davis was watching.
The man who holds the keys, Davis watched the press conference of Sparano being introduced as interim head coach during Oakland’s Week 5 bye, before coming down from his second story office and speaking with the media.
So it’s easy to understand why the feeling was in the air.
Sparano spoke glowingly about Davis, and mentioned McKenzie here and there. A few players went to bat for Sparano Monday, though they were the same players who went to bat for Dennis Allen after a loss to Miami in London, and one day before he was fired.
Other potential candidates for the position include Jack Del Rio, a Bay Area native whose parents are Raiders season ticket holders, along with recently fired head coaches Rex Ryan and Marc Trestman.
There’s no doubt that the competition is as stiff as the Raiders schedule this season, the toughest in the league. Of all the teams searching for a new head coach — save for the 49ers — the Raiders job could be the most attractive of them all.
The Jets, Falcons and Bears are searching for their new leaders, Denver offensive coordinator Adam Gase being the consensus goldmine on the list, though Gase hasn’t yet been linked to the Raiders in any fashion.
The Raiders — historically tight-lipped in their approach to handling the media — haven’t let much slip.
The fact that Sparano hasn’t even spoken formally with Davis or McKenzie doesn’t bode well for his prospects. That is, of course, unless his informal on-camera interview put some sparkle in the eyes of Mr. Davis.